White-throated Sparrow. Photo © Thunder Cape Bird Observatory

Visual Migration

As a member station of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN) TCBO  conducts daily counts of migratory birds during spring (May 1 to June 11) and fall migration (August 1 to the end of October). Each day observatory staff & volunteers maintain a six-hour migration watch, documenting all birds detected. At the end of the day the observers meet and collectively arrive at a total number of birds observed (& captured) for each species.

Using this migration count data the CMMN estimates annual population indices for use by resource managers and planners. Although a primary focus of the CMMN is to count migrants for long-term population monitoring purposes, the scope of the network is not restricted to monitoring bird population trends. All stations also collect banding data, which provides information on sex ratios, age structure,  body condition (e.g. fat loads), and morphological measurements.

Collectively, the large databases of information collected by CMMN stations are of great value to researchers studying bird migration and ecology. CMMN stations contribute to many broad-scale research projects which, in the absence of this largely volunteer-based network, would not be otherwise possible owing to the prohibitive costs associated with obtaining special permits and specialized equipment, the need to acquire and train sufficiently skilled field staff, and the need for centralized coordination.

CMMN 10-Year Report (click to expand)

“Since 1998, CMMN stations participated in several broad-scale collaborative research studies that increased our understanding of migratory bird stop-over ecology (e.g., Dunn 2001, Dunn 2002), examined the effect of climate change on the seasonal timing of migration and stop-over site quality (Marra et al. 2005), assessed the role of migratory birds in the spread of diseases affecting wildlife and humans (e.g., Ogden et al. 2008a, Ogden et al. 2008b), and contributed to a large-scale DNA ‘barcoding’ project. In 2007, following on the work of Dunn et al. (2006), CMMN stations across Canada collected over 18,000 feathers from 22 species in an extensive collaborative research project that is presently underway on feather isotope signatures, which will further our understanding of the geographic origin of birds passing through each station. Information from this particular project will help interpret population trend results and can more clearly define geographic areas in need of conservation measures.” Crewe et al, 2008.

Crewe, T.L., J.D. McCracken, P.D. Taylor, D. Lepage, and A.E. Heagy. 2008. The Canadian Migration Monitoring Network – Réseau canadien de surveillance des migrations: Ten-year Report on Monitoring Landbird Population Change. CMMN-RCSM Scientiific Technical Report #1. Produced by Birds Canada, Port Rowan, Ontario. 68 pp.

On Watch, in more ways than one!

Visual Migration Image Gallery