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|Noel's Quad 30 Journal|
Saturday, June 19th
The results of today's survey are troubling. I don't know if all the birds froze last night (37 degrees at starting point), I was asleep, I was on the wrong road, or my ears were plugged, but my total number of species - 60 - pales in comparison with the species totals for the route when it was run 3 times during the 1990s - 79, 95, and 90!
I can explain part of it - the bay between Baraga and L'Anse held only 2 species of waterfowl plus a lone loon compared to a variety of waterfowl during the 90s. The habitats along the route are succeeding from more open to more closed vegetative types. Whereas the 3 surveys during the 90s averaged 2 towhees, 2 clay-coloreds 2 vespers, 2 bobolinks, and 8 Brewer's, I come across none of these. I heard 2 savannahs vs. an ave. of 10 and tallied only 4 red-wings vs an ave. of 25 during the 90s. I did terrible with the swallows - 1 one tree whereas the 3 previous surveys averaged 21 trees!, 1 rough-winged, 25 cliffs!, and 5 barns. I have absolutely nothing to suggest as a reason for the swallow misses. For some species, I saw the same reduction in numbers (from previous surveys) as I did on yesterday's Ontonagon route; Least Flycatcher - ave. 14 vs 2 and Veery - 12 vs 4.
However, what is most troubling is that I saw some beautiful woodland habitat of several different kinds, and the silence was deafening. The weather was great - mostly sunny and little wind for most of the route. There just wasn't anything singing. Sure, there were a Red-eyed Vireo and Ovenbird at most stops, but ..... We hear so much about the causes for bird population declines and most of them rightfully center on habitat - there is habitat degradation, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat isolation, etc. But here I was in beautifully looking habitat with no birds to occupy it. Are we reaching the point where all of the other factors responsible for bird mortality are kicking in in a significant way? We are taught that most bird mortality is compensatory - if they don't die from one cause, they will from another, and populations can compensate for them. But are we reaching the point where cats, tall towers, windows, vehicles, pesticides, and a multitude of other factors are kicking in and becoming true factors that explain bird absence from "good" habitat? I don't know, but I'm hitting the sack tonight thinking about this.
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