Well, we are nothing if not consistent!
Our previous five years had totaled 191>193>189>187>192...for an average of 190.4 species. We did not deviate from that range this year. While we continue to refine the route annually, sometimes significantly based on tides, there isn't much outside of luck that needs to change for us to challenge that mythical 200 number. I say that because we have successfully reduced our "big misses" down to just a couple per year. The inland route is tighter than ever, and we rarely leave the north with much on the table. Our coastal path is less predictable, but we have still established patterns and reliable locations to the point where it takes significant fog or heat shimmer to significantly hamper our total. The result is that we have a relatively high floor to our total, barring, like I said, anything truly unlucky like fog or vehicle issues.
The issue now is raising the ceiling, and while this would certainly be inched higher with better scouting, we are essentially counting on "the perfect day" to push us over the top. Try as we might to play the weather patterns, much of it is out of our hands. We are awaiting that massive migration day that will give us the 5+ extra species it will take to reach 200. We think we are close!
This year looked for a minute like it might be THAT year. Migrants had been held back by poor weather, meaning that a significant push would occur when that pattern broke. We had excellent migration conditions heading into May 16th, so we crossed our fingers and went for it.
The night started out very promising, as not only did we bag most of our expected nocturnal species, but we had an impressive aural show from those nocturnal migrants that we needed. Thrushes and cuckoos were tallied as they called overhead in the dark. But would these migrants put down to feed along our route, or would they continue their journey northward without stopping in Connecticut for a feed?
When dawn broke and one of our first daytime birds was an out-of-habitat ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, a scarce breeder that we often have to work for, we smiled and took note. Not much later we spotted an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER atop a snag while a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER sang just across the street. To be completely honest, at that point I thought the perfect day might actually be happening.
We continued to rack up the scouted inland breeders as we proceeded along the route. We came to our first spruce stand that often serves as a migrant trap specializing in Cape May and Bay-breasted Warblers. But it was empty. A little while later we reached the second such spruce stand...also devoid of migrants.
The general lack of random singing migrant warblers was notable. Still, we had not yet hit our best inland deciduous migrant spots. Though upon arrival to those we also found relative quiet outside of the expected breeders.
We left the north without many migrants to show, struggling even for Parula, so it was decided we would route in one or two coastal migrant traps in hopes of a better result. Of course, playing by ABA rules, we were not allowed to check others' reports to see what was happening elsewhere, so we were going in blind. Our first coastal migrant trap was dead, and the second and final held a few birds including our only BAY-BREASTED of the day. But overall we were snubbed by several possible species...birds we would need to threaten 200.
As far as the stuff that WAS under our control, we did quite well! Sound logistical decisions were made on the fly (not always a guarantee when you are short on sleep and in a massive rush). Coastal birds were like pulling teeth at times, but that is par for the course along the Connecticut shoreline.
Overall we walked away from this year's effort rather pleased. It would have been tougher to swallow if we had ourselves to blame for logistical mistakes throughout the day, but even during those inevitable stretches when the birds are not cooperating we were able to keep cool and stick to the schedule.
The team of four this year included Patrick Dugan, Frank Gallo, Dave Tripp and myself. Fran Zygmont and Dave Provencher were sorely missed.
Highlights - Red Knot, Black Skimmer, Great Cormorant, American Bittern, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Kentucky Warbler
Notable Misses - Little Blue Heron, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Tennessee Warbler
Here's hoping for better migration conditions in 2023!