If you’ve been following the last few days of the KRS count via HawkCount, then you’re well aware that we seem to have struck a vein of cold temperatures, unfavorable winds, and precious few birds. A stretch of uncomfortable, slow days can be hard on morale, especially when forecasts for the week ahead seem to all but assure status quo.
But even when migration is dull, these hours on the mountain are hardly wasted. One of the reasons we are counting migrating birds at Brockway Mountain is to learn more about how birds migrate through the Keweenaw Peninsula. And the only way to do this is by performing our counts systematically, in exactly the same way, from year to year. The data we collect about the birds we see builds a representative “snapshot” of the migration itself, which, when correlated with data from other locales for the same period of time, helps us learn not only how birds migrate in the mouth of the wolf, but helps conservationists build a better picture of bird population trends on a regional and continental scale.
So, put another way, even seeing few or no birds is useful data! To know the conditions for when birds don’t fly is just as important as knowing the conditions for when they do. And the only way to establish those conditions is by weathering it out with binocular in hand, and not letting your taxed attention span (and the occasional fit of boredom) get the best of you. Because, ultimately, bird numbers aren’t stock prices or sports scores; the only losers are the counters who didn’t go out to count birds that day.
Musing From Brockway,