By Mark Oprea
Published October 12, 2023

With a little more than a month left in the fall migration, the group could surpass their average.

Tim Jasinski a wildlife rehab specialist at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center in Bay Village, administers a grey catbird a dose of meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory pain medication. It’s like the catbird will be released three to five days after.

In Philadelphia, there were 1,500 in one day. In Chicago, there were 1,000 in one morning—victims of the McCormack Place convention center.

And on one day in Cleveland last week, over 100 birds flying south over Lake Erie crashed into buildings downtown, a natural byproduct of the unavoidable mix of fall migration and glass skyscrapers.

The seasonal push by bird species, mixed with the oftentimes fatal allure of light and glass, is why Lights Out, a bird-saving volunteer group nestled in the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, exists.

From  August 15th, the start of the migration season, until October 4th, the all-volunteer group has recovered 927 birds: 286 that have survived and been rehabilitated, and 558 found dead on the sidewalks. (The others are in care, or died in captivity.) Most of those have been warblers and sparrows.

“It’s been busy,” Tim Jasinski, a wildlife rehabilitation specialist who nurtures birds back to health, told Scene. “We still need volunteers. Especially as it gets later in the season.”

According to Jasinski, Lights Out volunteers dread two specific high periods: the end of September, when warblers finish their trek over the Great Lakes; and the end of October, when the delayed species and sparrows will finally find their way over the shores of Northeast Ohio.

Lights Out said they’re on track to reach their annual average of 3,000 birds recovered.

The problem Jasinski and his usual volunteer base of four face is that they’re short on people. During the spring and summer, the Metroparks advertised volunteer positions with Lights Out, but, according to Jasinski, not enough showed up.

“We’re at least looking to get twelve people out there,” he said.

Because of the early hours (Lights Out meets downtown around 6 a.m.) and the time spent walking (with coordinated routes), Jasinski said it’s tough to lock down committed members. Which, of course, could mean life or death: the more Lights Out volunteers patrolling downtown, the fewer birds that end up tagged in Jasinski’s freezer.

But days like those in Chicago, deadly days that lead to sidewalks covered, are what truly worry Kent Starrett, a veteran volunteer with Lights Out.

“We’ve had days when it’s been over 200, in the fall,” he said. “It’s all about the weather conditions: if it’s a rainy day, clouds lying lower, birds flying at lower altitude.”

His mind jumped to that fall day in 2018 that exemplified those conditions. “Oh, man, birds were hitting until noon that day. All over the place. It was awful.”

Volunteers often cite “Feather Friendly” glass, a light diffuser that prevents collisions, as the most sensible way to lower numbers. Lights Outs expects to top the annual average of 3,000 recovered birds in 2023.

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This article was originally published on Cleveland Scene:

Lights Out Cleveland Has Recovered About 1,000 Dead or Injured Birds This Migratory Season After Building Collisions