April 24th & 25th – Goldfinch Hordes

Ruthven Banding Station
April 24th:
It was a clear morning but cool with a cutting northerly wind….all morning. We have banded American Goldfinches every day in April but their numbers had been dramatically dwindling in the past 3 days but today they were back in force! In the vicinity of both feeders you could see bright golden feather balls and we ended up banding 24 of them (and handling another 11 recaps). I’d love to know where they’ve come from and where they’re off too. The many retraps we get suggest that these birds are on the move – we recatch them in the Spring and again in the Fall but not in the Summer or Winter. We must be tapping into a migratory population but how big far they go is unknown. (Although we had a recovery of one of “our” birds just outside New Orleans, Louisiana!)

Banded 35:
1 Blue Jay
6 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
24 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 53 spp.
Rick

April 25th:

Not a bad day, despite the cool, wet weather. A new batch of American Goldfinches invaded us. Carol and Loretta (Yes, Loretta!!!) were here to help.
Banded 50:
1 House Wren
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
7 White-throated Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 House Finch
35 American Goldfinches

Recaps 31: AMGO 16, CHSP 8, ATSP 2, WTSP 1, NOCA 1, BHCO 2, RWBL 1

ETs: 45 spp.
(Interesting Observations along the river: Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, American Wigeon).

Mike

Fern Hill Burlington
April 24th:
We had a relatively slow morning today at the Field Station, but that suited me just fine as Janice and I were able to finally get the last of our nets up and ready for action. I took my students out to check the nest boxes along our Bluebird Trail where we saw a flurry of activity of Tree Swallows at many of the boxes. These beautiful birds were chattering and swooping around all day. The Young Ornithologists saw Janice throw a feather in the air for the swallows, and they were delighted to try this for themselves. Picture students lined up as if to feed chickadees, but instead of seeds they held feathers up for the swallows to snatch in midair. It didn’t quite work but it was a lot of fun!

We spotted our first Broad-winged Hawk of the year which is exciting, as well we spotted an Osprey swoop down and break off a pretty large stick from a tree. It must be making a nest somewhere.

Young male Red-winged Blackbird on the left and an old (at least 5 years) female on the right. -KAP


We had our first caught female Red-winged Blackbird of the Spring, and she was already banded. She was originally banded April 23rd 2013 as an after hatch year bird, making her at least five years old!

We banded 4 including the following:
1 American Robin
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird

Handsome male Brown-headed Cowbird. -KAP


Katherine

Birds in the hand…… -KAP


April 25th:
the morning started off with a bang: our first Eastern Towhee of the year, and if that wasn’t exciting enough, this wasn’t just any Towhee, it was a recaptured bird banded by Nancy Furber on September 9th 2015.

Retrapped Eastern Towhee originally banded by Nancy Furber in September, 2015. -KAP


We had 7 banded birds and 17 recaptures. We banded:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Black capped chickadee
1 American Robin
1 Northern Cardinal
2 Red-winged blackbirds
1 House Sparrow

ET’s: 34 spp.

In addition to the birds we banded, we recaptured our resident female Downy Woodpecker, the one I’ve mentioned in the past who was once struggling with gasoline on her feathers. I was pleased to see she had a brood patch, a great sign that she’s doing well and is sitting on eggs!

Eggs and nest of the local pair of Canada Geese – under a bush right in front of the school. -KAP


Speaking of eggs, our resident pair of Canada Geese (named Fred and Ginger by the Young Ornithologists) had some trouble this afternoon when the school’s landscapers worked around their nest site. Their loud blowers and mowers kept the geese at a distance where they hovered and worried. I ran over and asked them if they could work on another area, and I snapped a quick picture of the nest. There are indeed eggs, so let’s hope Ginger gets back quick!
Katherine

Joanne Fleet’s Interesting Natural History Facts:
Last year, I joined Dr. Giuliana on her guided hike of the Crear forest. It was on that hike that someone explained that the Mayapple can easily be sexed. The female plant requires “two arms to hold her baby (fruit)” whereas the male plant has only a single segment arising from the stem. Today, while hiking, Morgan and I noticed a swath of Trout Lilies, each of the singular leaves standing in their spotted glory. Amongst the masses was a single Trout Lily in flower. We immediately noticed that it was the only plant to have two leaves. As we discovered more in flower, each flanked with two leaves, we wondered if the Mayapple sexing criteria would translate to the Trout Lily (because no bird bander is satisfied until the identification AND sex has been determined). This is what we discovered,

White Trout Lily -MMG


Saw the first Trout Lily flowers of the season. Noticed that the Mayapple was up, as well. Loved learning that we can easily sex the Mayapple bc ‘every mother needs two arms to hold her baby.’ Saw that the Trout Lily that has a flower had two leaves and the others, only one. Wondered if I could apply May Apple sexing criteria to Trout Lily. Found this! It excited me so I had to share just in case you didn’t know…but maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know!

The flower is a hermaphrodite, which means it has both male and female organs.

White Trout Lily – Ruthven is the only place I’ve seen them in any numbers. -EJC


“Some writers call the plant “Thousand Leaf” because it is often found growing in colonies with many leaves and only a few flowers. This happens because many younger plants have been produced from underground runners. These have only one tiny leaf. Even after two or three years they still have only one somewhat larger leaf, but they form colonies of plants near the parent plant. They do not begin to produce flowers until the plant has two leaves and may be seven or eight years old.”

On an aside, John Hannah told me that the white Trout Lily was rare. I have taken them for granted until today. He was also wondering if it was the Connecticut Warbler that nested in the crook of the Mandrake’s arms.
Joanne

April 23rd – Frosty Start

Alessandra doing a great job teaching a rapt Madison – the next generation. -EJC


A heavy frost delayed opening by about an hour and a half – we had to wait until the temperature got warm enough to melt the nets and de-slick the poles. It became evident pretty quickly that a lot of the birds that were around yesterday had moved on. We saw NO warblers; only a few kinglets; White-throated Sparrows were few and far between. The only “new” bird around was an Eastern Kingbird seen in the flats during census.

Banded 25:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker. -A. Beach


2 Tree Swallows
1 Blue Jay
1 American Robin
1 Northern Cardinal
4 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow

Ann with a field Sparrow she just banded. -MMG


1 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows

White-throated Sparrow with a quizzical look – just not sure what it’s seeing. -EJC


1 Common Grackle
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 46 spp.

Photo Gallery:

Ospreys must find the fishing difficult with the high water levels in the Grand River. -EJC


Male cowbird. -EJC


Yellow Adder’s Tongue. -EJC


White Adder’s Tongue -MMG


This Chipping Sparrow was banded in 2010. -MMG


Ruby-crowned Kinglet with an orange ruby……. -EJC


Male cowbird. -EJC


Amy with a Song Sparrow – her first banded bird.


Amy releasing said sparrow.


Checking net lanes and shooting the breeze. -EJC


Blue Jays have been on the move for the past couple of days. -A. Beach


Rick

April 22nd – Slow But Steady

The “Larks” are all about hospitality (and increasing fat loads). What a treat to finish off the morning!! -S. Merritt


We were invaded by a flock of Larks this morning – who helped with observations, carrying bird bags and plied us with goodies and a picnic lunch. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Tree Swallows soaking up the sun’s warmth. -S. Merritt


I thought it was kind of a slow day but when Kim and I tallied everything up at the end of the morning it turns out we had handled 67 birds: 31 banded and 36 retraps. Interestingly, goldfinch numbers were down (as they have been for the past couple of days) but Yellow-rumped Warblers were common in the woods (but stayed high so we didn’t catch any) and White-throated Sparrows provided a lively chorus as I was opening the nets. So things are on the move. Further attesting to this were the sightings of the first Spotted Sandpipers and Broad-winged Hawk of the year.

First Broad-winged Hawk of the year. -s. Merritt


Banded 31:
3 Mourning Doves
2 Tree Swallows
5 Blue Jays
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 American Robin
2 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
6 White-throated Sparrows

White-morph White-throated Sparrow – one of 6 we banded today. -AAW


1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
6 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 54 spp.

Photo Gallery:

One of 5 Blue Jays banded today. -AAW


Chipping Sparrows have figured out that the ground traps have lots of food….and the humans working them are benign. -AAW


Male Mourning Dove moulting into breeding plumage. -AAW


Helen releasing an American Robin. -C. Badger


Katie putting in an appearance before heading off to the East Coast where she will be studying sharks for the Summer. -C. Badger


Spring Beauties are in bloom. -C. Badger


At Fern Hill Burlington one of the nest boxes has 4 bluebird eggs. -KAP


Nancy lucked out with a Long-eared Owl in her front yard this morning!! -NRF


The arrival of female Red-winged Blackbirds has generated a lot of excitement. -S. Merritt


It’s difficult to tell the “local” Turkey Vultures from those just passing through. -S. Merritt


White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers were common today. -S. Merritt


Noah releasing a Mourning Dove. -S. Merritt


Madison releasing a goldfinch she has just banded. -S. Merritt


Another goldfinch being released – an activity for all ages. -S. Merritt


A visitor from Selkirk with the first bird she has had the chance to hold. -S. Merritt


In the absence of Purple Martins, Tree Swallows are checking out the gourds. -S. Merritt


Sitting on a tombstone, an Eastern Bluebird contemplates the mystery of it all. -S. Merritt


Rick

April 21st – Quality Not Quantity

Brilliant Western Palm Warbler. -C. Scholtens


It was an odd day, starting off cold and foggy. You never got the sense that there was much going on, that birds were on the move. Even the goldfinches seemed few and far between. But there were some interesting finds: the most notable being the 4 species of warblers that we encountered: Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warblers (these 2 have been around most of the week) but then a very early Yellow Warbler (a full week ahead of the 1st one last year), and a brilliant Western Palm Warbler (which we banded). And on census, Debbie and Janet got 42 species which helped drive our overall number of species encountered up to a season high 55. The other highlight was a Sandhill Crane (at least one – we just heard it/them).

Banded 29:
1 Tree Swallow

Male Tree Swallow -R. Fotheringham


1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet -K. Duncan


3 American Robins
3 Yellow-rumped Warblers

2 of the 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers banded today. -M. Gibson


1 Western Palm Warbler

Western Palm Warbler -C. Scholtens


4 Chipping Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco
3 Red-winged Blackbirds

Two ASY females and a SY female (right). -M. Gibson


1 Common Grackle
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
4 American Goldfinches
1 House Sparrow (which Carol took to release at LaFortune Park)

ET’s: 55 spp.

Photo Gallery:

Turkey Vulture – it’s hard to tell the locals from the migrants. -R. Fotheringham


Immature Bald Eagle. -R. Fotheringham


Female Downy Woodpecker. -R. Fotheringham


Yellow Warbler just outside the banding lab. -C. Scholtens


American Robin with its pet dog. -C. Scholtens


House Finch. -M. Gibson


3 female Red-winged Blackbirds. -M. Gibson


-M. Gibson


Janet with a Nuthatch.. -N. Furber


“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and caldron, bubble.” Preparing the bird seed mixture. -N. Furber


Rick

Fern Hill banding area. -K. Paveley


Fern Hill School, Burlington:
We had a foggy start to our morning, with heavy clouds continuing throughout the day. We also had a bit of rain in the early afternoon which made for an exciting trip down to Fern Hill’s new Rain Garden. I’m pleased to see that the native plants that went in last fall seem to have survived the winter and the leaves are starting to pop!

We had an exciting start to the day: our first captured Ruby Crowned Kinglet of the Spring! I’m always amazed by how fragile this small bird seems in the hand, but of course it must be one fierce survivor to complete it’s long migration. I was pleased to see that the Young Ornithologists identified it as male based on it’s funky red “mohawk”. Early in the AM Janice also heard our First Brown Thrasher of the year as we opened nets. Right off the bat we caught two Blue Jays, one of them was a recap from 2016 originally banded here May 10th making it at least three years old!

It seemed like there were Yellow-Shafted Flickers calling back and forth all day long-Janice and I joked that they were so loud they were interfering with our census count! We had 5 on census but 8 total throughout the day.

Another highlight for me was the recapture of a female Downy Woodpecker originally banded October 21st 2015. A year ago on April 20th we recaptured it an noticed that it is smelled strongly of gasoline. We caught it again April 28th 2016 and tried our best to clean it because we noticed it was losing body feathers where there was gas, hoping for the best. We’ve since caught her four more times (including today) and she is looking good! What a success story, because she is banded we have been able to monitor her recovery!

Today we banded 8:
1 Blue Jay

Banded Blue Jay. -K. Paveley


1 Black Capped Chickadee
2 Ruby Crowned Kinglets
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Field Sparrows
1 Brown Headed Cowbird

1st Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the year. -K. Paveley


Katherine

April 20th – Flummoxed!!

Assessing…..and then savouring Carla’s Cick-Ass Buttertarts. -K. Paveley


What an ugly day! Cold NE wind and then steady rain. Hypothermia conditions. So at both Ruthven and Fern Hill Oakville banding was slow going and greatly abbreviated. To make up for the lack of banding I went up to visit Marnie Gibson at her place of work on Steele’s Avenue- Bahr’s…(Horse Emporium? – Imagine: horse people have big beautiful stores just for their stuff….). The reason for visiting is that the store has a 10-acre hay field that doesn’t get cut until mid-July. Ideal for Bobolinks, Meadowlarks (we saw 2 while pulling into the parking lot) and maybe other grassland birds. We’re going to give it a good checking out when the migrants return. It would also be a good spot for nesting boxes – which Marnie is excited about monitoring.

But when I walked into the store, Marnie handed me a bakery box filled with butter tarts, made by her boss, Carla Bahr. Now as you know, I pride myself in being something of a connoisseur when it comes to home-made baked goods, with a sub-specialty in….you guessed it…butter tarts! Up until this point I have stood firm: Dorothy Smith makes the best in the world. But…that was before today. Carla’s were exceptional. And I’m flummoxed. I think we have a tie here folks!

At Ruthven:
Started off well, but became a wash out – fairly heavy rain around 09:30. No one in to help, but everything turned out well.

Banded 28:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 American Robin
2 Chipping Sparrows
7 White-throated Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco
8 Brown-headed Cowbirds
7 American Goldfinches

Census: 39 spp. (including 1 SWSP and 2 MYWAs)

ET’s: 44 spp.
Mike

At Fern Hill Oakville:
It was much the same as above with rain shutting everything down around 10.

Banded 9:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Dark-eyed Junco
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
2 American Goldfinches
2 House Sparrows (both released 8 kilometers away)

ET’s: 24 spp. (including the 1st Savannah Sparrow of the year)
Rick

April 19th – Dodging The Rain

An interesting Chipping Sparrow: note the white (leucistic) panels on its primary feathers. -NRF


We had (usually) light showers on and off all morning. We opened some nets…..and closed some early….and opened all the traps. And we were busy!!!!! When the last couple of nets were closed and the traps flipped we had handled 95 birds! Of these 56 were American Goldfinches (24 banded, 32 retraps). The leaves are just starting to break out on the dogwoods so the shrubby background is still sort of drab. Against that background you could see little golden featherballs a hundred meters away hanging around the feeders. The males especially have been moulting into their breeding plumage and are very bright.

Banded 44:
3 Mourning Doves
1 Tree Swallow
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
1 Purple Finch
24 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 50 spp. (including our first Caspian Terns of the year)
Rick

April 18th – A Good Teaching Day

Canada Geese…..flying the friendly skies….united. -EJC


It was a nice pace today: we handled 58 birds spread over 6 hours. And since we didn’t have any school groups, we had a chance to give Laura and Marnie a lot of opportunity to learn how to band. It’s nice to be able to spend quality time with such keen and competent students!

Song Sparrows start singing well before the sun breaks the horizon. -EJC


Banded 28:
2 Mourning Doves
2 Tree Swallows
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
12 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 49 spp. (including 3 firsts for the year: Greater Yellowlegs, Cedar Waxwings, Vesper Sparrow)

Photo Gallery:

Swamp Sparrow – note the rufous wings. _EJC


Caleb extracting a Tree Swallow. -EJC


Male Tree Swallow – even more stunning in the hand. -EJC


(Banded) Song Sparrow. -EJC


This is NOT a bizarre Bagger ritual – Giovanni is getting a much-needed facial with medicinal mud from the Grand River. -EJC


The Killdeer pair regularly drop into the parking lot but don’t seem to be nesting there. -EJC


A soaring Red-tailed Hawk. _EJC


An early House Wren. -FAS


This “flappy” Chipping Sparrow is approaching 5 years old. -MMG


Red Admirals (pictured) and Mourning Cloaks were common today. -MMG


Laura – a picture of concentration. -MMG

Rick