October 17th-19th: Three Hectic Days…and Nights

The Fern Hillian's Owl Crew.

The Fern Hillian’s Owl Crew.


We’ve had unsettled weather for the past three days and a steady, although not overwhelming, flow of birds through the site. We ran both day (Migration Monitoring) and night (owling).

Friday the 17th: Temperatures were relatively mild (mid-teens) but it was windy. Despite billowing nets we managed to band 86 birds. In the evening we were joined by a group of keen birders from Fern Hill School for the start of our joint Breakfast With The Birds Program. The students have dinner with us and then help set up the owl nets and put out the sound box. We were VERY fortunate to catch one owl on the first net round!! The students then went off to sleep in the historic Hill House.

Michael, Haider and Joanne with the lone owl we banded Friday night.

Michael, Haider and Joanne with the lone owl we banded Friday night.


Snack time in the Drill Hall.

Snack time in the Drill Hall.


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Alex with a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Alex with a Northern Saw-whet Owl.


Joanne Fleet with a happy group of Fern Hillians.

Joanne Fleet with a happy group of Fern Hillians.


Banded 86:
3 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Brown Creeper
13 Golden-crowned Kinglets
9 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
5 Hermit Thrushes
1 American Robin
14 Cedar Waxwings
5 Myrtle Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Fox Sparrow
3 Song Sparrows
2 Swamp Sparrows
7 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
4 Purple Finches
1 House Finch
13 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 40 spp.

Ezra with birds on his mind.

Ezra with birds on his mind.


Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Golden-crowned Kinglet.

October 18th:
The Fern Hillians were able to join us shortly after the nets were opened and thus got a full morning of banding – experiencing what it’s really like to be involved in a full-time banding program. They did a great job!! We were also joined by a variety of visitors – some new, some old, some in-between. So we were busy bird-wise and socially.

Justin with his banded bird - a Myrtle Warbler.

Justin with his banded bird – a Myrtle Warbler.


Wing detail of a young (HY) blue Jay.

Wing detail of a young (HY) blue Jay.

The highlight of the day though was actually at night when the crew caught 4 Northern Saw-whet Owls!

Saturday night's Saw-whet Owl crew.   -B. Fotheringham

Saturday night’s Saw-whet Owl crew. -B. Fotheringham


Ezra with one of 4 Northern Saw-whet Owls banded Saturday night.  -B. Fotheringham

Ezra with one of 4 Northern Saw-whet Owls banded Saturday night. -B. Fotheringham


The deadly claws of a Saw-whet Owl.  -B. Fotheringham

The deadly claws of a Saw-whet Owl. -B. Fotheringham


Wing detail of a Saw-whet.   -B. Fotheringham

Wing detail of a Saw-whet. -B. Fotheringham

Banded 62:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl (from the night before)
1 Blue Jay
2 Brown Creepers
4 Golden-crowned Kinglets
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
3 Eastern Bluebirds
4 Hermit Thrushes
12 Cedar Waxwings
6 Myrtle Warblers
3 Northern Cardinals
3 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
5 House Finches
9 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 41 spp.

October 19th:
We had another good flow of birds through the site – due to light NW winds and partially overcast skies. The highlight of the day was found by Rafaelle Camasta when he was sitting by the feeders taking photos: a very unusual (for Ruthven and for this time of year) Evening Grosbeak!

Surprise of the month: an Evening Grosbeak at the feeder.   -R. Camasta

Surprise of the month: an Evening Grosbeak at the feeder. -R. Camasta


Evening Grosbeak.    -R. Camasta

Evening Grosbeak. -R. Camasta

Banded 76:
4 Mourning Doves
4 Northern Saw-whet Owls (from the night before)
1 Downy Woodpecker
3 Brown Creepers
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
5 Hermit Thrushes
1 American Robin
22 Cedar Waxwings
3 Myrtle Warblers
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
4 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
4 Purple Finches
2 House Finches
11 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 38 spp.

A very late Wilson's Warbler.    -R. Camasta

A very late Wilson’s Warbler. -R. Camasta


Lisa with a Brown Creeper - one of her favourites.    -R. Camasta

Lisa with a Brown Creeper – one of her favourites. -R. Camasta

Cedar Waxwing with a Barberry fruit.   -R. Camasta

Cedar Waxwing with a Barberry fruit. -R. Camasta


American Goldfinches at the nijer feeder.   -R. Camasta

American Goldfinches at the nijer feeder. -R. Camasta


And now I’m off to Ruthven for the first couple of owl net rounds to see if we’re lucky 3 nights running……
Rick

October 16th – Waiting For The Fog

A beautiful male Eastern Bluebird.

A beautiful male Eastern Bluebird.


First, I think an explanation is due in regard to the new header. Someone not familiar with the blog, chancing upon it, might think it’s a culinary site. I do have to admit: those are mighty fine breakfast bars and I’m sure Carol would be happy to share her recipe.

But the header is the work of my compatriot (and blog originator) Jeff MacLeod. And it’s painful for the pudgy little guy to see and hear about all the goodies that our wonderful volunteers bring to the lab. Because, you see, Jeff naturally carries a fat load of “3” but is prone to hyperphagia so his wonderful wife, Amanda, looks out for him and restricts his intake to reasonable levels (otherwise he’d be a “6” in no time!). So the header is Jeff’s way of getting some vicarious pleasure from the goodies that people bring – every time he opens the blog, there they are! So bear with him…..

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow


There was a thick fog/mist about the site today which held on until late in the morning. It gave the area an almost dream-like quality. The grays of the sky and fog set off the golds, oranges and bronzes of the forest leaves with just a touch of red here and there for spice. Incredibly beautiful. It was like old times: I opened all the nets on my own and closed them the same. The only difference was that Ralph arrived to catch up on the banding data entry. What a treat that is!!!
But, otherwise, no visitors, no kids, just quiet other than the birds. The catching was quite slow and didn’t pick up until later in the morning. In fact, the second net round produced only 1 bird: a previously-trapped blue Jay. I was beginning to worry…..

Banded 59:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Black-capped Chickadee
3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Eastern Bluebirds
6 Hermit Thrushes
3 Cedar Waxwings
10 Myrtle Warblers
1 Western Palm Warbler
2 Northern Cardinals
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Fox Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
7 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
4 House Finches
6 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 42 spp.

PS: Nancy will be trying to catch Saw-whet Owls Saturday night.
Rick

New Header Image

Rick asked for a header image that is “more seasonal”. Since it seems that Rick is doing more eating than banding this season, I think the new header is quite appropriate.

Thanks for your contributions, Carol. I’m not sure that Rick would have the constitution to continue without them.

October 14th & 15th – Steady But Not Heavy

The correct way to transport right-out-of-oven baking to the banding lab: when they're hot you shouldn't pile one layer on top of the other (Carol Jones).....Be Advised.

The correct way to transport right-out-of-oven baking to the banding lab: when they’re hot you shouldn’t pile one layer on top of the other (Carol Jones)…..Be Advised.


For the past two days we’ve experienced a steady, but not heavy, flow of migrants through the site; and nothing out of the usual. We tended to get small “hits” of birds in individual nets, suggesting that the birds are moving in mixed-species foraging flocks when they’re caught. This is a good strategy as many eyes are more likely to spot predators.
A Cooper's Hawk kept the feeder birds a little on edge.   -N. Furber

A Cooper’s Hawk kept the feeder birds a little on edge. -N. Furber


A Blue-headed VIREO - very similar to the Blue-headed Warbler shown on Facebook........

A Blue-headed VIREO – very similar to the Blue-headed Warbler shown on Facebook……..


A beautiful example of a "fault bar" on the tail of this Hermit Thrush.

A beautiful example of a “fault bar” on the tail of this Hermit Thrush.

Over the weekend a White Pelican was spotted on the Grand River in York. My neighbour, Carole King, managed to get this picture:

A White Pelican was seen on the Grand River in York for two days.  -Carole King

A White Pelican was seen on the Grand River in York for two days. -Carole King


October 14th; Banded 57:
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1 Brown Creeper
1 Winter Wren
10 Golden-crowned Kinglets
11 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
3 Hermit Thrushes
1 American Robins
1 Nashville Warbler
12 Myrtle Warblers
4 Song Sparrows
8 White-throated Sparrows
4 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.

An Orange-crowned Warbler.

An Orange-crowned Warbler.


Brilliant male Purple Finch

Brilliant male Purple Finch


One of two previously-banded Red-bellied Woodpeckers caught today.

One of two previously-banded Red-bellied Woodpeckers caught today.

October 15th; Banded 64
1 Blue Jay
1 Tufted Titmouse
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
8 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Swainson’s Thrush
2 Hermit Thrushes
5 American Robins
10 Cedar Waxwings
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Chipping Sparrow
6 Song Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
7 White-throated Sparrows
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
7 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 42 spp.

Photos from Thanksgiving (from Caleb & Hannah Scholtens):

Thanksgiving was a BUSY day in the banding lab.

Thanksgiving was a BUSY day in the banding lab.


The joy of an intimate birding experience.

The joy of an intimate birding experience.


Lexi with a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Lexi with a Golden-crowned Kinglet.


Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow


Jonathan in glasses - a budding intellectual?

Jonathan in glasses – a budding intellectual?


Nashville Warbler about to be banded.

Nashville Warbler about to be banded.


A very late Red-eyed Vireo.

A very late Red-eyed Vireo.


People of all ages were enjoying the day.

People of all ages were enjoying the day.


Examining a Downy Woodpecker.

Examining a Downy Woodpecker.

Rick

October 13th – Two “Hits”

Blowin' in the wind: bird bags drying out after the rain.

Blowin’ in the wind: bird bags drying out after the rain.


We had two big “hits” at the same time: a surge of birds into the nets at the same time as a horde of visitors descended on the banding lab….just as the rain began to fall. There’s nothing that challenges your skill -and tries your patience- like the disentangling of a wet bird from a net with an intense wall of concerned faces a few feet away oohing and aahing. But we did it: extracted the birds, closed the nets, processed the birds, and taught the visitors about the birds they had come to see and experience.
Hannah has learned the true essence of bird banding.......

Hannah has learned the true essence of bird banding…….


We even did justice to the wonderful baked goods provided by Hannah and Alessandra – because, as everyone knows, a banding program marches on its stomach. But for an hour and a half the banding lab was a happening place while we processed…and waited for the rain to stop so we could re-open.
Orange-crowned Warbler.

Orange-crowned Warbler.


There was a large movement of birds last night that ran into a bank of cloud and fog and came down to the ground – a “fallout”.
A late HY (note the brown eye) Red-eyed Vireo.

A late HY (note the brown eye) Red-eyed Vireo.


A late HY Gray Catbird.   -A. Wilcox

A late HY Gray Catbird. -A. Wilcox


Banded 93:
1 Brown Creeper
12 Golden-crowned Kinglets
15 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
4 Hermit Thrushes
5 Cedar Waxwings
1 Red-eyed Vireo
3 Nashville Warblers
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
12 Myrtle Warblers
1 Western Palm Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
4 Song Sparrows
14 White-throated Sparrows
12 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Purple Finches
1 House Finch
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 38 spp.
Rick

October 12th – Another Lull

The angelic face belies a deadly predator.

The angelic face belies a deadly predator.


Man it’s been a frustrating Fall banding season at Ruthven! After a reasonably good day yesterday, we were hit with more of this damned great Fall weather and the catch plummeted….again. We ended up banding only 35 birds and encountered only 37 species throughout the morning. So I’ll work at trying to something positive….hmmmm….
Our first Northern Saw-whet Owl of the season.

Our first Northern Saw-whet Owl of the season.


Two things spring to mind:
The first is that we banded our first Northern Saw-whet Owl of the season last night. We only got one bird but it was enough to make the night worthwhile (as if the blazing stars weren’t enough!). This was an older ASY (After Second Year) bird, which was something of a surprise.

The second thing is that the “relaxed” pace allowed me to spend a lot of time teaching some budding young banders how to process the birds we were catching. We had a very fine group of young banders present: Ben, Tessa and Alesandra; I think all of them are in just in grade 9 but all have pretty good identification skills and all are intent on learning and take information in like a sponge. And Lisa is just as keen (although well past grade 9; in fact, she’s past undergrad studies). I think the only bird I got to band today was last night’s owl. The rest were done by this group of keeners. And that speaks well to the future of the program.

Banded 35:
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
5 Hermit Thrushes
3 American Robins
1 Cedar Waxwing
2 Myrtle Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
3 Song Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
6 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 House Finch

ET’s: 37 spp.
Rick

October 11th – Another “Pulse”

White-throated Sparrow starting life as a banded bird.   -E. Tjepkema

White-throated Sparrow starting life as a banded bird. -E. Tjepkema


We had a mostly clear night with cold temperatures and light winds out of the North. Nancy stayed up to 2:00 trying for Saw-whets but to no avail. I opened nets in moonlight – always a marvellous sensation – but had difficulty with a number of them as some were frosted shut or the poles were too slick to hold them up. But, as it turned out, this didn’t matter too much as the majority of captures took place well after the sun was up. Evidently the many migrants that had moved into the area last night were sun worshipers and stayed hunkered down in sheltered thickets waiting for its warmth.
Another budding ornithologist - Zoe demonstrates the right way to hold a Blue Jay.

Another budding ornithologist – Zoe demonstrates the right way to hold a Blue Jay.


Yesterday’s blog talked about migrants doing some early morning searching for suitable habitat before settling down for the day. We saw a good example this morning: I watched a Ruby-crowned Kinglet descend from quite a height spiralling down until it was about 100 m. above the ground. Then it zigzagged back and forth at treetop level for another minute or so until finally deciding on a final landing destination – a tree just starting to catch the morning light.
The deep maroon eye indicates that this Dark-eyed Junco is an adult (vs juvenile) bird.

The deep maroon eye indicates that this Dark-eyed Junco is an adult (vs juvenile) bird.


Numbers picked up again today, possibly a function of the northerly winds. Clearly there had been a fresh pulse of migrants during the night.
For comparison: plumage detail of male American Goldfinches; HY bird on the left, AHY on the right.

For comparison: plumage detail of male American Goldfinches; HY bird on the left, AHY on the right.


Banded 79:
1 Blue Jay
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Brown Creeper
2 Winter Wrens
17 Golden-crowned Kinglets
11 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
5 Hermit Thrushes
2 American Robins
1 Cedar Waxwing
5 European Starlings
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Nashville Warbler
6 Myrtle Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
5 Song Sparrows
10 White-throated Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco
4 Purple Finches
1 House Finch
2 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 45 spp.

Bill Read contemplating the meaning of life.

Bill Read contemplating the meaning of life.


Rick