June 13th – Tune-up

Female (left) and male Bobolinks – 2 of 4 caught and banded at The Oakville campus.

Last week I took my bicycle in for a tune-up: lubricate the moving parts and replace the worn or broken-down ones. (An over-the-handlebars header last year going down the King’s Forest trails at Albion Falls hadn’t helped much.) Twenty-four hours later it was done, ready to go, like new. Don’t you wish you could do the same with yourself?!

So I went out riding around the rural countryside where I live and began to ruminate on the plight of our breeding birds in light of typical agricultural practices. I passed thousands of acres of either deserts (bare dirt herbicide-treated fields, waiting to be worked up and planted a little later) or killing fields (already many farmers have taken off their first cutting of hay). In the desert fields there is almost no food: no plants = no seeds or insects. The mowing of the hay fields wiped out grassland nesting species – and since it was such a cold, wet Spring these birds would have got off to a late start so no chance of fledging any young before the cut. Is it any wonder that the numbers of grassland bird species and aerial insectivores that forage over fields have plummeted?

On my ride I did occasionally run into hay fields that hadn’t yet been cut. From one I picked up the calls of Savannah Sparrows, Meadowlarks and Bobolinks but these fields were very few and far between…..and who knows how long it will be until the hay on these is cut? [However, I’m keeping my eye on a large acreage of hay that last year was not cut until later in the Summer. It still hasn’t been cut and I’m keeping my fingers crossed…. It’s in the vicinity of Moore’s Road and Young’s Road about 5 km northeast of York. It’s well worth someone spending some time looking it over – I used to see Upland Sandpipers and Grasshopper Sparrows in it.]

I guess the bottom line for me is: how much corn and soya bean do we really need? And could we not get by with just one or two cuttings of hay – leaving the first one until later?

This ramble leads me to the Oakville campus of Fern Hill. On this, our last day, I put up a net in a big field that is just south of the playing field – a large grassy opening that hasn’t been cut in some time. It is the home of Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows (along with some Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows, the latter along the edges). I don’t know how long this field will remain as such – I’m sure, being on 9th Line right next door to Mississauga, there are developers drooling to get their hands on it. But right now – and last year too – it is the home of an energetic and viable population of Bobolinks.

We lucked out and caught 4 Bobolinks: 1 female and 3 males. What a delight for everyone! Especially when one considers that the bird winters in central South America and many make a lengthy overwater flight to get there.

As I mentioned, this was our last banding day here until September when school starts up again. Despite the limited bird-friendly habitat at the school (which we are striving to expand) we have had a pretty good 2017: we have banded 370 birds of 41 species.

Today; Banded 22:
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
7 Tree Swallows (nestlings from 2 nest boxes)
1 Northern Rough-winged Swallow

A BIG surprise: Northern Rough-winged Swallow. -KAP

2 Warbling Vireos

Two Warbling Vireos – they chatter all day long!

4 Bobolinks

Bobolink pair.

2 Red-winged Blackbirds
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Common Grackles
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 36 spp.

Top Ten of 2017 (so far):
1. Dark-eyed Junco – 53
2. Red-winged Blackbird – 46
3. American Goldfinch – 37
4. Black-capped Chickadee – 25
5. American Tree Sparrow – 24


Isabella and Laura after a net run.

The indoor “banding lab”.

The outdoor “banding lab”.

Young Ornithologists checking out a bird. Angela sports the new look in colourful banding garb.

The yellow and white on the back makes the male difficult to see hunkered down in a field of Dandelions. -KAP

The female plumage provides great camouflage in the deep grass. -KAP


June 2nd – Catching Up…And Finishing Off

A peaceful day on the Grand River – looking out at Slink Island. -S. LaFleur

We spent the last two days of banding “on a mission”: we needed just over 30 birds to hit 2,000 for the Spring. Should be doable….right? Just 16 birds a day. Easy peasy….Well Mother Nature, that capricious b*#&h, just wasn’t going to let it happen. We got 15 on the 30th but just 12 on the 31st ending with a total of 1,996 – so close and yet so far. Still it was our 3rd highest total since inception.

Blue Jay originally banded n October 2005 – almost 12 years old!! -MMG

At this time of year, sometimes it’s the recapture of previously banded birds that can provide the most excitement. We recaught a Blue Jay that had been banded in October of 2005 as a young or HY (Hatch Year) bird. So it was likely hatched in June of that year making it now 11 years, 11 months old. This is the oldest bird that we have handled. Given that it looked to be in very good health there is every reason to think that it could go on for a few more yet. Interestingly, we had recaptured it in 2006 and again in 2008 but hadn’t encountered it since then – 9 years. I wonder how many other banded birds are out there that we just don’t recapture. We assume that they have died but this just may not be the case.

Brown-headed Cowbird egg in a Yellow Warbler nest. -MMG

Yellow Warblers have lost no time in nesting. On a brief walk around the trails we found (easily) 4 nests. Marnie was able to get a picture of the contents of one (we didn’t want to go up to the nests or disturb the immediate area for fear of attracting/leading predators to them). It contained 4 warbler eggs and 1 cowbird egg. We took this back to the banding lab. It weighed 3.1 grams. This is equal to the weight of a hummingbird and is one third of the weight of the host warbler. If it hatched it is easy to see how it would take over the nest and any nourishment that the parents brought back.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow – a pair is nesting in a vent at the back of the washroom building and this one found itself in a net nearby. -CHS

Two species of swallow – Purple Martin and Tree Swallow – commonly nest around the banding area. We’ve seen Barn Swallows checking out some of the structures but, so far, they haven’t tried to nest nearby (although they’re across the highway at the deserted barn). Northern Rough-winged Swallows have nested in holes in the bank right across the river but not directly around the banding area…..until now. A pair showed up a few days ago and showed great interest in one of two vents at the back of the washroom building. This is essentially a hole covered by 3 cross pieces that open, releasing air from the inside of the building. On the 31st the pair seemed to be in some distress, flying around the back of the building. When we checked it out, we found that the vertical pieces had closed. When we checked the vent we found the beginnings of a nest…So I screwed one of the cross pieces open and the swallows continued to build their nest. We caught and banded one of the pair when it flew into a nearby net – maybe we’ll be able to keep tabs on it in future years.

Buffy chest marking this brown swallow as a Northern Rough-wing. -CHS

A nice banding “tick” for Caleb: Northern Rough-winged Swallow. S. Lafleur

May 30th; Banded 15:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
1 Gray Catbird
2 Yellow Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 64 spp.

May 31st; Banded 12:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
1 Gray Catbird
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Blue-winged Warbler

Blue-wing. -CHS

3 Yellow Warblers
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Field Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 63 spp.

Ruthven Photo Gallery:

Sharing a lighter moment on the last day of banding. -JDF

Male Blue-winged Warbler. -CHS

Field Sparrow with a strange growth on its bill. -MMG

Young Purple Martin. -S. LaFleur

Love is in the air…… -S. LaFleur


Logan-super happy because he was allowed out of class to band his favourite bird!

Fern Hill – Burlington; May 31st:
The last official day of Spring Migration came and went, and we celebrated with a few special firsts. We caught Fern Hill Burlington’s first male Rose Breasted Grosbeak of the year, a young male easily identified by plumage. I also made a deal with the Young Ornithologists this morning that if we ever caught their favourite bird I would pull them from class so they could band or release it. Sure enough one of my students loves Cedar Waxwings, so today was his lucky day as we caught and banded our school’s first today.

We banded a total of 10 birds of 7 species including:
1 Trail’s Flycatcher
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Burlington’s first caught Rose-breasted Grosbeak. -KAP

1 Song Sparrow
3 American Goldfinches
ET’s: 42 spp.

Mostly brown flight feathers tell you that this male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a young one – in its second year. -KAP

Mix of brown and black rectrices on this male grosbeak. -KAP

The first caught Cedar Waxwing of the year. -KAP

Our estimated total of species observed around the property was 42. We also spotted at least one raven multiple times swooping around the school. The male Red-winged Blackbirds and even a tough male Baltimore Oriole were kept busy harrying it as it went about it’s business. All in all a great day!

Evan with an unusual bird for this area at this time of year – Purple Finch. -KAP

Fern Hill – Oakville; June 1st
We had surprisingly busy day at the Oakville campus, banding 22 birds. You just don’t know what you’re going to see at this spot, on the edge of the metropolis of Mississauga. There are a number of flowering trees around right now and these are attracting Orioles. We caught 2 male Orchard Orioles. An older (After 2nd Year – ASY) male is a magnificent bronze and black while a young (Second Year – SY) male has the greenish yellow feathering of the female but with a black bib. Interestingly one of the birds had the bronze feathering overall but with patches of yellow showing through in places leading me to think that this might be a bird in its 3rd year….

Adult male Orchard Oriole. The smattering of yellow/olive feathers suggests that this bird is in its third year as second year males don’t show the bronze but are greenish yellow with a black bib.. -KAP

Banded 22:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Willow Flycatcher
3 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 Barn Swallow
1 Blue Jay
1 American Robin
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Common Yellowthroat

Bentley with a male Common Yellowthroat. -KAP

1 Song Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Orchard Orioles
1 Purple Finch
2 House Finches

ET’s: 44 spp.

May 31st – The End

Today’s banding/closing crew: Marnie, Sian, yours truly, Caleb, Mike (Joanne was walking her dog and Carol was hiding behind a tree….but they were there). -S. LaFleur

We worked really hard over the last couple of days to squeeze out enough birds to bring our Spring banding total to 2,000 but……we fell a few short, finishing with 1,996 – our 3rd highest Spring total. I will write more about the last couple of days and about the banding results in subsequent posts – just not enough hours in a day.

We’ve had a great run thanks to the 68 individuals who volunteered their time to make things happen – a total of 1,648 hours!!

End of year celebratory cake thanks to Sherri. I wonder how many calories have been contributed by our volunteers over the season……. -S. LaFleur

Top Ten:
1. American Goldfinch – 527 (a new record)
2. Yellow Warbler – 123
3. Gray Catbird – 93
4. White-throated Sparrow – 84
5. Brown-headed Cowbird – 79
6. Chipping Sparrow – 66
7. Common Yellowthroat – 63
8. Yellow-rumped Warbler – 62
8. Dark-eyed Junco – 62
10. Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 58

Number of species banded: 87 spp.

Number of species encountered on the site: 146 spp.

May 29th – The Dregs

Dreamland…… -S. LaFleur

We’re down to the bottom of the barrel, the end of the line, the bitter end…..I can hear the Fat Lady starting to sing. We only banded 14 birds today. Now some of them were still migrants ( we banded Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, and Wilson’s Warblers and a Blackburnian was seen on census) but we’re just about done. It would be interesting to know if these late migrants breed successfully this year or will arrive too late.

Glee. -KAR

Banded 14:
1 Traill’s Flycatcher (probably these are Willow Flycatchers as they are singing around the site)
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Blackpoll Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
2 Wilson’s Warblers

Male Wilson’s Warbler. -CHS

1 Indigo Bunting
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow

ET’s: 60 spp. (including a VERY uncommon Red-headed Woodpecker)

Photo Gallery: (Some of these shots are from previous days. To cover this up I like to wear the same T-shirt multiple days in a row so you think it’s the same day……)

Amy with a Yellow Warbler. -B. Fotheringham (not to be confused with R. Fotheringham)

Kim explains to Billie and Heather why this Swainson’s Thrush is…..just that. -B. Fotheringham

Taking a brake from turtles, Billie releases a Swainson’s Thrush. -B. Fotheringham

Conferring with Marnie on the age and sex of this Magnolia Warbler. -B. Fotheringham

Going through Pyle with Samuel to age a cuckoo. -B. Fotheringham

Bane of the net lanes: June Bug. C’mon! It’s only May! -CHS

Note the tick just in front of the eye of this Common Yellowthroat. -CHS

Caleb uses his great height to look down on this Luna Moth. -CHS

Robin nest. -CHS

Teaching extraction. -KAR

Recaptured a Baltimore Oriole today that was at least 9 years old. -KAR

Here’s a question for you: how can you swallow when you’re standing on your head? -KAR

Rufous wing panel of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. -KAR

Yellow-throated Vireo – a treetop singer and not often caught in the nets. -KAR

Lovely shot of a Pied-billed Grebe taken by Karen Petrie. (It wasn’t at Ruthven)… -K. Petrie

Bluebird pair on Indiana Road. -S. LaFleur

About those moths:
Judy Robins chimed in: I just can’t pass up a good ID quiz. After a lengthy swim in my field guide, I’ve come away with the following:

Mystery Moth #1. If you know what it is, please let me know. -I. Turjansky

Mystery moth #1: Male Io moth—he’s hiding some striking eye spots under those forewings (and would have made an ID much easier if he’d been accommodating enough to show them);

Mystery Moth #2. -I. Turjansky

Mystery moth #2: Hickory Tussock Moth—host trees include ash, elm, hickory, maple. Caterpillar form packs a poisonous punch.

Thanks Judy!

NOT a Cecropia Moth. -S. Ford

And then Caleb Scholtens let me know (diplomatically) that the Cecropia Moth was, in fact, a Polyphemus Moth. (Of course! What was I thinking!?)

And from Fern Hill – Burlington:

Tree Swallow nestlings. -KAP

Today at the school we had a relatively slow day bandingwise with a total of 8 birds banded of 3 species. We banded:

5 Gray Catbirds
1 Yellow Warbler
2 American Goldfinches

Older female American Goldfinch. -KAP

ET’s: 46 spp.

The highlights of the day include our first Great Crested Flycatcher of the year, our first Belted Kingfisher, and two very vocal and active Eastern Kingbirds flirting about throughout the day. Also spotted a number of times throughout the day were ravens crossing back and forth above the school. During a class with my grade two students we discovered that the first of the tree swallow chicks have hatched in our nestboxes. We all agreed they look like jellybeans. Here’s hoping for a good nesting season!

May 26th-28th: Camino De Sanricardo

[Around the World there are pilgrimage routes, some famous some less so. How did they start? What were their origins? It seems that a new one is starting. Birding supplicants have been heading to Ruthven to see and experience birds, especially during the Spring and Fall migrations. Most seekers drive but the Ruthven Baggers, whimsically, started a long walk from West Hamilton below the Mountain to Ruthven. They do it through the night (some sort of penance?) and it takes them about 13 hours. Following is a description of the third walk by one of them – Ezra Campanelli.]

Ready to set out: Samuel, Alessandra, Tessa, Ezra, Brendan, and Giovanni.

They say this generation of teenagers is lazy and stupid. Well, one of those is true. Five of the baggers plus a friend decided to walk from the Campanellis’ house in downtown Hamilton to Ruthven overnight. It’s not their first time attempting this escapade. Their maiden voyage was last Spring, and after its success, they did it a second time during the Fall banding season. Here is a log of their adventures this time around.

Tessa, Samuel, Alessandra, Brendan, Ezra

6:17 PM. Adherence to schedule is certainly not the foremost trait of this or any group of adolescents, but seventeen minutes behind schedule is respectable. And what they lack in punctuality, they make up for a hundredfold in zeal. Just look at those joyous faces. If that doesn’t spell unbridled exuberance, I don’t know what does.

7:40 PM. Over an hour in, and they’re going strong. They are a fair bit into the Rail Trail, the first section of which runs up the side of the escarpment. The view from up there is expansive, but the pollution-spewing industry of Hamilton’s east end hamstrings its aesthetic. Luckily, the Baggers are big-headed enough to serve as an obstruction, even if they aren’t much more attractive than what they are concealing. What became of the sixth pilgrim? A petty dispute has caused Giovanni to lose some ground, but no doubt his Herculean endurance will allow him to catch up with the rest of the pack with no great difficulty.

9:20 PM. Told you so! Gio has rejoined the herd, but his facial expression suggests that he may not have gotten over the ill feelings from the aforementioned dispute. The rest them are overjoyed to have reached a McDonald’s where they can give into their corporeal desires and feast on McFlurries, burgers, and a large fry or two. In the words of Jim Gaffigan: “Has your mother ever made anything as good as a McDonald’s fry?” I’ll let you mull over that on your own time, but promise me you won’t lie to yourself.

10:50 PM. Before you cast judgment, it’s hard not to look like a serial killer when it’s dark out and only your face is illuminated. If you try to look cheerful, your smile comes across as a psychopathic grin, and if you go for a neutral expression, you end up looking soulless. I think it’s fair to say Alessandra is somewhere in between, but I could still see her on the poster of a John Carpenter flick.
12:05 AM. Awww. Aren’t they just the cutest? That glaring irony is probably going to fly right over their heads.

1:44 AM. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a range of facial expressions in one photo. I guess that’s what fatigue does to you. There’s Sam, who looks like his pet naked mole rat just bit the dust. Brendan belongs in a meme about trying to ignore one’s down-spiralling educational performance. Alessandra has no idea what her friends are laughing about but, in an effort to feel accepted, frantically adopts an amused expression. Giovanni has been suddenly woken from a peculiar but oddly satisfying dream about taking a bath in bubble tea. Ezra has just engaged in his first bar brawl, but, instead of being angry, he’s just happy that he has reached this milestone in his manhood. And Tessa…well, I’ll leave that up to you.

3:03 AM. Where’s the seventh bagger? Is Tessa the first fatality on this perilous pilgrimage? Look again; she lives! Suffocated amidst a tangle of less-than-overjoyed facial expressions, a small triangle of Tessa’s forehead is still visible. In other news, Sam is trying to telepathically communicate with the dead.

4:33 AM. “There are still faint glimmers of [joy] left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.” -The Grand Budapest Hotel
Here, they have manifested themselves as the half-grins on the faces of Brendan and Tessa. Will fatigue route every last shred of hope from the Baggers, or will they withstand the mounting realization that the more they walk, the further their destination seems to get?

5:03 AM. Ben has shown up in his car and has been kind enough to pull over to taunt the pilgrims with the temptation of a ride the rest of the way. His garish mockery, however, has not fazed them, and they have photographic evidence to prove it. Just look at the smug expression of pure spite on Ben’s face as he disdainfully sips his ice cap. He wishes he had the brawn to join the baggers in their trek, but he has legs of jello and the willpower of a potato.

6:04 AM. After the toils of the pilgrimage proved too much for Sam, he collapsed, dead on sight. His fellow pilgrims have not yet noticed, such is their hazy state of semi-consciousness. However, they still managed to muster the willpower to take the tenth shot for the log. And look! There, rounding the horizon, is Tessa. Beleaguered and battling monumental fatigue, she gallops after her companions. She will do everything in her power (what little of it that remains) to not be the last one there, but will it be enough?

Still smiling after such a long trek. You have to be proud of them.

6:25. Just kidding! Sam not only survived but was the first one to show up at Ruthven, a good half hour ahead of the rest. Against all the odds, they made it, but not without consequences. The grueling pilgrimage proved too much for Tessa, and she completely cracked. I will provide updates on her condition as soon as I am able.

The Baggers finishing their pilgrimage.

Tessa and Samuel on the last 100 meters……out of 46,000!

Cedar Waxwing. -R. Barnes

We are at the tail end of the migration. Short-distance local breeders have either finished their first broods or are about to. Long-distance local breeders have made or have just about finished nest-building and some are already sitting on eggs. On-going migrants are few and far between but there’s still a few late warblers and flycatchers including an Olive-sided Flycatcher that sang around the site for about half an hour on Saturday:

A very uncommon (at Ruthven) Olive-sided Flycatcher. -MMG

Banding has been slow for the past 3 days – a good “teaching pace”.

May 26th; Banded 18:
1 Least Flycatcher
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Gray Catbird
7 Cedar Waxwings
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Yellow Warbler

1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Indigo Bunting

Male Indigo Bunting. -R. Barnes

1 Song Sparrow
2 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 58 spp.

May 27th; Banded 20:
2 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 American Robin
1 Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler. -MMG

1 Nashville Warbler
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
4 Wilson’s Warblers
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
4 American Goldfrinches

ET’s: 59 spp.

May 28th; Banded 18:
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Blue Jay
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
3 Swainson’s Thrushes

Swainson’s Thrush (left) and Gray-cheeked Thrush. -MMG

1 Gray Catbird
3 Cedar Waxwings

After Second Year (left) and Second Year Cedar Waxwings. -MMG

1 Yellow-throated Vireo
1 Yellow Warbler
2 Magnolia Warblers
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole

ET’s: 59 spp.

Photo Gallery:

Getting fat on bird seed. -I. Turjansky

Luna Moth. -I. Turjansky

Cecropia Moth. -S. Ford

Mystery Moth #1. If you know what it is, please let me know. -I. Turjansky

Mystery Moth #2. -I. Turjansky

“Wax” drops in the tail of this older Cedar Waxwing. MMG

Like drops of sealing wax……Cedar Waxwing. -MMG

Dame’s Rocket. -MMG

A lovely patch of Phlox along the Carolinian Trail. -MMG

Strawberry-to-be. -MMG

Baggers chasing the Olive-sided Flycatcher. -MMG

Great Blue Heron foraging along the river bank – the level has finally dropped enough to make this feasible. -MMG

Early morning mist on the way to Ruthven. -MMG

Multi-coloured bands identify this as a study cowbird from the University of Western. -R. Fotheringham

Great Crested Flycatcher..-R. Fotheringham

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are fairly common around the site now. -R. Fotheringham

Yellow-throated Vireo. -R. Fotheringham

Female Song Sparrow with egg ready to go. -S. Ford

Lincoln’s Sparrow. -S. Ford

Emi releasing a Great Crested Flycatcher. -S. Merritt

[I put out a request for ID help in the picture below and Caleb Scholtens – the photographer – sent me the following:]

Life in the pond. Can anyone tell me what these are? -CHS

“Oh, those grubby things in my hand are water tigers. They are the larva of “predaceous diving beetles”. They’ll eat anything the same size as themselves or smaller, including tadpoles, small fish, and in this case, each other. I’ve seen quite a few of them in the puddle there.” [That “puddle” being the ephemeral pond below Net 8.]

May 24th & 25th – Winding Down

Great Crested Flycatcher – a denizen of the treetops. -R. Barnes

Today, the 25th, was a washout: steady rain throughout the day. The only excitement was the report of a bear cub in the vicinity of the Gatehouse!?! I sure don’t know about that one…..not that it couldn’t happen but it’s VERY unlikely. Anyway, if you happen to see a bear while you’re out on the trails, please let us know!

Michele Karam from the MNR and some of her colleagues and students were out last night to try to catch and band bats. They were unsuccessful but…..they did catch an Eastern Screech Owl. Ironically, this was just after I had gone home….my usual luck with owls. This was our first encounter with a screech owl at the site this year.

Ruthven May 24th:
It was a typical late May day – started off slow and stayed that way. With lots of help, things went very well. We banded some typical late birds such as a Lincoln’s Sparrow, Blackpoll Warbler and a Traill’s Flycatcher.

Interestingly, both cuckoo species were near the banding lab for a chance to compare their distinctive songs.

Banded 26:
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Traill’s Flycatcher 1
Blue Jay 1
American Robin 1
Gray Catbird 2
Red-eyed Vireo 3

Why the Red-eyed Vireo is called that….. -CHS

Yellow Warbler 3
Magnolia Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 3

(Banded) male Common Yellowthroat….and these really are common around Ruthven now. -D. Ward

Indigo Bunting 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Orchard Oriole 1
American Goldfinch 5

Recaptured 20:
House Wren 1
Gray Catbird 2
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Yellow Warbler 7
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Song Sparrow 1
Baltimore Oriole 2
Orchard Oriole 1
American Goldfinch 1

ETs: 63 species

Ruthven Photo Gallery (from the last couple of days):

Sharon from Niagara-on-the-Lake donated this innovative oriole feeder: a martini glass filled with grape jelly. A good excuse to drink martinis……in case you needed an excuse. -CHS

The cowbird in the foreground had a terrible head wound inflicted by other male cowbirds. We treated it with a topical spray and he seems to have recovered well. -CHS

All the way from South America – Blackpoll Warbler. -CHS

Note all the brown wing feathers; this Blackpoll male is just in its second year. -CHS

The mottled blue tells you this male Indigo Bunting is in its 2nd year. -CHS

Female Indigo Bunting. -CHS

Least Flycatcher. -CHS

Life in the pond. Can anyone tell me what these are? -CHS

Female Orchard Oriole. -CHS

Female Common Yellowthroat. -D. Ward

Song Sparrow. -D. Ward

Female Yellow Warbler. -D. Ward

Indigo Bunting. -R. Barnes

Cedar Waxwing in the blossoms. -R. Fotheringham

Yellow-throated Vireo. -R. Fotheringham

Amy giving me advice……. -A. LaFleur

Fern Hill Oakville – May 24th
No sign of migrants on the move today (except for maybe 20 Blue Jays that seemed to be heading NE). The long-distance migrants that we encountered on and around the site appeared to be “Summer residents”.

Banded 12:

Male (left) and female Common Yellowthroats. -KAP

3 Common Yellowthroats
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 Baltimore Oriole
5 American Goldfinches
1 House Sparrow

ET’s: 38 spp. (including 11 Bobolinks)
Photo Gallery:

Goldfinches bring a healthy glow to Angela’s cheeks…. KAP

Sonali with a male Common Yellowthroat. -KAP

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Always a wonder. -KAP

Red Squirrel nest in a Tree Swallow box. -KAP


May 23rd – The End Is In Sight

Cedar Waxwing eating flowers. -I. Turjansky

It’s almost over folks; another migration has just about passed us by. The early long-distance migrants that breed locally are well into their nesting season. Purple Martins are carrying nesting material; early Yellow Warblers are completing nests; some female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have brood patches indicating that they’re already sitting on eggs.

Female Yellow Warbler just finishing off her nest. -I. Turjansky

What I would like to know is: where were all the warblers!? For example, this Spring we have banded only 9 Magnolia Warblers. That’s our lowest total ever and well below the long-term Spring average of 44. And at this stage of the game we can pretty well assume that they’ve flown by. Sure, we may get a couple more but the bulk of this species is now well north of us. And it’s this way for most of the warblers – their numbers are simply down. What happened?

Interestingly Baltimore Oriole numbers banded sit at 47, our second highest total for this species. Many of these will breed in the immediate area so it seems that this population at least is doing fine.

Banded 36:
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
2 Great Crested Flycatchers
3 Blue Jays
2 Swainson’s Thrushes
2 American Robins
3 Gray Catbirds
5 Cedar Waxwings

Note the red drops of “sealing wax” that gave the Cedar Waxwing its name.

2 Red-eyed Vireos
2 Tennessee Warblers
5 Yellow Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler

A real long-distance flyer: Blackpoll Warbler.

3 Common Yellowthroats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

1 Field Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 63 spp.

Photo Gallery:
Pictures of birds in the hand are interesting – from a learning perspective – or “cute” – the smile of a young child holding a bird or the pride in the face of a novice holding her first banded bird. But my favourite shots are of birds “in the wild”. Increasingly we have been getting good photographers coming to Ruthven to take their photos and many of them pass them on to me. Of course they always whine and complain that they don’t have any “good ones”…..but you judge for yourself from these shots (mostly) taken yesterday.

Female Yellow Warbler. -R. Camasta

Brilliant male Baltimore Oriole. -I. Turjansky

Cedar Waxwings have shown up in good numbers over the last several days. -I. Turjansky

Cedar Waxwing feeding on blossoms. -I. Turjansky

Gray Catbird at full voice. -I. Turjansky

Laura with a Warbling Vireo. -I. Turjansky

Polina laying the law down to this oriole. -I. Turjansky

First release. -I. Turjansky

Song Sparrow….giving song. -I. Turjansky

Tessa giving the bird the (wrong) finger. -I. Turjansky

Mathew with his Common Yellowthroat. -I Turjansky

Philosopher King watching the world go by….. -R. Camasta

Red-winged Blackbird cleaning up the bait site. -R. Camasta

Song Sparrow. -R. Camasta

White-breasted Nuthatch. -R. Camasta

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird waiting for Nancy to come back and band it. -C. Blott

Fern Hill School – Burlington Campus:

What a fabulous day at Fern Hill School Burlington! Janice and I had a great day of birding with the students. I knew today would be a special day when I pulled up this morning and was delighted to see a pterodactyl soaring above me! I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, took a glug of coffee and examined closer with my binoculars and was relieved to see that I had not time travelled, it was in fact a Great Blue Heron flapping across the sky. The day only got better from there. Janice called me over and showed me our first Blackpoll Warbler of the year, a handsome male. As the early birds (Young Ornithologists) began to arrive at the Field Station we spotted a Rose Breasted Grosbeak and an Indigo Bunting zipping out of the Oak Savannah forest. We banded regularly throughout the morning, but had time to fit in a killer census. We followed our usual path around the school, but when we got to the section of the land called “The Nature Trail/Carolinian Forest” by the students, we were led astray by some tantalizingly “warbley” chips coming from high up in the crowns of the oaks, maples, and shagbark hickories.I showed Janice the secret path around the front of the school, known only to the deer, birds, and Field Studies students. Gazing up at the treetops we added added more birds to our daily total including Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Bluebirds, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Wood Pewee, Red Eyed Vireo, Cedar Waxwings, Tennessee and Yellow Warblers, and one other that we just couldn’t place by call alone. We continued on, following the footsteps of deer and along a stream when we flushed an American Woodcock from it’s hiding place in the brush (our second for the day). I think I almost convinced Janice to follow me through an underground culvert when we decided perhaps it was high time to get back to the nets.

Back to banding business…all in all we banded a total of 10 birds that contributed to our all time high of 51 ET species! We banded:
1 Gray Catbird
1 Warbling Vireo (first banded and observed)
2 Tennesse Warblers
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Blackpoll Warbler (first banded)
1 Northern Waterthrush
3 American Goldfinches

Tree Swallow eggs in a well-feathered nest. -KAP

Melissa and Madeline – a great Young Ornithologists team. -KAP

Male Blackpoll Warbler. -KAP

Tennessee Warbler. -KAP

Warbling Vireo. -KAP