April 20th – Finally, A Warm Day & News From Matangwe (Kenya)

Bonaparte's Gulls have been a common sight along the Grand for the past several days.

Bonaparte’s Gulls have been a common sight along the Grand for the past several days. -R. Mueller


Although it didn’t start off that way. It was only 2 degrees at 6:00 when we started to open. But when the sun cleared the horizon it warmed up quickly, reaching 17 by noon when we closed (and higher in the afternoon). Further, the wind, blowing lightly out of the N, was a non-factor comfort-wise.
The buoyant flight of Bonaparte's Gulls is a delight to watch.  -R. Mueller

The buoyant flight of Bonaparte’s Gulls is a delight to watch. -R. Mueller


A male bluebird holding its ground...for now.  -R. Mueller

A male bluebird holding its ground…for now. -R. Mueller


There weren’t a lot of birds around though. Perhaps the most interesting were the Bonaparte’s Gulls that have been plying the river, moving to fields still showing the remnants of the recent flooding to feed.
-R. Mueller

-R. Mueller


Just a flash of blue before disapperaring into the box.  -R. Mueller

Just a flash of blue before disapperaring into the box. -R. Mueller


“Love”, or at least procreation, was in the air. The Purple Martins, ten of them – a mix of males and females – were chattering away as they checked out the nesting possibilities. Tree Swallows, pairing up now, were taking charge of particular nesting boxes and trying to drive a pair of Eastern Bluebirds away so they could keep them all to themselves. And then there were the Turkey Vultures. I interrupted a pair copulating quite ostentatiously on top of one of the Mansion’s chimneys when I tried, somewhat voyeuristically, to take their picture. Once I got the camera pointed in their direction, the male dismounted and stepped away while the female ruffled her feathers. With Turkey Vultures, when copulation is successful, the female sighs and tries to maintain physical proximity with the male (i.e, “snuggle”)…while the male likes to step back and have a smoke. Soon after they flew off and I could tell she wasn’t happy – having that look that says: “See, I told you it wasn’t a good idea.” That look is pretty universal across a wide range of species…evidently.
Coitus Interruptus besets a pair of Turkey Vultures.

Coitus Interruptus besets a pair of Turkey Vultures.


Field Sparrows have been taking advantage of the natural regeneration projects on the site.  -R. Mueller

Field Sparrows have been taking advantage of the natural regeneration projects on the site. -R. Mueller


Two brilliant "white morph" White-throated Sparrows.

Two brilliant “white morph” White-throated Sparrows.


Banded 17:
1 Tree Swallow
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
1 European Starling
2 Northern Cardinals
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Red-winged Blackbird
4 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 46 spp.

Amondi Christine with a Black-headed Gonolek,    -D. Odhiambo

Amondi Christine with a Black-headed Gonolek, -D. Odhiambo


News From Matangwe
Dan Odhiambo and Amondi Christine have been running “meetings” of the Matangwe Bird Club weekly since I left at the end of February. Now, thanks to funds donated by readers JUST LIKE YOU they have a digital camera and are able to send pictures of the remarkable birds they are catching and capture the local students in the act of learning about their local avifauna. [Of course, nothing is perfect....it sometimes takes Christine more than 6 hours to send them from the local cyber cafe in Bondo.]
Part of the fence put up to restrict livestock to one of the ponds.  -A. Christine

Part of the fence put up to restrict livestock to one of the ponds. -A. Christine


Also, other aspects of the project are moving ahead: the first phase in protecting the big ponds – source of drinking water for the community – was completed: a barbed wire fence to restrict access by livestock to one of the ponds. As well the first meeting of a group of women who are interested in raising tree seedlings was held during the week.
Women interested in starting a tree nursery in Matangwe.  -A. Christine

Women interested in starting a tree nursery in Matangwe. -A. Christine


PhotoGallery:
Black-headed Gonolek  -A. Christine

Black-headed Gonolek -A. Christine


Male Lesser Masked Weaver.  -A. Christine

Male Lesser Masked Weaver. -A. Christine


Common Bulbul  -A. Christine

Common Bulbul -A. Christine


Male Yellow-backed Weaver.   -A. Christine

Male Yellow-backed Weaver. -A. Christine


Grey-headed Crane in with some goats.  -A. Christine

Grey-headed Crane in with some goats. -A. Christine


Male Red-billed Firefinch.  -A. Christine

Male Red-billed Firefinch. -A. Christine


White-browed Sparrow-weaver.   -A. Christine

White-browed Sparrow-weaver. -A. Christine


Scarlet-chested Sunbird. (Some of the new fence can be seen in the background.)   A. Christine

Scarlet-chested Sunbird. A. Christine


Rick

Cross-country (SNBU) Checkup – April 18th – This time, with music

While southern Ontario works slowly toward Spring – Winter just doesn’t want to let go – Snow Buntings are working their way back to the Arctic. Here’s what I have received on their passage.

Yukon/NWT/NU

[Mar 25]

A few Snow Buntings have indeed reached the Northwest Territories. The first I know of were 3 sightings (single, pair, then group of four) on the Liard Trail (NWT Hwy #7) on Tuesday 18 March, in the vicinity of Blackstone Territorial Park. Others around that time include six at Liard Hotsprings Provincial Park (Alaska Hwy, BC) on 20 March, and two in Fort Simpson, NT on 23 March. All of these are recorded in eBird, if details are wanted.
Doug (Ft. Simpson, NWT)

[And, and update from Doug on April 14th]

Hi Rick,
Sorry for the late reply; I live in Ft Simpson, NWT, which is at the junction of Liard & Mackenzie Rivers. You had asked for another update – there were a few SNBU in town the weekend of 22-23 March, but then they seemed to fade away as we re-entered winter for a bit. This past weekend I saw a group of 42 here in town on Friday eve, and at least 20 were still around on Saturday. There have been sightings in Yellowknife as well, according to eBird.
Doug

[April 10th]

Hey Rick, Last bird banded April 1 for a total of 32 birds. April 2 was my last sighting but some seen April5-6 up the north highway on the way to Alaska. Am travelling the highway today and will let you know of other sightings.Have included a picture of myself, not my best but a happy bander.
Smiles
Julie Bauer
Haines Junction

SNBU by Julie Bauer

SNBU by Julie Bauer

Julie Bauer

Julie Bauer

[April 11th]

Hi Rick.
Finally! The first Snow Buntings in Yellowknife were seen April 8th. Spring is on its way… slowly.
Looks like migration is well on it’s way in the south. I saw you had a Louisiana Waterthrush, that’s so lovely! I’ve never seen one.
Rhiannon Leshyk
Yellowknife, NWT

 

Prairie Provinces

[April 10th]

Once again, as the snow gradually begins to disappear, I have no SNBUs to report. I just can’t seem to attract them into the area – too much forest, I guess.
Harold Fisher
Nisbet Banding Station,
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
53-17-11N, 105-39-15W

 

Hi Rick,
I’ve still got a few stragglers here near Camp Morton: six the evening of April 10th, three on the 11th, no sight nor sound as of 1130h on the 12th. On the 10th, five of the six appeared alert and strong when accidentally flushed from the feed ground. The “light” coloured individual was reluctant to take off, but did finally make a steady flight to the roost, about 300 feet away. I took these “snaps” on the 10th and 11th. To me they often look a little “off,” perhaps unwell, but I’m just guessing. The unwell girl previously reported in the yard has not been seen again. Several searches under known roosts have not yielded a corpse. From observations of the stragglers (see photos), I suspect she has joined this small drift.

More impressive is a late flock migrating through central Manitoba. Experienced hawkwatchers on the Red, just south of Winnipeg counted 687 (“probably close to 1000″) on the 9th. The same day there were two reports of about 2000 SNBU, one with some LALO, the other with some HOLA about 30 miles southwest of the hackwatch site. This same area (SW of hawkwatch) yielded a report of “a large flock” on the 10th, and a “large swirling flock” of SNBU on the 11th. This suggests to me that the late flock has stalled, resting and feeding until conditions improve. Its currently snowing in, and north of this area.

eBird and other sources indicate sporatic sightings west and north of me, but no more than drifts of ten.
All the best,
Bill Maciejko,
Camp Morton, MB

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

SNBU from Bill Maciejko

Ontario
[April 9th]

Since my last email we have banded only 5 more snbu. Four male and one female. Banding buntings has been a challenge for us at Kerns: First the spring migration has brought curious hawks and crows to our site, next the warmer weather has exposed corn from the multiple layers of snow we have got this winter making it hard to contain the feed in the traps, and finally the soft snow makes it very difficult to walk to the site….All this being said, the Kerns kids are not wimps! And although their teacher has thrown in the towel for the season, one student has convinced me that he would like to try an experiment. He wants to spread some straw around the site and place fresh corn on top of the straw, to see if we can band the remaining 30 or so birds that are still hanging around cleaning up the emerging corn around the site. So give it up for Tomas who will probably be sitting on a lawn chair on the side of the road watching the traps! I will keep you updated on his success!
Attached is a picture of Tomas with a LALO
Joanne Goddard
Kerns Public School Banding Group

[And an update from Joanne on April 15th]

Hi Rick, we had to close up because of a shrike attack and a kestrel that decided to go after the shrike….all in the matter of seconds! I was not there but the students on site were blown away by the event. We now have a shrike trap set, so the kids are super pumped! But in the couple of hours they were delivering birds to me to band, we caught 16 males and 10 females!! Almost 40%! There were definitely many more females hanging around if we could have continued.

[April 11th]

Hi Rick – The snow here in Nipissing District is rapidly vanishing (finally) – and so too seems – the SNBU. Most recently, I saw one at the feeder on the 8th of April. Previous to that, they seemed to show up most days, 25 – 75. I saw more when the weather was wintery – they are aptly named. I’m not sure if they have left the area, or just have not needed the feed the past few days with all the exposed ground. There are many more raptors here now – perhaps the Buntings moved on. Hopefully they will bring their families back next winter!
Lori Anderson
(35 km SE of North Bay)

[April 10th]

Hi Rick,
The Snow Buntings have been gone for about 3 weeks now and I’ve been wondering where they are by now?
You might find this interesting: we had a very exciting bird sighting in Lanark Highlands at the end of March. A Solitary Sandpiper showed up on the ice floes on the Mississipi River. Of course he was migrating but needless to say he was really early! It caused quite a stir in the birding world! Apparently it’s a record for Ontario. Anyhow, I’m lucky that I live right by the bridge near the spot where the bird spent a lot of time feeding, and I was able to get several good pictures (2 of them are enclosed). Several people have called to get some of my pictures, including Michael Runtz and also Alan Wormington from Point Pelee, who has submitted the sighting to the North American Birds journal. You can also go on ofo.ca (Ontario Field Ornithologists) to see my pictures in the Rare Bird section for March and April. The last time I saw the Sandpiper was on Tuesday, April 8th, which means he was here for at least 10 days!
Lise Balthazar
Lanark

Solitary Sandpiper by Lise Balthazar

Solitary Sandpiper by Lise Balthazar

Solitary Sandpiper by Lise Balthazar

Solitary Sandpiper by Lise Balthazar

[Thursday, April 10th]

Hello Rick:
Last large flock ( 100-150 birds) was at my site on Sunday………. however, by Monday all were gone. So I have been abandoned………..
David Lamble

PS I am now looking at the sparrows and kinglets around my yard…….. D

[April 15th]

Hi Rick,
we were excited to finally hear from the banding lab about our mystery Lapland longspur. it was a bird we had banded Jan 9th 2013 it was recaptured by David Lamble on February 10th 2013 just a month plus a day after we banded him. Interestingly the location was down as Dracon Ontario rather than Fergus. I have not heard of many station to station recaptures of longspurs but I imagine it must happen. Of interest is the kerns kids caught 44 longspurs last year which make the odds of a recapture fairly low but we are celebrating yet another connection between us and David Lamble. Well done Dave and well done kids from Kerns!
Bruce Murphy

[April 16th] – Moosonee, ON

Hi Rick,

It’s with great pleasure that we join the Canadian Snow Bunting Network from Moosonee, Ontario. The first Snow Bunting sightings occurred at the beginning of April and we managed to band our first two birds on April 6th. Since then, we have been getting larger flocks (20 – 50) and just a couple of days ago we had a flock of over 100. They don’t stick around for very long, but we have managed to get 38 banded so far. Most are ASY males, but we have had a few SY males and three ASY females.

A special thanks to Christina Nielsen, Keith Piette, Jess Plourde, and the students from Northern Lights Secondary School (Moosonee) and Delores D. Echum Composite School (Moose Factory) for assisting in our banding efforts thus far.

It has been very exciting for everyone involved and we are pleased to have expanded the CSBN banding locations to the James Bay Lowlands.

We won’t surpass Lamble’s numbers, but we’re off to a good start here.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Steve

SNBU in Moosonee, ON

SNBU in Moosonee, ON

SNBU on wire in Moosonee, ON

SNBU on wire in Moosonee, ON

Quebec

[April 11th]

Hi Rick,
While the SNBU hung around to help me achieve a new species count record for my Feederwatch sit the last weekend of March, they flew the proverbial coop together in the days immediately following. I spotted one on April 1st and haven’t seen them since. The snow cover is only a vestige of what it was at the March and spring has truly arrived. Happy bunting hunting to those north and east.
Carl Bromwich

[April 11th]

Hi,
…here are my banding totals for the SNBU season in Cookshire-Eaton :
388 BIRDS BANDED
(9 of which are included here, but were banded at other sites)

 

SEX BREAKDOWN
7.47 % FEMALE
92. 52 % MALE

 

AGE BREAKDOWN BOTH SEXES INCLUDED
HY / SY BIRDS (60.57%)
AHY/ ASY BIRDS (39.18%)

UNKNOWN AGE (0.26%)

 

AGE BREAKDOWN FOR MALES
HY / SY MALE = (60.45 %)
AHY/ASY MALE = (39.28 %)
UNKNOWN AGE MALE = (0.28 %)

 

AGE BREAKDOWN FOR FEMALES
HY / SY FEMALE = (62.07 %)
AHY / ASY FEMALE = (37.93 %)

 

Banding season extended over from December 20th to April 1st, with 95 total hours of trapping using one double-compartment trap. There were still 100 birds on April 2nd, then only 5 on April 3rd, which is the last day I have seen a snow bunting here.
See you next week Rick !

Marie-Pier LaPlante
Cookshire-Eaton

Marie sent along this great SNBU-inspired piece:

Northern Whisper

Northern Whisper

Maritime Provinces
[April 1st]

Tuesday April 1; we have one snow bunting arrive on our lawn in the middle of a major storm hitting Atlantic Canada.
Linda Dawson
Albany, PEI

[April 9th]

Hi Rick,
This is Linda Dawson @ 18 Searletown Road, Albany, PEI C0B 1A0. I’ll send you more shots when we counted 20 birds on the front lawn. They move rather quickly & we never could get everyone in the family photo. The visit lasted about 1.5 hours.
Linda Dawson
Albany, PEI

[April 10th]

Hi Rick – on PEI we were on the first of a two day storm that shut the Island down; completely. The ploughs were even take off the roads for a few hours in the evening. The same carried on the day following. Ending just after 6pm EST. The first bird arrived just after 2pm; for the next 1.5 hours we were entertained with the flow of traffic. So sweet!
Linda Dawson
Albany,PEI

SNBU from Linda

SNBU from Linda

SNBU from Linda

SNBU from Linda

[April 11th]

Hi:
Still haven’t seen any in Gros Morne… they should be here any day now if
they’re coming through the area this year. Bird seed is out and being
checked daily…
Darroch Whitaker
Rocky Harbour, NL

April 18 – A Warmer Day … Or So We Thought

We were thinking it was going to be a warmer day with the winds from the south and the morning temperatures above freezing. It wasn’t as warm as we hoped, and people were commenting on how cool it felt and that they should have dressed warmer. Even the bird activity and song was quieter and I missed hearing the song of the White-throated Sparrows at opening. Despite the lower number of birds being caught and banded it was still a great day to be at the banding lab. The sounds of laughter and young children running and playing filled the park. There were families visiting the banding lab, young children enjoying the banding, and then a colorful parade when all of us would walk the net lanes, checking for birds to bring back to the lab. Highlights included seeing the first Sandhill Cranes, and on census they saw the first Myrtle Warbler. Also, we saw a Common Loon and a group of four Tundra Swans flying north.

Each day during the banding operation, we process each bird by banding it or if it has a band, check the number and see if it’s one of ours or a foreign band. If it’s a Ruthven band, we call them retraps. A couple of retrap birds from today that were very interesting included a Song Sparrow banded on October 11, 2007 and an American Goldfinch banded on April 10, 2010.

Banded 16
1 Mourning Dove
1 Tree Swallow
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
1 American Robin
1 Northern Cardinal
2 Chipping Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Slate-colored Junco
1 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 46

Nancy

Turkey Vultures enjoying the view from the mansion chimney.

Turkey Vultures enjoying the view from the mansion chimney.

Song Sparrow banded at Ruthven on October 11, 2007

Song Sparrow banded at Ruthven on October 11, 2007

April 17 – ‘Listen’

Early Morning Songs of the Purple Martins

Early Morning Songs of the Purple Martins


Yes, it’s early in the mornings when we wake up in the dark and the nets need to be opened before first light. Some mornings are easier to wake up and maybe I can say this because once I’m up and moving I’m ready for the day. It’s all worth it though during this stirring moment of time in the early morning hours – a time when the birds begin to sing, the sun just begins to break the horizon, and the day is fresh and new. This morning I was surrounded by the song of White-throated Sparrows, Purple Martins, Wild Turkeys, American Robins, Song Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and an Eastern Phoebe. At this time of year, the hope of hearing or seeing new birds arrive for the season is always anticipated.

Yesterday, April 16 it was a different day at the lab. The Grand River was flooded and the nets were frozen. I had to wait for over an hour to open only a select few nets (the other nets were still frozen) and Carol and I had to detour the census route because of the flooding. The River Trail, the Fox Den Trail, and the Carolinian Trail were all under water!!

Today, April 17 was a little warmer but the temperatures were still cool with the winds from the northeast. Despite that, we banded the first Hermit Thrush, and we saw our first Broad -wing Hawk and Bank Swallow of the season.

April 16 … Banded 23
ET’s – 37

April 17 … Banded 28
1 Morning Dove
2 Northern Flicker
4 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
1 American Robin
1 Northern Cardinal
2 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrow
7 Red-winged Blackbird
4 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 46

Nancy

Flood Waters of the Grand River

Flood Waters of the Grand River

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Princeton Press & Birding in Kenya

Princeton Press publishes an excellent field guide, “The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”.  They have supported Rick’s efforts to develop birding expertise in Kenya, and the Matangwe Bird Club. During the past few years, Rick has taken copies of this book to use and distribute to the people who participate in the birding programs that are run while he is there.

Princeton Press also keep a blog on which they and have highlighted Rick’s trips to Kenya. You can read their most recent update by clicking here. 

Their summary of his trip from 2013 can be viewed by clicking here.

k6704

April 15 – SNOW!

Snow!

Snow!


It came as no surprise, it was in the forecast for today – an Arctic Cold Front bringing colder air, NW winds, and snow (2-4 cm) to South Western/Central Ontario. Through the morning, nothing was left untouched with the heavy, wet snowfall. Before the temperatures dropped this morning, the rainfall from yesterday caused flooding along the Grand River. Liz and I started out on a census but the river trail was flooded and we had to detour our census route.

The banding efforts focused on ground traps this morning and there were a variety of birds to band and a number of interesting retraps. Some of the retraps included a Field Sparrow (banded in 2012 but never recaught in 2013), and six Chipping Sparrows that were banded within the last two years and this was the first time we’ve seen them this spring. Despite the cold weather, there were three Purple Martins at the apartments but not one Tree Swallow around the park. We saw a number of swallows flying down by the river.

Banded 9:
1 Chipping Sparrow
4 Slate-coloured Junco
4 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 25

Nancy

April 14 – Purple Martins

Last Tuesday Rick reported in his blog (‘April 8th – After The Rain) the return of the first Purple Martin. Since then, only one Purple Martin has been a lone sentinel until yesterday when I reported a second Purple Martin (male) had returned. Today, there was excitement and the sounds of more Purple Martins returning! Carol and I counted five Purple Martins flying around the two apartments – the birds were busy popping in and out of the gourds, walking around the railing and checking out the different units in the apartments. There were three males and two females.

Strong SW winds were billowing the nets that we opened today, keeping the numbers of banded birds low. The large influx of juncos that were here yesterday were gone today as they continued their migration north on the SW winds last night. Six Common Loons were observed today and the birds were flying ….. south! The highlight was banding a beautiful male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher today.

Banded 14:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 American Robin
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
5 Brown-headed Cowbird
3 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 41

Nancy

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Purple Martin House, with potential occupants

Purple Martin House, with potential occupants