October 30th – Like Late November

This Tennessee Warbler is a long way from its Winter home in southern Mexico and Central America/

This Tennessee Warbler is a long way from its Winter home in southern Mexico and Central America/


If it wasn’t for the Tennessee Warbler we caught and banded this morning, I would have said it was like the end of November: very few birds on the move. And if it wasn’t for goldfinches we wouldn’t have banded enough birds to speak of. Even then…..

I was wondering about the Tennessee Warbler and how it would sustain itself on its long flight to the Wintering ground in Mexico and Central America, especially the northern part of this journey, in the absence of many insects. But this bird can shift its diet to include berries and fruit. Dogwood berries would be a good size for it and I have seen other warbler species (eg. Myrtle Warblers) and even Eastern Wood Pewees taking them. As well, small red barberry fruits are plentiful and being taken by Cedar Waxwings. Being able to shift diet would be advantageous to late-migrating insectivores.

Peter Thoem caught a picture of this, the first Snow Bunting seen in the area this Winter.

Peter Thoem caught a picture of this, the first Snow Bunting seen in the area this Winter.


Peter Thoem sent me this picture, taken today, of a solo female Snow Bunting found in the Hamilton area. These birds begin to arrive at the end of October and tend to follow the egdes of large rivers and lakes. Many of the Snwo Buntings we see in Winter in Southern Ontario have come from Greenland and have followed the Labrador coast down to the St. Lawrence. They then proceed along it to the Great Lakes. So keep your eyes open and start thinking about helping Nancy catch them this Winter. Last year we banded over 2500 of them!! You can read more about Snow Buntings in the area on Peter’s excellent blog: www.mybirdoftheday.ca

Banded 30:
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl (caught last night – Nancy will be owling this Saturday and Sunday nights)
1 Tufted Titmouse
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Brown Creepers
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Tennessee Warbler
5 American Tree Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 House Finch
13 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.
Rick

October 27th – 29th – Catching Up

Although virtually absent for the past couple of days, we had an influx of 35+ Cedar Waxwings today.

Although virtually absent for the past couple of days, we had an influx of 35+ Cedar Waxwings today. -E. Wainright


It’s been a topsy-turvy 3 days weatherwise: Heavy frost and below freezing temperatures on the morning of the 27th delayed opening of the nets by over 2 hours; the morning of the 28th was 16 C. with some wind and threatening showers; this morning it was in between – 8 C. although windy.

Birds have been scarce, except for American Goldfinches – we have banded 71 over these 3 days. But there’s no doubt that the migration has tailed off. Now it’s mostly winter residents that are moving in/around. This is reflected in both diminishing numbers of birds banded but also in the variety of species encountered. Variety has been steadily going down: 36 species, followed by 32 and then just 30 today. Time to start thinking about putting the snow tires on and getting ready for the Snow Buntings that are winging their way here.

It’s nice to see American Goldfinch numbers beginning to climb again after their precipitous crash last year. If you remember, in 2012 we banded an amazing 1,316; in 2013 we banded only 198! I put this down to the possible effects of an outbreak of conjunctivitis that we were beginning to see in the species as early as that Spring. We currently sit at 322 banded and this will almost certainly climb between now and our last day on November 7th. But I also wonder about the effects of “industrial farming”. For the past week we have been flushing flocks numbering up to 20 goldfinches out of the stands of goldenrod found in the Butterfly Meadow and along the edges. You don’t find goldenrod in industrially farmed fields – it has been decimated by round-up or other herbicides. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in southern Ontario have been denuded of Fall wildflowers/weeds…..bird food.

October 27th; Banded 41:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Winter Wren
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 House Finches
29 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.

October 28th; Banded 32:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Fox Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
21 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 32 spp.

October 29th; Banded 37:
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 American Robin
5 Cedar Waxwings
1 Northern Cardinal
1 American Tree Sparrow
3 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
21 American Goldfinches.

ET’s: 30 spp.

Rick

October 25th & 26th – Drawing Down

The sign says it all......

The sign says it all……


Although there will be bird movement through the site for the next two weeks (at least), you will notice very quickly that the big flocks and variety have gone. There has been a definite and quick decline in the number of migrants that were around just a couple of days ago: Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated Sparrows (sparrows generally) were negligible over the weekend.
Female Dark-eyed Junco. Some juncos will spend the Winter at Ruthven, taking advantage of the bountiful food provided by the feeders.   -E. Wainright

Female Dark-eyed Junco. Some juncos will spend the Winter at Ruthven, taking advantage of the bountiful food provided by the feeders. -E. Wainright


Their place is being taken by juncos, American Tree Sparrows and the ubiquitous American Goldfinch. If it wasn’t for goldfinches our daily banding totals would be much smaller. Today I saw 5 Tundra Swans flying over, headed SW for the marshes of Long Point Bay. These were followed by a Common Loon heading due S. The north is emptying. But I also saw 2 late Tree Swallows! Whatever could they be finding to feed on!?
Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow (hence the brown-crowned head).   -E. Wainright

Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow (hence the brown-crowned head). -E. Wainright


A few Song Sparrows will overwinter at Ruthven but most have headed south.   -E. Wainright

A few Song Sparrows will overwinter at Ruthven but most have headed south. -E. Wainright


Some Brown Creepers will also overwinter at Ruthven.   -E. Wainright

Some Brown Creepers will also overwinter at Ruthven. -E. Wainright

And of course there’s Northern Saw-whet Owls. We’re having our second best owling season – and we’ve still got 2 weeks, at least, to go. Friday night we came up with 14 owls and another 8 last night. This brings our total up to 56!

October 25th; Banded 59:
14 Northern Saw-whet Owls (from the night before)
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
5 Hermit Thrushes
5 Northern Cardinals
2 American Tree Sparrows
2 White-throated Sparrows
12 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
15 American Goldfinches

DET’s: 31 spp.

October 26th; Banded 41:
8 Northern Saw-whet Owls (from the night before)
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
2 Hermit Thrushes
3 Northern Cardinals
2 Fox Sparrows
5 Dark-eyed Juncos
19 American Goldfinches

DET’s: 39 spp.

Owling Photo Gallery:

Some of Friday night's 14 owl bonanza.

Some of Friday night’s 14 owl bonanza.


One of two foreign retraps caught over the weekend. One was banded at Prince Edward Point BO in 2012; we're waiting for information on the second one.

One of two foreign retraps caught over the weekend. One was banded at Prince Edward Point BO in 2012; we’re waiting for information on the second one.


Saturday night's owl crew.

Saturday night’s owl crew.


The Three Amigas

The Three Amigas


The 3 Amigos: Caleb, James and Giovanni.

The 3 Amigos: Caleb, James and Giovanni.


Some of Friday night's catch.    -K. Hyde

Some of Friday night’s catch. -K. Hyde


Young Saw-whet Owl feathers flow pink under a white light. As all of these are pink we can determine that this is a young or juvenile bird.  -K. Hyde

Young Saw-whet Owl feathers glow pink under a white light. As all of these are pink we can determine that this is a young or juvenile bird. -K. Hyde


A mix of pink and brown feathers indicates that this is an older bird.   -K. Hyde.

A mix of pink and brown feathers indicates that this is an older bird. -K. Hyde.


A look that instils terror in mice and small birds.   -K Hyde

A look that instils terror in mice and small birds. -K Hyde


Rick

October 24th – 16 Owls!!!

Matt, the Owl Whisperer, with Nancy and James.     -B. Fotheringham

Matt, the Owl Whisperer, with Nancy and James. -B. Fotheringham


Yes, that’s right folks: Nancy’s Owl Team banded 16 Northern Saw-whet Owls last night!! There is only one scientifically plausible explanation for this influx: the return of Matt Timpf, the Owl Whisperer. Matt returns from 4 months away and, wham!! The nets are full. There can be no other explanation. The Team was catching birds from the second net round right through to the last one at 3:30 AM (which somewhat explains Nancy’s bleary-eyed look this morning). Who knows what tonight (or tomorrow night) might bring?
The first four of the night's 16 Saw-whets.   -B. Fotheringham

The first four of the night’s 16 Saw-whets. -B. Fotheringham


Matt applying a band.    -B. Fotheringham

Matt applying a band. -B. Fotheringham


The Three Amigos.      -B. Fotheringham

The Three Amigos. -B. Fotheringham


Banded and released - this bird is readjusting to the night.   -B. Fotheringham

Banded and released – this bird is readjusting to the night. -B. Fotheringham


This was great news to be greeted with when I arrived at the banding station this morning. (Actually, the news was in the data book – not conveyed verbally by any member of the team – James and Nancy were sawing logs in the office.)

We needed some good news at this early time as the nets were frozen and the poles were slick with ice. We had to wait over an hour and a half for them to thaw before we could open. Even then it took a while for the birds to warm up and get morning. We caught a lot more birds in the second half of the morning. American Goldfinches are making their presence felt (at last) – we banded 30 of them.

Banded 72:
16 Northern Saw-whet Owls (from last night)
2 Downy Woodpeckers
1 Brown Creeper
5 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 American Robin
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Northern Cardinal
3 American Tree Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
7 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
30 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 35 spp.

Rick

October 23rd – Winding Down

Four of last night's 8 Saw-whets.   -B. Fotheringham

Four of last night’s 8 Saw-whets. -B. Fotheringham


We had a great night last night: 8 Northern Saw-whet Owls banded! Nancy has done a wonderful job establishing this program…and making it a nice place to be. Her sidekick, Irene, has added enormously to this positive atmosphere. On owl nights the banding lab is just a nice place to be….whether we catch owls or not. We had ideal conditions: light northerly winds, cold temps, partially cloudy skies….and lots of owls on the move. The next owling night will be Friday (and maybe Saturday).
Nancy, very pleased with the night's success.   -B. Fotheringham

Nancy, very pleased with the night’s success. -B. Fotheringham


Young (new) feathers fluoresce pink; older feathers do not. The mix of old and new feathers indicate that this is an older bird.   -B. Fotheringham

Young (new) feathers fluoresce pink; older feathers do not. The mix of old and new feathers indicate that this is an older bird. -B. Fotheringham


The feather atop the index finger is older than the ones beside it.

The feather atop the index finger is older than the ones beside it.


Attitude.

Attitude.


Marg and I with two owls.  - B. Fotheringham

Marg and I with two owls. – B. Fotheringham

This morning it was clear and cool – a beautiful day no matter how you look at it. But what I noticed the most was the lack of flying birds: very few grackles, robins, and blackbirds and NO Cedar Waxwings. The bulk of the migration has passed us by. Now it’s time for the “winter residents” (those birds that breed in the boreal forest but spend their winters here) to re-establish themselves. Juncos have been moving into the area for the past 10 days or so and today we got the first American Tree Sparrow of the season – a sign that things are winding down. We still have a few good catching days ahead of us (our last day is November 7th) but the big days, or possible big days, are gone.

The first American Tree Sparrow of the season.

The first American Tree Sparrow of the season.


We had enough birds today to keep it interesting but at a rate that it made it possible to begin to teach some folks from the University of Waterloo about the joys of banding.
Adam, Heather, Rebecca and Courtney from the University of Waterloo.  -R. Bauer

Adam, Heather, Rebecca and Courtney from the University of Waterloo. -R. Bauer


Banded 58:
1 Mourning Dove
8 Northern Saw-whet Owls (from last night)
5 Black-capped Chickadees
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
2 American Robins
2 Northern Cardinals
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Purple Finches
3 House Finches
22 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 32 spp.
Rick

October 22nd – Busy Day

This female Cooper's Hawk is the quintessential predator.

This female Cooper’s Hawk is the quintessential predator.


Somewhere between the capture of a BIG female Cooper’s Hawk in the morning, my talk to a class at McMaster in the afternoon, and the banding of 4 Northern Saw-whet Owls (from just the 1st two net rounds – there may have been more….but I went home for some shut-eye), we managed to band another 62 birds.
Our second Cooper's Hawk of the season - a female.

Our second Cooper’s Hawk of the season – a female.


Interestingly the hawk was caught in a net that, at the same time as the hawk, contained 2 flickers, a robin and a cardinal – all desired food items, size-wise, for a bird of this size (it weighed over 500 g.).

As mentioned, we caught 2 owls on each of the first two net rounds at night. I am looking forward to the pictures from Bob Fotheringham to show differences in colouration in the birds. The oldest bird (ASY) had quite a white face compared to the others….some might even say “grizzled”.

Banded 63:
1 Cooper’s Hawk
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Yellow-shafted Flickers
1 Blue Jay
6 Golden-crowned Kinglets
5 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
4 Hermit Thrushes
1 American Robin
2 Myrtle Warblers
3 Northern Cardinals
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
2 Fox Sparrows
4 Song Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
4 White-throated Sparrows
4 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Purple Finches
5 House Finches
10 American Goldfinches
[Note: Saw-whet Owls are reported on the day after the night before...]

Rick

October 21st –

One of two Blue-headed Vireos we banded this morning.

One of two Blue-headed Vireos we banded this morning.


Rain during the night stopped prior to opening but it threatened all morning. And, although we never got rain we did get intermittent skeins of light drizzle/mist. So net rounds were frequent and we didn’t go the full 6 hours (suggested by “constant effort” netting protocols). The river flats were busy with birds, especially sparrows and Purple Finches. We have a couple of nets down there but sometimes I wish we had the consistent manpower that would allow us to explore the use of the flats by migrants – in other words, run more nets down there.
Orange-crowned Warbler.

Orange-crowned Warbler.


The weather grounded many migrants. We retrapped 33 birds, most banded within the past several days. They’re waiting for better conditions and trying to pack on fat reserves in preparation.
The extensive orange on the crown indicates this Orange-crowned Warbler is a male.

The extensive orange on the crown indicates this Orange-crowned Warbler is a male.


We’re starting to get larger concentrations of American Goldfinches and I’m surprised by the number of older, AHY birds making up the catch. In past years when we’ve banded large numbers of goldfinches the ration of HY:AHY was much higher.

The most exciting bird today was a Peregrine Falcon that made a stoop at a Cedar Waxwing (unsuccessfully) right over the top of the banding lab.

Banded 73:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
3 American Robins
19 Cedar Waxwings
2 Blue-headed Vireos
4 Myrtle Warblers
3 Northern Cardinals
3 Fox Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
2 Swamp Sparrows
6 White-throated Sparrows
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
4 Purple Finches
19 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 42 spp.
Rick