It was just a week ago that I got back from doing 6 weeks of seabird counting well out off the coast of Newfoundland. Weatherwise it was a tough go for the first 4 weeks….but that’s stuff for another blog….
Needless to say, it was great to get home and spend Christmas with family and friends. But it was also great to get back to the banding lab. For me it appears to be an addiction….can’t go too long without banding little passerines or I get twitchy. So yesterday I was out at Ruthven to see what birds were around. We have a whole suite of birds spending the Winter here – some are with us all year round and some just for the cold months. But, for at least part of the time, it’s home for many species.
Consider the two Red-bellied Woodpeckers that we recaptured, a male and a female. The male was originally banded in 2013 but hatched in 2012. We’ve recaught it a few times so we know it’s a “local”. The female is even older: hatched in 2008, banded in 2009. Interestingly, although we recaught it several times, the last time we caught it was in 2011…I wonder what it was doing in the 3 years in-between.
Have you ever looked out at your backyard feeder and said, “Oh, there’s that such and such bird again”? Well, maybe it’s not the same bird. In our experience, feeders can draw birds from quite a wide area. I remember following a chickadee with my binoculars as it made a flight of about a kilometer to reach the banding lab feeders. Yesterday we recaught 5 female Downy Woodpeckers. If they hadn’t been banded you would never have known (for sure) that they were different birds. (Interestingly we saw NO male Downy Woodpeckers.) A couple of these females were at least two years old and all had been caught on several occasions indicating that they too are local birds.
Speaking of local birds we recaught 6 Black-capped Chickadees, all had been recaptured on at least several occasions and one over 20 times.
But for some species Ruthven is their Winter home. We recaptured 2 Dark-eyed Juncos. Both had been originally banded in either late December 2013 or early January 2014. Both were recaught several times through the Winter and then a couple of times in April (up to April 22nd). In April they were putting on considerable fat stores in readiness for their flight to the breeding grounds in northern Ontario/Quebec. But here they were again. Somehow they had survived through the year and found their way back to Ruthven with its bountiful food supply.