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


May 20th-22nd: Victoria Day Weekend

Three budding naturalists. -LEO

The long weekend has been cool and damp (if not outright wet) most of the time. I had been hoping that these conditions would have resulted in a “fall-out” but, alas, it just wasn’t to be. Well….we didn’t get any bird fall-outs but we did seem to have a fall-out of humans: in the past 3 days a multitude of volunteers contributed 120 “volunteer hours” – much of those hours going to service the 77 visitors that made it to the site. Ironically, we had 1 more visitor than we had banded birds (76)over these 3 days!

Yellow-billed Cuckoos: the male on the left is dwarfed by the female.

May 20th; Banded 24:
1 Black-billed Cuckoo

Black-billed Cuckoo. -LEO

3 Blue Jays
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing

Red-eyed Vireo. -MMG

1 Red-eyed Vireo
5 Yellow Warblers
3 Common Yellowthroats
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Common Grackle
2 Baltimore Orioles
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 63 spp.

May 21st; Banded 18:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. -MMG

1 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Eastern Bluebirds

ASY male Eastern Bluebird. -L. Catling

1 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2 Warbling Vireos
4 Yellow Warblers
1 Black-throated Green Warbler

Young male Black-throated Green Warbler. -L. Catling

1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 55 spp.

May 22nd; Banded 34:
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Least Flycatcher
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush (1st of the year)
7 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Warbling Vireo
4 Red-eyed Vireos
1 Tennessee Warbler
2 Yellow Warblers
2 Magnolia Warblers
1 American Redstart
1 Ovenbird
5 Common Yellowthroats
2 Indigo Buntings
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 Orchard Oriole

ET’s: 63 spp.

Photo Gallery (including shots sent over the past week – which explains the sunshine in some of them):

Releasing her first bird. -L. Catling

Lemon underwings – female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. -L. Catling

Rosey underwing of a male grosbeak. -LEO

Mottled brown, black and white plumage of a male grosbeak in its 2nd year. -LEO

ASY male Orchard Oriole. -L. Catling

Tufted Titmice nest at Ruthven. -L. Catling

Western Palm Warbler. -L. Catling

Madison with a Red-eyed Vireo…..both have devilish looks.

Thomas with an American Goldfinch he has just banded.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – note the rufous wing panels. -FAS

Two colourful creatures: Anna and a Baltimore Oriole. -LEO

Caleb with a great banding “tick” – Yellow-breasted Chat. -LEO

Staring contest. The chat won, much to Laura’s chagrin. -LEO

Eastern Kingbird. -LEO

Male Indigo Bunting. -LEO

All the brown in this male’s plumage indicate that it is in its second year. -LEO

Hummingbirds (here a female) are wondrous. -LEO

Older female or young male Wilson’s Warbler. -LEO

Brilliant plumage detail of the Yellow-breasted Chat. -LEO

A study in orange (or studying an orange): Baltimore Oriole. -L. Balthazar

Female Indigo Bunting. -L. Balthazar

Drab female Indigo Bunting. -MMG

Brilliant male Indigo Bunting. -L. Balthazar

Mottling of this male Indigo Bunting indicates that it is only in its 2nd year. -MMG

In tandem: Baltimore Oriole and Rose-breasted Grosbeak at an orange feeder. -L. Balthazar

Canada Anemone -MMG

American Toad. -MMG

Male Scarlet Tanager. -L. Balthazar.

Eastern Kingbird – there’s a pair hanging out on the river flats. -R. Barnes

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. -S. Merritt


May 18th & 19th: The Push Is On

Taking the plunge!! -R. Barnes

For the past two days I have been on the road so to speak. Last night I gave a talk in Almonte (just outside Ottawa) to the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s Club. It was a great night: wonderful, engaging people and a delicious meal. My talk was slated to start at 8:00 PM; at exactly 7:55 a passing severe thunderstorm knocked out the power. Yikes! Tough to give a power point presentation without power. But not to worry. These are enterprising folks. By 8:15 I was talking away powered by a generator. Today, Marg and I made the long drive back home.

In the meantime, Mike (Ruthven) and Katherine (Fern Hill Burlington) were banding busily. Here are their results:

Adult Bald Eagle soaring over the river. -R. Barnes

Ruthven; May 18th:

Much slower day, but steady enough for just Carol, Kathy and I, so still unable to do census without extra help.

Banded 34:
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 6
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue-winged Warbler 1

Blue-winged Warbler, a common breeder here. -C. Blott

Tennessee Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 7
Myrtle Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 4

Another common breeder: Common Yellowthroat. -C. Blott

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Song Sparrow 1
Baltimore Oriole 2
Orchard Oriole 2
American Goldfinch 2

ETs: 51 spp.

Ruthven; May 19th

What a treat!!! Yellow-breasted Chat. -CHS

A Chat with Flycatchers

Catching and banding a Yellow-breasted Chat is an exciting event few birders are lucky to experience and it could very well be the bird of the season, if not the year for Ruthven! This is Ruthven’s third chat, the last one being back in 2009 and the first in 2000.

Laura Oldfield discovered the bird in net#5 and later took some great pictures. Caleb Scholtens was the proud “extracter” and bander of this spectacular species; and it was a new species for him to band! This rare bird certainly doesn’t look like a warbler. I’m impressed how big they are in the hand and they seem to give the impression of a different type of tanager or even a large vireo!

As if that were not enough, it was a day of banding 62 birds of 22 species; a good day, indeed. The flycatchers banded included 1 Eastern Kingbird and 2 Great Crested Flycatchers; these two species are not frequently caught and banded so are always a treat. Four Trail’s Flycatchers (probably Willows) added to the flycatcher “feast.”

There’s a Bald Eagle nest downriver. -R. Barnes

I saw 3 Bald Eagles, 2 of which were clasping talons and rotating – supposedly a courting ritual. The sound of a Common Raven and a quick sighting of it to the south of the banding station was a northern contrast to the southern sounds of several Yellow-throated Vireos singing around the banding lab.

Banded 62:
1 Black-billed Cuckoo
4 Traill’s Flycatchers
2 Great Crested Flycatchers

Great-crested Flycatcher -CHS

1 Eastern Kingbird
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
14 Gray Catbirds
2 Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwing. -CHS

2 Warbling Vireos
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Blue-winged Warbler
6 Yellow Warblers
1 Ovenbird
4 Common Yellowthroats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Yellow-breasted Chat
6 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Indigo Bunting
2 Field Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
5 Baltimore Orioles
4 Orchard Orioles
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 55 spp.
Ruthven Photo Gallery:

ASY male Baltimore Oriole. -CHS

Black-billed Cuckoo -CHS

Seen commonly but not often banded: Eastern Kingbird. -CHS

ASY male Orchard Oriole – much smaller than a Baltimore. -CHS

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. -CHS

Warbling Vireos are plentiful along the river. -CHS

Wilson’s Warbler. -CHS

(Banded) Baltimore Oriole. -D. Ward

House Wren -D. Ward

Male Indigo Bunting. -D. Ward

Furtive Lincoln’s Sparrow. -D. Ward

Purple Martin (female) -D. Ward

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male) -D. Ward

Yellow-billed Cuckoo -D. Ward

Yellow Warbler (female) -D. Ward

Yellow-throated Vireo – a common breeder at Ruthven. -D. Ward

Male Belted Kingfisher. -R. Barnes


Fern Hill – Burlington; May 18th
Today was Grandparent and Special Friends day at the school, which meant that it was busy with curious visitors throughout the morning. The birds did not disapoint and we had a really nice variety of banded, retrapped, and observed birds throughout the day.

Male Magnolia Warbler. -KAP

Fern Hill Firsts of Spring
1 Male Orchard Oriole (observed singing)
2 Spotted Sandpipers (flying over parking lot)
1 Northern Parula (female observed feeding)
1 Northern Mockingbird
1 Cliff Swallow (observed flying with Barn Swallows around school)
1 Magnolia Warbler (banded)
1 Wilson’s Warbler (banded)

Male Wilson’s Warbler. -KAP

In total we banded 14 birds:
1 Trail’s Flycatcher
5 Eastern Bluebirds
2 Gray Catbirds
2 Yellow Warblers
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Wilson’s Warbler
2 American Goldfinches

Young Ornithologist with a bluebird nestling. -KAP

In the afternoon we banded the Eastern Bluebird nestlings, an opportunity I know will stay with the students forever! All in all a huge success with lots of wonder and excitment from both students and grandparents alike!

May 17th – Birdathon Summary (And Today’s Results)

The Birdathon Baggers: Alessandra, Ezra, Giovanni, and Samuel. -AAW

2017’s birdathon was last Sunday, May the 14th. The day started around 5am as the Baggers woke and began getting ready. This years team was Rick Ludkin, Giovanni and Ezra Campanelli, Alessandra Wilcox and Samuel Strachan who filled in for Ben Oldfield, a long time skilled Bagger who unfortunately was unable to attend as he had been sick on the days leading up to the 14th.

The “Ruthven Ringers” started as usual with a census, the same route done each morning. The census was lead by Matt Timpf, a Ruthven Ringer alumnus. Around a
quarter to 7 the team was ready, and leaving Matt in charge of Ruthven, we headed out.

The Townsend Sewage Lagoons were a disappointment this year but did turn up this Blue-winged Teal and Short-billed Dowitcher. -EJC

We started down River Road, finding a variety of species and then made a brief stop at Loretta Mousseau’s backyard who was nice enough to let us bird there; there we eventually found a bobolink. A quick Tim Hortons Trip and we headed to the Townsend Sewage Lagoons. The Lagoons were much more barren than expected. The team of 2016 found many species of waterfowl, sandpipers, with high numbers of individuals as well. This year we found a only few sandpipers, a small number of ducks and left with a mere 13 species.

We then travelled to a known Clay-coloured Sparrow location (in Simcoe), and within minutes heard it’s distinctive song. With that we headed south to Backus Woods and in search of a Prothonotary Warbler.

Backus hosted a range of new species. After waking a few sleeping Baggers we headed down the main trail. Warblers were plentiful, but diversity was low. We were around 90 species at this point, and steadily approaching 100. As we headed into an old growth section, lined with forested ponds we found the Prothonotary Warbler, or 3 to be exact. Backus is one of the few places remaining in Norfolk where they will breed. Shortly after seeing this Samuel spotted a Black-legged Tick on Rick’s back (pictured _[below, above]]_), it was removed before any harm was done. We are lucky at Ruthven to only have Dog Ticks, a larger species that don’t carry Lyme Disease.

Black-legged Tick found crawling up my shirt. Yikes! -EJC

As we followed the loop back to the parking lot, 99 species in, Giovanni made a wonderful spot – a SY male Summer Tanager, normally found in the west. This was our 100th species, counted at around 11:47 Am.

Rare (for the East) Summer Tanager at Backus Woods. -EJC

This started the part of the day in which we traveled to a range of woodlots, finding a few more species at each stop. One of the more productive woodlots was St. Williams Conservation Reserve, a nice habitat that turned up Ruffed Grouse, Hooded Warbler and others. As Noon came we began to plateau, as we made our way farther into Long Point. We started to realize we needed to pick it up since we only had until 6:30, when our driver (Rick) had to leave.

We decided to head into Old Cut, the site of well maintained trails and a CMMN banding station. This stop was a load of fun. Many species of warbler were seen with relative ease, most were in full breeding plumage. It was a boost of morale for the team and a chance to get many new warbler species, and our first thrushes.

As the day wound down we walked down to the Long Point conservation area, and similar areas until Rick dropped us back at Ruthven where we did a quick observation, and a brief try for owls until we called it a day around 9 PM. It was much fun for all involved, we totalled 128 species. Many thanks to all who donated, to Matt for taking care of banding in our absence, and shout out to Ethan Gosnell, a dedicated Bagger who did his own big day that weekend, totalling a solid 85 species.

But wait there’s more! There is still time to donate to our birdathon, all donations go towards bird conservation efforts in Canada, so any contributions would be greatly appreciated. Simply go to and donate to the Ruthven Ringers.

Species List:
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Lesser Scaup
Ruddy Duck
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Short-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood Pewee
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
N. Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Winter Wren
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson’s thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Lawrence’s Warbler
Black and White Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green W.
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-coloured Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Samuel & Alessandra

May 17th at Ruthven:

1st Black-billed Cuckoo of the year. -CHS

It got HOT quickly, and usually this greatly reduces our catches, but not today. We are bearing the full brunt of the Spring 2017 migration!! Things are moving through in good numbers and great haste – making up for lost time.

The demise of two Dog Ticks. -CHS

Blackburnian Warbler – after second year male

Female Mourning Warbler

American Redstart – after second year male

Banded 68:
1 Black-billed Cuckoo

Head detail of the Black-billed Cuckoo -CHS

1 House Wren
1 Veery
1 Wood Thrush
11 Gray Catbirds
4 Warbling Vireos
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Tennessee Warbler
17 Yellow Warblers
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Black-throated blue Warbler
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 Blackburnian Warbler
4 American Redstarts
1 Mourning Warbler
7 Common Yellowthroats
5 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
2 Indigo Buntings
1 Chipping Sparrow
4 Baltimore Orioles
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 72 spp.

Fern Hill – Burlington:
Today was a scorcher! We banded an interesting variety of birds throughout the day despite the heat. At the end of the day we had a total of 10 birds throughout the day, and an estimated total of 38 species observed throughout.

Tennessee Warbler. -JJC

We banded 10:
1 Trail’s Flycatcher (first of the year!)
1 American Robin
2 Gray Catbirds
2 Tennessee Warblers (first of the year!)
2 Baltimore Orioles
2 American Goldfinches

Male Baltimore Oriole. -KAP

We also kept ourselves busy checking the tree swallow and bluebird nest boxes, and observing a small family of Canada Geese wandering about the school yard. All in all, a beautiful Spring Day to be outside!