October 2nd – Back To Summer?

Early morning sky – the best time of the day. -NRF

It was a cool night but quickly warmed up as the sun rose – T-shirt conditions again. If I was a migrant, I’d be confused. Hell, it’s confusing to humans as well…..

Ruthven – Tag Team

The layering of clothing needed with the cool start to the morning was
soon set aside as the temperatures warmed up. A clear day with little
cloud cover and net checks that were pleasant but disappointingly slow for
the number of birds that we handled. A large group of students were in
the banding lab and the tag team of David Brewer and Mike Furber provided
a dynamic program. [Good cop, bad cop?]

Banded 15
1 Winter Wren

Male Ruby-crowned Kinglet. -B. Fotheringham

3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo. -R. Fotheringham

1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Northern Cardinal
1 Song Sparrow
5 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 40

Photos from the last couple of days:

Green Heron along Rick’s Rill (the stream below Net 10). -CBR

Young male Northern Cardinal at the release point. -CBR

That cardinal heading for freedom. -RJY

Callie with a Philadelphia Vireo. -RJY

Painted Lady. -R. Fotheringham

Carolina Wren in heavy moult. -KMP

Adult Cedar Waxwing moulting tail feathers. -KMP

If you arrive at Ruthven early, before the dew is gone, you will be treated to a stunning display of spider webs:

Web #1. -KMP

Web #2. -KMP

Fern Hill Oakville:
While 15 is a poor banding day at Ruthven, it’s a pretty good day at Fern Hill Oakville. We banded 15, many of which were short-distance migrants; they’re beginning to arrive in good numbers.

Banded 15:
2 Blue Jays
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 American Robins
2 Yellow-rumped Warblers
3 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
4 Dark-eyed Juncos

ET’s: 22 spp.

September 30th/October 1st – Feast Or Famine

Young Cedar Waxwing in the Hackberry tree. – C. Pintoul

Saturday we were busy, busy, busy. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings seemed to be everywhere but we were also getting a nice mix including the first Yellow-rumped Warbler of the season. We were just finishing off the processing of a round when I asked Morgan to go and check Net 10 – I wasn’t expecting much as it hadn’t been catching all day. She returned quickly to report that there were 35 birds in the net. We were gobsmacked and figured she was just putting us on but….no, by the time we got to the net there were 36 birds in it: 35 Cedar Waxwings and a Tufted Titmouse. For some reason, waxwings do this “misery loves company” thing: when one flies into the net its alarm call often causes its companions to throw themselves into it as well. They are a great bird for students to learn on: they don’t bite; they don’t very often get tangled, they’re easy to handle; and they’re easy to age and sex. We ended up banding 55 of them and 76 birds altogether.

Nancy got the first Hermit Thrush of the season Saturday night. -NRF

In the evening, Nancy, who was providing the “Ruthven presence” (i.e., the muscle) for a wedding event, opened a few nets to see if there were any Northern Saw-whet Owls around. There weren’t but…….she got the first Hermit Thrush of the season and an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk – nice compensation.

She also picked up this adult Sharp-shinned Hawk. -NRF

Today was completely different: just a few flocks of waxwings buzzing about and very little else. We banded just 13 birds and NO waxwings!?

Cedar Waxwing numbers dropped precipitously from Saturday to Sunday. -KMP

September 1st; Banded 76:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Young male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

1 Tufted Titmouse
2 Black-capped Chickadees
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2 Swainson’s Thrushes
2 American Robins
55 Cedar Waxwings
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat

Song Sparrow. -KMP

2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 31 spp.

October 1st; Banded 13:
1 Carolina Wren

Female Golden-crowned Kinglet. -AJB

3 Golden-crowned Kinglets

Male Golden-crowned Kinglet. -AJB

1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Northern Cardinal
2 Song Sparrows
2 White-throated Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco

ET’s: 38 spp.

Monarch Butterfly numbers are waning – we only saw one today. -RJY

Our last hummingbird was seen several days ago – and none since. -C. Pintoul

Lauren, the Cowbird Lady from Western, has just started a PhD studying……Song Sparrows. Appropriately, she banded this one – her first. -KMP

Aidan, giving rapt attention to banding a kinglet. -KMP

Aidan’s Ruby-crowned Kinglet. -KMP

Morgan with her sapsucker.


September 29th – Feeling Like Fall

Old Bag(ger)s taking a break. No wonder Nancy’s cup is never even half full……

We got some rain about 2 hours after opening, which forced us to close up for awhile and then reopen only a few nets – that could be managed quickly if/when the need arose. This cut into our catch which was too bad as there were good numbers of White-throated Sparrows, kinglets, and Cedar Waxwings around. When the wind picked up it was nice to see it pushing the clouds across the sky – cool, blustery weather that just felt right. Fall is here…..at last.

There are (supposedly) 9 Cedar Waxwings in this picture…..according to Karen. We estimated that there were at least 250 around the site this morning. -KP

Eastern Phoebe. -KP

Banded 36:
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Brown Creeper

First banded Winter Wren of the season. -NRF

1 Winter Wren
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
7 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
3 Cedar Waxwings

A very handsome Blue-headed Vireo. -NRF

1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Scarlet Tanager
4 Song Sparrows
13 White-throated Sparrows

ET’s: 51 spp.

September 28th – Visible Migration

Song Sparrow. -K. Petrie

Wow! What a (delightful) change in the weather! Temperatures going from the high 20’s/low 30’s to the high teens; N wind; cloud cover. You gotta love it…..It certainly sent a signal to the birds: it’s time to get going! We encountered 6 “new” species for the Fall: Common Loon, Broad-winged Hawk, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Thrasher, Rusty Blackbird, and Dark-eyed Junco.

Visible migration is just that: migration you can actually see. Every day we can infer that migration is going on: one day we don’t see or catch and Blackpoll Warblers; the next we band 35 and see an additional 20 feeding in the trees. Or we hear/see 10 Eastern Wood Pewees today but the next day they’re nowhere to be found. But we never saw these species migrate.

It’s actually sort of awesome to see birds on the move and know that they’re migrating. This morning we saw flocks of Canada Geese on the move – flying south, very high up, in tight formations. These aren’t your shit-on-the-beach local birds moving into local cornfields to feed. These are birds from the far north heading for their Winter home. Mike also picked up a Common Loon on census: high up, flying South.

And there were raptors. On the day we encountered 8 species: Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel. We actually noticed the Broad-wing because of a flock of European Starlings. A large flock of starlings was passing high overhead when, suddenly, they coalesced into a tight band. Whenever you see this you know that there must be an avian predator around. Sure enough, a quick scan turned up the hawk. The band of starling buzzed around the buteo for a few minutes and then peeled off to the NW leaving the hawk to continue S.

When this flock of European Starlings first met up with a Broad-winged Hawk they were fairly loosely spread. -K/ Petrie

The Starling flock “tightens up” in the proximity of the hawk. -K. Petrie

The morning just felt “busy” – a continuous (and cacophonous) stream of Blue jays went through the site. Cedar Waxwings (we estimated 250) were everywhere – especially in the Hackberries. No question: things are picking up.

Banded 32:
1 House Wren

First Golden-crowned Kinglet of the Fall. -NRF

1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Gray-cheeked Thrush. -K. Petrie

1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
1 Brown Thrasher
17 Cedar Waxwings
1 Philadelphia Vireo
1 Common Yellowthroat
4 White-throated Sparrows

Our first Dark-eyed Junco of the Fall. -NRF

1 Dark-eyed Junco

ET’s: 52 spp.

Other Photos:

Both of these male Common Yellowthroats are “older” AHY birds (they were retraps) but there’s a fair difference in their plumages – the one on the left looks younger.

Putting up owl nets – it won’t be long (around Thanksgiving) until we try to catch Northern Saw-whet Owls. -K. Petrie

Toads and other amphibians rue the end of Summer. They will soon be seeking out places to spend the Winter. -K. Petrie

Fern Hill Burlington:
Today flew by! We finally had cooler temperatures which perhaps brought a few firsts for the fall. We had some interesting sightings throughout the morning including an early visit from a Common Raven (who’s arrival was announced by the neighbourhood watch – concerned crows and blue jays.). We had quite a few new visitors to the field station, curious students who are new to the school and bird banding who were excited for the opportunity to learn and release their first bird! Throughout the day and on census Janice observed a total of 32 species of birds with Burlington’s first observed Dark-eyed Junco announcing the much anticipated change in the weather. In total Janice and the YO’s banded a total of 9 birds of 6 species:

Nashville Warbler. -JJC

2 Nashville Warblers
1 Western Palm Warbler

Western Palm Warbler. -JJC

2 Black Capped Chickadees
1 Warbling Vireo
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow

ET’s: 32 spp.

Need some help here: what is the name of this intriguing fungus?

Christine Madliger and Chris Harris write:
Chris and I think that leaf fungus you found could be European pear rust (also called pear trellis rust).

European pear rust (Gymnosporangium sabinae). Protruding gall-like growths develop on the underside of infected leaves, beneath the orange patches that appear on the upper surface.

September 27th – “Summer” Is Drawing To A Close

This was the last day of the protracted Summer we’ve been experiencing. It was hot early but a wind picked up halfway through the morning, cooling things off, and then some heavy cloud rolled in, which helped even further. Tomorrow could be a very different day….or not (I’m giving up on predicting…..).

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are beginning to percolate through Ruthven. -NRF

At Ruthven: Anticipating a Change
Despite the lower temperatures, it was still a hot/hazy day for the end of
September. Once again, a slow day for the number of birds handled but, I
was happy to have a few birds for a banding program with a lovely group of
seniors. Large numbers of Cedar Waxwings and Red-winged Blackbirds were
observed today. Other birds of interest included one Yellow-throated
Vireo, one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, nine Tree Swallows, and a number of
White-throated Sparrows singing.

With the change in the weather forecast for tomorrow we anticipate a
change in temperature and movement of birds.

Banded 26
1 House Wren
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 American Robin
14 Cedar Waxwings
2 American Robins
2 Common Yellowthroats
2 Northern Cardinals
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow

ET’S: 38 species

Katherine demonstrating to a pretty keen audience.

At Fern Hill Oakville:
Something has happened to our chickadees. In the first half of the year, we had a large population of them coming to our feeders. And they brought a good number of other species with them. But since the return of school in September we have not seen a single chickadee at the feeders and only one or two in the far reaches of the bordering forest. This is highly unusual. I’m wondering if they have been hit by West Nile or some other avian malady. The result is that we are not seeing many birds in the feeder area, which is the “wildest” part of the campus and, consequently, are catching numbers are down. Still we did manage to get our first Dark-eyed Junco of the season – surely Winter can’t be far behind!! I must say that I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures.

Harbinger of Winter: the first Dark-eyed Junco of the season (an older female).

Blue Jays were on the move all morning across the campus on a broad front, usually in 1’s or 2’s, although I did see a small flock of 9. Also, Monarch Butterflies were quite noticeable, even though the 44 tallied doesn’t compare to the 330 we saw last Monday or the 189 on Friday. Still, it’s nice to see them in good numbers.

Banded 5:
1 Chipping Sparrow
3 Song Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco

A young Chipping Sparrow, getting ready to head south.

ET’s: 30 spp.
More photos:

The Grade 3’s releasing a Song Sparrow. -KAP

One of 6 Song Sparrows caught today. -KAP

Need some help here: what is the name of this intriguing fungus?


September 25th & 26th – HOT!

Bay-breasted Warbler.

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year for our area: 32 degrees Celsius with a humidex score of 42!! And today was damned close. I just don’t get it. And if these types of weather changes are the way of the future, I wonder what the impact will be on birds. Despite reports of large numbers of migrants north of Lake Ontario, we still aren’t getting them. We tend to get most captures in the relative cool of the morning and then things die out when the sun heats up – although we’ve been getting a later small “hit” just before closing, usually involving just one net, almost like the birds taking pity on us, feeling the pain. Due to the heat we have been closing the nets an hour to an hour and a half early to avoid casualties.

In other news….the new header picture was taken by Marnie Gibson – it’s stunning!

……Nancy reported seeing 20 Common Nighthawks last night (25th) over the Butterfly Meadow.

……I just got news from the Banding Office that a Cedar Waxwing, banded at Ruthven as a young (hatch year) male on November 4th, 2013 was recovered in Milford Michigan on August 15, 2017.

September 25th; Banded 16
2 House Wrens
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 Swainson’s Thrush
9 Cedar Waxwings
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 Ovenbird

ET’s: 44 spp.

Male Common Yellowthroat with odd colouring to the tip of its bill.

September 26th; Banded 12:
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2 Gray Catbirds
4 Cedar Waxwings
1 Common Yellowthroat

Wing detail showing moult in this young male Scarlet Tanager.

1 Scarlet Tanager
2 Song Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow

I love the colouring of this little skulker – Lincoln’s Sparrow.

ET’s: 39 spp.

September 24th – Plugin’ Away

Ruby-throated Hummingbird taking advantage of the Salvia in Carol’s “Hummingbird Garden”. -MMG

Today I got this email from Glenn who runs a great banding program near King City, north of Toronto:

I have been faithfully reading your blog and see your low numbers for birds . It seems the complete opposite here in King City . We have been getting good numbers all week and today as well 75 to 100 a day; we are having so far the best season of the five years in operation and will probably exceed our best total of 3250 . All the birds we are catching have very high fat scores of 4 to 6; that started to happen last week after the north winds that we got last Tuesday. Also there are a lot of insects around our site in the forest. There is a student who has a variety of insect traps on the property; he has been commenting on the varieties and the high numbers of insects he is catching. We have caught over 200 AMRE [American Redstarts] and we got most of them by the end of August with the number climbing every day. NAWA [Nashville Warbler]are high as well also MAWA [Magnolia Warbler]. So I think it was a good year for birds up north. Also we have caught 13 AMWO [American Woodcock]; they seem to be everywhere in the morning as compared to last year when we did not get any because it was so dry . This year it has been a very wet spring at our site – perfect for the AMWO . Also we are seeing and catching AMGO [American Goldfinch] – there seems to be large flocks of them around. We are starting to get RCKI [Ruby-crowned Kinglet], WTSP [White-throated Sparrow] and EWCS [Eastern White-crowned Sparrow] this week, not in big numbers but their numbers are getting higher each day .

So about our lack of birds at Ruthven…..my sense is that once they take off from north of Lake Ontario the majority are simply “flying over” our site and likely not setting down until they clear the south side of Lake Erie. They have had perfect flight conditions for the past week or so: light winds, clear skies and relatively cool temperatures. Ruthven lies about halfway between Lakes Ontario and Erie. We need unsettled conditions to bring them down from their migratory flights. I think Glenn’s birds are fattening up in his area, getting ready to make a big jump across both lakes.

Banded 21:
1 House Wren

The first male Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the migration.

1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Gray-cheeked thrush
3 Swainson’s Thrushes
4 Gray Catbirds
3 Cedar Waxwings

Blue-headed Vireo. -MMG

1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Magnolia Warbler

Two American Redstarts: female on the left and a young male on the right.

2 American Redstarts
2 Ovenbirds
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Song Sparrow

ET’s: 39 spp.


Male Black-throated Green Warbler. -RC

Cedar Waxwings, especially juvenile ones (like this bird), are plentiful around the site now. -RC

Tennessee Warbler. -RC

Black-throated Green Warbler. -RC