June 3rd – Home Sweet Home

Now that the dust from the Spring migration is settling, I get a chance to look through some of the data we’ve collected. I am particularly interested in the retrap data – the chronicle of birds that we’ve banded at a previous time and have recaptured again. Of course, we retrap a lot of the full-time residents – chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches – proving that they are indeed residents. But the most fascinating for me are the long-distance migrants that return year after year. Here’s a few that we encountered this Spring:

This male Orchard Oriole was initially banded as a “second year” bird (i.e., in it’s 2nd year having hatched the year before) on May 26th, 2013. It was recaptured on May 26th(!) 2015 and again on May 30th of this year. As it was hatched in 2012, this bird is in its 6th year. -JAI


Orchard Orioles are trans-Gulf (of Mexico) migrants in the Spring. They spend the Winter anywhere from Mexico to northern South America in open forests and edge habitat where flowering trees are found. The flight distance from Ruthven to San Jose, Costa Rica is about 3,700 km. What a flight. This bird has made the return flight 6 times!

This male Baltimore Oriole was already at least 2 years old (see the “6” in the top left corner) when Matt Timpf banded it on May 10th, 2012. Before this year it was recaptured in only 2 other years: 2013 and 2017 (although it was quite likely around Ruthven…just not in the nets). This bird is at least 8 years old. -KAP


Baltimore Orioles also spend their Winters from southern Mexico right down to northern South America spending their time in moist forest and shade coffee plantations.

The grandmother of them all: this female Baltimore Oriole was originally banded as a “second year” bird on May 13th, 2009 by blog meister Jeff MacLeod. As it was hatched in 2008, this bird is 10 years old!! -KMP


This male Blue-winged Warbler was at least 1 year old when it was banded on August 15, 2010 by Faye Socholotiuk-Duym. As you can see, it was recaptured in soii, ’12 and ’13 and, since there is another card stapled to this one, quite likely every year up until the present. This bird is at least 9 years old.. -KMP


The Blue-winged Warbler winters in humid evergreen and semideciduous forest and edge habitat from southern Mexico to Costa Rica and, sometimes, right down to Panama or the West Indies. So its flight distance is about the same as that of the orioles – but it weighs only 7.5-8 grams versus their weight of 32-35 grams. So a 9-year old Blue-winged Warbler is a marvel in and of itself.

The thing I would like to stress here is that these birds aren’t returning willy-nilly to just anywhere. When they set out from their wintering ground they have the destination down pat – they are flying to their Summer home: Ruthven Park, where they know the habitat intimately, probably right down to the trees and shrubs present in the territories they would like to carve out and the to food that these habitats contain. It’s not a random thing and these recapture records clearly show that.

But what happens if they return and find that their “home” has been destroyed, doesn’t exist anymore? Chaos. They have to use precious resources (and remember that they have used up most of their energy reserves to get here – returning local residents usually are not carrying any fat) to try to find another suitable habitat to nest in – one that probably already has resident birds which will fight hard to preserve their right to it. There’s a good possibility that the breeding season for these displaced birds will be lost – and maybe the bird itself.

Take a look around. Urban sprawl is exploding in southern Ontario. Binbrook and Caledonia, once two nice rural towns are now small cities (or soon will be) housing the workforce that runs Toronto. Over 3,000 new (large) houses are currently being constructed on the outskirts of Caledonia on the north side of the river and there’s plans for an even larger number on the south side. Agricultural lands are herbicided deserts awaiting planting or vast monocultures. On my walk this morning just outside of the village of York I observed a large field of winter wheat and another awaiting tilling. I never saw a single bird associated with them. I saw a couple of birds flying over, going from one place to another, but never into them to look for food or to return to a nest. For wildlife such fields are wastelands. And, now we are learning that they are insidiously toxic wastelands….for ALL life.

I’d like to be able to point to a simple solution but when all is said and done if humans aren’t willing to curb their propensity to breed then I can’t foresee a positive outcome. And beautiful retrap stories like those above will be a rarity if they happen at all.

But enough gloom (it can sure get you down if you let it). Take a look at this next picture: retrap cards for a Yellow Warbler and an American Goldfinch. Sure, it’s just coincidence. But wouldn’t their connection make for a marvellous children’s story!? The tale of two very different apecies that grow up together, go their separate ways for the Winter but, before going, agree to meet again at Ruthven at a particular time in order to “catch up”.

What a coincidence! (Or did they plan it!?) These two very different birds – Yellow Warbler (YWAR) and American Goldfinch (AMGO) – were both in their 2nd year when they were both captured (within 10 minutes of each other) and banded on May 13th, 2016. They weren’t seen in 2017 but were both recaptured (within 30 minutes of each other!) on May 12th of this year. Both would be 3 years old. -KMP


Rick

May 29th-31st – The End

A full moon greeted our last days of the season. -S. Merritt


The migration, which seemed to take forever to get started, tailed off quickly at the end and we’ve been hard put to get enough birds to reach the 1800 plateau. (Why that makes a difference I don’t know…..just nice to have something to aim for, I guess.)

Fred Smith, who lives just across the river and downstream about a kilometer, has been seeing this Red-headed Woodpecker around his place – a real rarity these days. -FJS


Here’s the way it played out at Ruthven:

May 29th: Banded 19:
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Wood Thrush
1 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2 Cedar Waxwings
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
6 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 51 spp.

May 30th; Banded 11:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 House Wren

Male Eastern Bluebird keeping an eye on his nest box. -KMP


1 Eastern Bluebird
1 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2 Cedar Waxwings
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Yellow Warbler

Valerie banding a Blackpoll Warbler. -RB


1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Song Sparrow

The Blackpoll ready to go. -RB


ET’s: 65 spp.

May 31st; Banded 15:

Female Tree Swallow – the 1800th (and last) bird banded this Spring. -KMP


1 Tree Swallow
5 Eastern Bluebirds
2 Gray Catbirds
2 Yellow Warblers
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Field Sparrow
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 60 spp.

In Summary:
In April and May, in our standard operation, we banded 1,800 birds of 88 species.

Top Ten:
1. American Goldfinch – 422
2. Yellow Warbler – 112
3. Brown-headed Cowbird – 94
4. Song Sparrow – 82
5. Gray Catbird – 80
6. Baltimore Oriole – 51
6. White-throated Sparrow – 51
6. Cedar Waxwing – 51
9. Common Yellowthroat – 44
10. Red-winged Blackbird – 38
Rick

Karen’s Entymology Corner:

Click Beetles have been finding their way into the nets. -KMP


Red-spotted Purple Butterfly. -KMP

And at Fern Hill School:

We had a couple of scorchers at Fern Hill – Burlington! It is crazy to think that about a month ago we had our only snow day of the year in April…and this week the temperatures felt unbearable at times in the mid-thirties. We closed our nets early to avoid putting stress on the birds which reduced our catch but made for a nice slow pace for our younger learners.

May 28th; banded a total of 13 birds:
2 GRCA
2 CEDW
1 CHSP
2 SOSP
6 AMGO

We had an ET of 44 species throughout the day and on census. Our seasonal firsts were a Northern Parula, Black & White Warbler, Alder Flycatcher observed throughout the day.

May 29th; 5 birds banded:
3 GRCA
2 AMGO

Janice (Chard) observed an ET of 39 species but most birds seemed to be laying low in the heat/because of nesting season. At one point we saw a large flock of 14 AMCRs wheeling and calling above the schoolyard for some time, drawing out the hidden Baltimore Orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Tree Swallows who got caught up in the commotion. There is a definite feel in the air that migration is slowing down as the nesting season kicks into high gear.
Kathryn

Fern Hill – Oakville:

May 30th: The heat referred to above continued and banding was slow. Interestingly I saw a Common Loon flying over but headed West!
Banded 7:
1 Black-billed Cuckoo
1 American Robin
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Song Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 House Finch

ET’s: 35 spp.

May 31st; Banded 24:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Tree Swallow (female form a nest box sitting on 5 eggs)
1 American Robin
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Yellow Warbler
1 American Redstart (ASY-M)
2 Song Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Common Grackle
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 House Finch
9 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 38 spp:

In Summary for Fern Hill – Oakville:

In April and May, banded 361 birds of 49 spp.

Top Five:
1. Red-winged Blackbird – 72
2. American Goldfinches – 43
3. Common Grackle – 34
4. American Robin – 24
5. Song Sparrow – 23

Rick

May 29th – Almost Done

“Down here” in far southern Canada the migration is almost done – it’s kind of sad in a way but, in truth, I’m ready for a rest. And just as I was thinking about the end my compatriot Jeff MacLeod sends me this email:

Take a look at this incredible ebird checklist:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46116491

Jeff

This is the kind of day that would knock your socks off and is a reminder that, while we are wrapping up here, the migration is still in full swing to the north of us. The above movement was at Tadoussac which is at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord on the north shore of the St. Lawrence. Many years ago in early June, after kayaking the fjord, I spent an afternoon on the sand dunes looking out over the river. I was amazed at the massive diurnal migration that was taking place – all warblers from what I could see. It was a clear sunny day and the wind was slightly in front of them. They came in moderately low and as soon as they reached the shrubs/woods dived down into them. Pretty chancy flying over such a large expanse of water in the daytime. Usually small migrants fly at night so I was interested in the possible reasons that would drive them on through the day and with a head wind. The urgency to get to where they had to get to was all I could come up with.

I wonder if the birds in the above sighting were held up by the recent inclement weather in the mid-eastern States and were trying to make up time with a supporting wind…..

Banded 19:
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
1Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Wood Thrush
1 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2 Cedar Waxings
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
6 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 51 spp.
Rick

May 28th – Winter Into Summer

This young male Baltimore Oriole is #51 – a record breaker. The highest Spring banding total for this species was 50, set last year. -KMP


It seems that we’ve jumped from Winter into Summer without much Spring in-between. On my drive over to Ruthven the moon hung ominously over the western horizon, a red ball (probably due to water vapour in the air). It was 18 degrees while opening and quickly climbed into the mid-20’s early in the morning, with no wind or clouds. Conditions like these can be dangerous for birds caught in the nets. So, for the second day in a row, we closed an hour early before temperatures reached their peak. And also for the second day in a row, we weren’t seeing any migrants that looked like they were still moving on (i.e., none were carrying any fat).

Sign of the season: female Rose-breasted Grosbeak carrying nesting material. She will soon be on eggs. -RF


Although banding totals for many species are below average, We continue to catch Baltimore Orioles and Cedar Waxwings at a record rate. We got our 50th and 51st oriole today breaking the old record of 50 set just last year and we went ahead with Cedar Waxwings as well; today we banded 7 bringing our total to 47, 2 ahead of the old record set in 2011.

(Banded) male Common Yellowthroat; heard, and sometimes seen, all around the site. -RF


Banded 22:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2 Eastern Wood Pewees
2 Gray Catbirds
7 Cedar Waxwings
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Baltimore Orioles
4 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 53 spp.