It’s not a good thing to jump into a marathon without, at least, a little training. September 1st begins a 68-day run of migration monitoring: nets open before dawn, 6 hours of banding before closing, a census, careful bird observations throughout. Various volunteers figured that we put in 8-9 kilometres per day and we can band anywhere from 10 – 300+ birds depending on the timing and weather conditions. So, a little training is a good thing. Over the past week we’ve cleared all the net lanes and trails, opened some of the nets for up to 5 hours, did a couple of censuses, recorded observations and generated Estimated Totals. But today we decided to go at it full bore. We opened all the nets and ran them until about noon and did a census. There weren’t a lot of birds around but it was great practice for the up and coming crew of young people that are taking the place of the aging Baggers (Ben, Alessandra, et al.) as they are moving on to university, jobs, and….real life. We handled 26 birds, half of which were new bandings.
3 House Wrens
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing
4 Blue-winged Warblers
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Song Sparrow
1 Common Grackle
ET’s: 42 spp.
The southward migration of long-distance migrants is just beginning. It is a time fraught with considerable anxiety for some birders as they try to deal with the identification of those nasty “confusing fall warblers” (a la Roger Tory Peterson). But if you follow the sage advice of P.A. Taverner, one of Canada’s first great birders/ornithologists, from his book Birds of Canada which came out in the 1930’s, it shouldn’t be so difficult:
“The sexes are usually dissimilar and there is considerable seasonal change in plumage. This, multiplied by the large numbers of species, makes the task of identifying all of them seem almost hopeless to the beginner. It is not, however, as difficult as it seems at first. (Italics mine) The spring males are usually distinctly marked and as many of them are furnished with descriptive names their differentiation is comparatively simple. As the females and autumn birds usually retain suggestions of the characteristic spring markings of the males the difficulty is really less than is generally anticipated. Of course, puzzling specimens occur which give even the experts some difficulty, but it is usually an alternative between two species which can be settled by giving attention to one or more small details. In studying the warblers the observer is advised to become familiar with the spring males first. When the males of the common species are known, quite an easy matter with such strongly characterized forms, most of the females are recognized without much difficulty, as they usually carry a subdued reflection of their mate’s brighter colour pattern. In the autumn, most juveniles resemble the females closely enough to make recognition easy. There are thus few plumages besides those of the spring males that have to be learned individually.”
And from our correspondent, Karen Petrie, with her finger on the pulse of the natural world in Algonquin Park:
The Algonquin Park bird report is slim pickings indeed! Although I heard Blue Jay this morning (and White-throated Sparrow every evening), the only birds I saw with total certainty were on the Logging Museum trail pond (juvenile hooded merganser, I think? Along with some Canada geese) and on the road up to Opeongo Lake: a young northern flicker, an industrious barn swallow catching bugs over the lake, and a common loon diving for snacks. It’s striking how silent the woods have been in some places.
So, I’ve had to make my own (non-bird) fun and pay more attention to insects and some plants. This morning I found a Mourning Cloak butterfly and Northern Pearly-Eye, and in the afternoon I found a Green Comma and a lovely patch of milkweed with lots of mature caterpillars. Finally found a cocoon in the wild, too! Monarchs seem to be doing well in the Park, and that’s always good news.
I’ll include a mixed bag of photos for your perusal!
Learn to identify the variety of insects that come out after dark on the grounds and discover what makes each of them unique.
Wednesday, August 28th at 8:00 pm.
Pre-registration is required, admission by donation!
Call to book 905.772.0560.