Do you remember that great tune Otis Redding made famous, Dock of the Bay? Well, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Everything was in great shape: the banding and net rounds being handled by an expert (Matt Timpf); the census undertaken by a great birder (Peter Thoem) who turned up 36 species (including the one pictured above); the data being actively entered during each net round by a data entry afficionado/nerd (Ralph Beaumont). What was there for me to do?….Pull up a bench behind the washroom building, sit back, scan the skies for passing birds, and, with Otis singing in the background, contemplate the enormity of this flow of life. That tune was somehow very connected to it all.
Maybe it was the warmth, maybe the results of yesterday’s big SW wind, maybe….well, maybe it was just time….but we had quite an influx of birds – not that we necessarily banded, but new species for the year. Ten of them:
Bufflehead – I know, I know…this little duck is a common Winter resident on the Grand but, since we’d had so much ice, we hadn’t seen any until today; Bonaparte’s Gulls (at least two flying up the river); Osprey (one, headed upriver); Caspian Tern (one, headed downriver); Sandhill Crane (one, headed east away from the river); Horned Grebe (a bird we don’t often see at all); American Kestrel (a bird that is becoming progressivley less common); Eastern White-crowned Sparrow (the first of many to come); Brown Creeper (another bird that is a Winter resident but….we just hadn’t seen any so far); and, of course, the star attraction: a very early Louisiana Waterthrush!!! Peter Thoem first picked it up on his census. It was working over the edges of the flood pools created by the Grand River backing up Rick’s Rill. We all went down to take a look and it accomodatingly stayed in the area down by the Poison Ivy sign on the Carolinian Trail all morning. In total our species count for the day was a whopping (for Ruthven at this time of year) 53!
We also had some non-avian firsts: a Leopard Frog; a Garter Snake, and a scad (I think that is the right term) of Mourning Cloak Butterflies.
Males are funny creatures, eh? Since they arrived back from the south, male Red-winged Blackbirds have lined the river and river flats, evenly spaced out, announcing their presence, but staying away from the nets and traps and that was about it. But throw a woman into the mix and kaboom!…everything goes nuts. We caught 6 young males today; all at the same time in the same net. I saw the first female two days ago and today the males are chasing each other all around the site not watching where they’re going, testosterone oozing out of every pore.
All in all, a VERY special day.
7 Golden-Crowned Kinglets
3 American Robins
1 Northern Cardinal
2 American Tree Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
9 Dark-eyed Juncos
6 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 American Goldfinch
ET’s: 53 spp.
Photo Gallery (thanks to Lise Balthazar):
And to tantalize you for the days to come…: