April 12th – Stuck In March?

A regular Spring migrant. This American Goldfinch comes to fatten up at Ruthven’s feeders every April (starting in 2015) and then is off to…….?? -NRF

The recent weather hasn’t been particularly Spring-like. Cold and rainy….more like March to my way of thinking. But, the birds still carry on. It must be particularly tough for insectivores. Note the concentration Tree Swallows seen over the Grand River – looking for emerging midges and soaking up any heat the river can offer – even just a little.

April 11th
An unseasonably cold, windy morning with ice pellets, snow and rain. A bright, beautiful pink sunrise that was indicative of the weather to come. With the high winds, only a few nets were opened and closed again within a short time once the ice pellets/freezing rain settled in. Despite the wintry conditions, Dave Maida and Marnie Gibson had a good census seeing 33 species! They observed wave after wave of Tree Swallows (~414) feeding along the Grand River. The birds were moving north, skimming low over the river.

Banded 14:

Always a treat: Brown Creeper. -NRF

1 Brown Creeper
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Chipping Sparrow
6 Slate-colored Junco
1 Brown headed Cowbird
4 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 36 Spp.

April 12th:
More of the same in the morning: cool and windy (although not as cutting as yesterday). By the time it started to warm up and the rain came, the nets were furled.

Banded 19:
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Tree Swallow
1 Brown Creeper
5 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.

Fern Hill is a private school with two campuses: in Burlington and Oakville. Our involvement there is due to the inspiration of two brilliant woman. Joanne Fleet came up with the notion of establishing an environmental studies program for young students. She recognized the value – and the need – of teaching kids about the natural environment all around them and letting them experience it first hand. She saw bird banding as a great way to heighten their experience. So she trained diligently at Ruthven and then started up the program at the Burlington campus. But a program doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it needs a place. Wendy Derrick is the founder of the school and has created what I think is one of the best schools going. She saw the value of what Joanne wanted to do and made it happen. And with Joanne’s success it was easy to get Wendy to duplicate the program at the Oakville campus. When Joanne retired, Katherine Paveley stepped in to fill those shoes and has done so admirably. We have been very fortunate to get Janice Chard on board as the bander in Burlington. She has a wealth of field experience and is a patient, natural teacher.

[I don’t want to get into any political discussions here but with the new Ontario budget I have to cringe. When I see students surrounded by bright, knowledgeable, teachers, highly skilled in their areas of expertise and learning in a positive proactive environment in relatively small classes, I have a hard time understanding how the proposed changes can be good for Ontario children. As well as an excellent grounding in the 3 R’s the students at Fern Hill get instruction in languages, art, vocal and instrumental music (at a very high, prize-winning level), and physical education. The coming changes to the public education system can only be a future nightmare. So kudos to Wendy Derrick and her vision! Joanne would not have got this program off the ground without Wendy’s sense of what children need to learn.]

FHS-Burlington-April 1st

First banded bird of Burlington’s Spring season: Song Sparrow. -KAP

Happy Spring Migration! It’s been a busy few days starting up our banding operation at Fern Hill but we’ve been having a great time. As usual, we’ve started off slowly but our numbers are climbing each day as new migrants arrive.

Banded 4:
2 American Tree Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow

Sophie with a male Brown-headed Cowbird. -KAP

1 Brown-headed Cowbird

FHS-Burlington-April 2nd
We had a nice turnout of students from Grades 3-8 stopping by the Field Station to check out and participate in banding!
Today we handled 17 birds in total, starting to pick up but still slow, normal for the start of migration.
Banded 9:
2 American Tree Sparrows
3 Black-capped Chickadees
3 Slate-coloured Juncos
1 Song Sparrow

FHS-Burlington-April 9

We had a very successful day at the Field Station although the high winds kept the birds hunkered down periodically. Janice and I were grateful for the help of the Grade Six class as we set up our last net, many hands make light work!
Banded 6:
1 Brown Creeper (I believe the first for Burlington although we catch them periodically in Oakville)
1 Song Sparrow
1 House Sparrow
3 Red-winged Blackbirds

Checking out a male Red-winged Blackbird. -KAP

Parents are highly encouraged to take part. Here Tristan’s Mom helps with the scribing under Janice’s tutelage. -KAP

FHS-Burlington-April 10th
Today we had a special guest bander at the school: Ross Wood! The students had a great time meeting and learning from Ross. He showed our students an entirely new side of banding and talked about how he uses MOTUS trackers to track birds as they migrate across the Americas.

Ross Wood and Janice Chard in the banding station. -KAP

Ross also collected feather samples from some of our American Tree Sparrows who will soon be migrating back up North to the Boreal Forest and almost to the Arctic. He will have an isotope analysis done of the feathers so that we can tell where they are from based on what they ate as their feathers developed. Some of the feathers were from retrapped birds so it will be exciting to learn more about who these birds are and where they go once we release them. The students were very interested to learn about projects/careers that incorporate both a love of the outdoors and technology.

Students releasing an American Tree Sparrow. -JJC

Female (left) and male (right) Brown-headed Cowbirds. -KAP

Banded 18:

ET’s: 26 spp.

Cold, windy, raw. But…..we have been catching birds – especially, and much to my surprise, Black-capped Chickadees. In these two days (11th and 12th) we have banded 31, all with 4 and 5 fat loads. These particular birds are on the move.

Note the marked difference in the number of species seen on the 2 days: only 18 on the 11th and but 31 on the 12th including 6 firsts for the year: Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Tree Swallow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow, and Eastern Meadowlark. Sort of proves that old adage: it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good….or something like that.
April 11th; Banded 26:
18 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Brown Creeper
1 Song Sparrow
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
4 House Sparrows

ET’s: 18 spp.

April 12th, Banded 24:
13 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Song Sparrow

The “orange” on the flanks has us thinking Oregon Junco…..or a touch thereof. -KAP

8 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 House Sparrow

ET’s: 31 spp.
We came across this unique chickadee this morning: pink bill and legs. Any ideas as to why?

Note the leg colour of these two chickadees. -KAP

And now the bills. -KAP


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