April 26th & 27th – Dealing With Youthful Enthusiasm

Ornithologists of the future: Sophia, Maggie (with female cowbird) and Liam. -DOL

Two days of lousy March weather at the end of April! (And it doesn’t look like it will get much better for a few days yet.) Yesterday it was relatively mild but very wet: rain followed by patchy drizzle followed by more rain followed by…..you get the picture. And during the night the wind picked up so that when I arrived this morning it was blowing out of the W at 36 km/hr with gusts to 60 km. And, oh yes, the temperature had plummeted down to 2 degrees with a wind chill in the minuses. Tough time to be a migrant! So there hasn’t been much banding going on. During lulls in the rain I opened a couple of nets only to have to close them not long after and in the wind I baited some traps.

This spate of bad weather is showing up in our banding numbers. We currently stand at just 485 banded for the month of April. This is about 230 birds below our 10-year April average of 716 but, since the next few days don’t look promising, I think we’re headed for a record low.

Now, in the “early days” – when I was working – I would have peeked out the window first thing in the morning and, if the weather was like it has been, would have gone right back to bed. But Ruthven’s banding program has become sort of a……destination so I have to go just in case. And while I’m there I might as well do a census and, if there’s lulls, open a net or trap if possible. This morning the impetus was youthful enthusiasm. I was all set to pack it in after the census but…I had three very keen young bird enthusiasts to deal with. I was beset with: “the wind is dropping, maybe we should open some nets”. It wasn’t but I did open Net 2. It wasn’t catching anything but the traps were. And the nice thing is that the pace was comfortable for teaching – I was able to take the time to help them gain handling and scribing skills. Two hours passed very quickly as we handled 13 birds from the traps, mostly retraps but, still, good practice.

Note the differences in colour of these primary coverts on a White-breasted Nuthatch – indicating they are two different ages and that the bird is “older”; i.e., not in its second year. -DOL

April 26th; Banded 4:
2 Tree Swallows
1 Field Sparrow
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 35 spp.

April 27th; Banded 5:
3 Chipping Sparrows
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds

ET’s: 33 spp.

And In Other News:
[Marnie has a large grassy field next to her place of work in Oakville and put up a nest box to see if she could attract some Tree Swallows. It didn’t take them long….]

It didn’t take these Tree Swallows long to find this lone box in the middle of a meadow. -MMG

Excuse the zip tie mounting. It was all I had and I wanted to get at least one up for birds to look at over the weekend. First bird I saw “use” it was a Savannah Sparrow who sat on top and sang. Next one I saw was a meadowlark doing the same. This morning the TRES [Tree Swallow] came and looked very interested, chattering and swooping around it and peeking inside. Later I saw them on and off the ground, I assume gathering grass. I’m switching the mount to wire and greasing up the pole tomorrow and will try to rig up box 2 somehow. Two barn swallows were back today too! Hopefully they try nesting under the overhang again this year. 🙂

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