July 12th – How To Garden

Before I went to work….. -CAJ

After…..getting ready for tomorrow’s big garden show. -CAJ

Some people find gardening hard work. Not me. As the above pictures clearly show, beautiful things can be done, you just need the right approach. At one time the garden around the banding lab was disgusting, embarrassing. I had to do something about it, no more procrastinating. So I simply got down to hard work…..and found the right person for the job! Carol Jones doesn’t have just a green thumb, she has a magic thumb as any who have seen her “Butterfly Garden” will attest. Furthermore, she likes it. You can’t do better than that. So like most things my advice when there’s a tough job to do: find the right person.

After….as if you couldn’t tell. -CAJ

Tomorrow there’s a Haldimand-wide garden show where you can travel to various sites and see a variety of gardens. Ruthven has 3 beauties to display including mine (well….actually it’s Carol’s but I put her up to it…..).

So tell me: are Timbits baked goods or……what? Young attendees to the banding lab think they can slip one by me by bringing in a BIG box of them. Oh no, my friends. I see what you’re doing…..Let me show you what a real baked good looks like:

Fresh strawberry pie – what a REAL baked good should look like. -DOL

And this is how it should be handled:

It’s all over but the crying…… -DOL

Carol has more than a green thumb – she’s a GREAT baker.

Nature Canada’s Save Our Swallows team after putting radio/MOTUS tags on some of our Purple Martins. (from left: Alex, Ali, Vanessa, Ted, Zaeedah, Nancy, Rick) -NRF

Over the past 2 days Ted Cheskey from Nature Canada brought his Save Our Swallows team to Ruthven to apply MOTUS (radio) tags to them. Hopefully, when they migrate, their unique radio signature will be picked up by other towers and we will get an idea of their route. And wouldn’t it be great to pick up their signal next Spring!?

July 4th – Mad Dogs and……..

Three rambunctious juvenile Tufted Titmice. -AR

The nice thing about Summer banding is that it’s not regimented, you can take your time, set a more relaxed schedule, even sleep in a little. But Alexis evidently is not like that and she and her Dad arrived a full half hour before me and were just about to leave when I pulled into the laneway. It’s a good thing they stayed because we saw some neat thing both birds and insects. After they left and I had closed the nets I decided that it would be good to clear the net lanes in the heat of the day. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

Stumpy, a female Downy Woodpecker, is in her third year. -DOL

Occasionally we catch birds with part of a leg missing. Invariably we call them “Stumpy”. It’s impossible to say why the leg is missing – probably some sort of attack involving a close call. But I’m always curious to see how these birds make out so I band them to see if we’ll catch them again, and often we do. This particular “Stumpy” is a female Downy Woodpecker; it is in its third year; and it has a receding brood patch which suggests that she nested – possibly successfully. The bird appeared to be in good health; the only noticeable thing was that her weight was about 4 grams less than you would expect. Some of this was probably due to the rigours of raising and fledging a brood but the important thing was that she was surviving.

Banded 21: (16 or 76% were juveniles)
1 Downy Woodpecker
3 Tufted Titmice
3 Black-capped Chickadees
1 House Wren
2 Yellow Warblers
2 Field Sparrows
5 Song Sparrows
1 Common Grackle
1 Baltimore Oriole
2 Orchard Oriole

ET’s: 37 spp. (no census)

Insect Corner:

Two Four-toothed Mason Wasps (Monobia quadridens) “frolicking” on the banding lab’s doorframe – have they no shame!? -DOL

Pearly Wood-Nymph – easily overlooked as a bird dropping. -MB

Walnut Caterpillar Moth -MB

Io Moth in the washroom breezeway. -AR


July 3rd – Pot Pourri

Not long out of the nest – a Yellow Warbler. -NRF

What marvellous weather we were treated to around Canada Day!! You just had to get outside and experience it head on. So I did a lot of cycling and a good paddle. There is a new gravelled rail trail that runs from Regional Road 9 just outside York across to McClung Road on the outskirts of Caledonia. It’s a great trail that backs up sloughs and forests and fields. On one jaunt I took it and then jumped onto the Chippewa Trail to get to the Mountain Brow in Hamilton. I couldn’t get over the large number of American Robins along the way, many of them young. It seems to have been a good year for them. Also, I counted at least 7 adult Brown Thrashers. The scrubby habitat along these trails would seem to be ideal for them. Let’s hope some unscrupulous agriculturalist doesn’t clear them to provide more acreage for soya beans or corn. On a second jaunt I took the new trail across to McClung Road and then followed it south to hook up with the Rotary Riverside Trail back to York thus completing a 19-km loop. I was pleased to find a group of Bobolinks close to McClung Road and within about a quarter of a kilometer of the huge new housing development that is going in. I’m not sure how far into the future these Bobolinks will have a home. I also noticed some young Tree Swallows beginning to congregate (if you can call 3 a congregation) on some wires. A sure sign that we’re well into Summer. [In rural western Kenya, where you can see 100’s, sometimes 1,000’s on the wires it is a sign to start planting, the rains are nigh.]

A juvenile Northern Cardinal – probably a male. Note the dark, “horn-coloured” bill. -NRF

We paddled downriver from York to just several km’s beyond Cayuga. It’s a run I’ve made many, many times – I used to train vigorously for wilderness canoe trips. The river was fairly high from all the rain we’ve been getting and (most unusual) the wind was behind us. What a treat! But there was real cause for concern. When making this run you go under 3 bridges: an unused train bridge just downstream from Ruthven, another on the upstream edge of Cayuga (which has been incorporated into a lovely 3-km walking loop), and the new car bridge taking Highway 3 across the river. In years past these bridges have been alive with nesting swallows – Barn and Cliff. The 1st bridge had NONE; I saw 4 swallows around the 2nd; and no more than 10 around the car bridge. What’s going on?! In the evening I took a look at the bridge in York. Last year I counted at least 21 active Cliff Swallow nests. Birds were buzzing over and under it all day. But this year I had a hard time finding just 6 Cliff Swallows and these were up high feeding (except for one that finally dropped down and swooped under it). This is very concerning.

Another great look at that (very) uncommon Olive-sided Flycatcher that was around at the end of May. -CAJ

Yesterday we opened a few nets before checking the Purple Martin colony. We caught a few very young birds, not long out of the nest – Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow. Soon they’ll be all over the place. In the martin boxes there was a broad range in terms of timing: some nests still had eggs; others had very young newly hatched birds; and 2 had birds old enough to band (we figured they were about 12 days old) – these latter we banded.

Some of our Purple Martins are old enough to band – we banded 6 along with an adult female. -NRF

Banded 16:
1 Downy Woodpecker
6 Purple Martins
1 Blue Jay
1 Blue-winged Warbler
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
3 Song Sparrows

One of over 140 young Barn Swallows that Nancy has banded in local barns. -NRF

ET’s: 47 spp.

Crocus Geometer. -MB

We have a “new” natural history pastime at Ruthven. There is a tunnel between the washrooms and the new Welcome Centre. At night it is lit. These lights have been attracting a wide variety of insects but especially moths. And for our new Education Co-ordinator, Michael Berry – a well-rounded naturalist – they are a burning interest (there’s no accounting for taste, eh?). He’s even been getting me excited about them! Awakening a latent interest. So if you show up early Michael will be happy to show them to you and identify most of them.

Fluid Arches Moth -MB

But here’s a date to mark down in your calendars: on Wednesday, August 28th, Michael will be running a program called Insects of the Night in which he will show you the many types of insects that are around at night and, because of this, largely unknown to most of us. It should be really interesting. The program will run from 8-9:30 at night. He would appreciate it if you’d register ahead of time and notes that, like most Ruthven natural history events, admission is by donation.

Harnessed Tiger Moth -MB

Io Moth (female) -MB

Large Lace-border. -MB

Virginian Tiger Moth -MB


June 28th – Summer Sampling

It’s a good time to learn about birds and banding. Maggie was able to band 59% of the 17 birds we banded today. -DOL

Starting at the end of June we like to start “sampling” the local birds that have bred here – if we’re around and have the time. This was one of those days; we needed to clear the net lanes – if we don’t stay on top of it we have to use machetes when we’re getting ready for Fall migration monitoring. We only open a few nets at a time and usually rotate the ones we use from one day to the next. It’s also a good time for interested people to learn about banding and the skills that are necessary to help out as it’s a pretty relaxed pace. This morning Maggie was able to help out and ended up banding over half of the birds we caught under watchful eyes.

Ruthven is a good place to find Blue-winged Warblers. Maggie is holding one of two that we banded today. -DOL

We caught a number of female Yellow Warblers this morning; they all had receding brood patches which suggests that either they were unsuccessful breeders or (and I think this is more likely) they have hatched their eggs and are now feeding chicks. One bird had even started its pre-basic moult. This species doesn’t fool around. Wham, bam, feed and then fledge the young, moult and then……out of here. We rarely catch/see a Yellow Warbler at Ruthven after the first week of August. [And I can’t figure out why since there’s a huge breeding population extending north even into the Hudson Bay Lowlands.]

This is a “young” (SY) male Indigo Bunting; note the brown primary coverts and remiges. -NRF

Note the blue tinging on the flight feathers. This “adult” male Indigo Bunting was originally banded in May of 2014. It was recaptured in the 2 subsequent years but, interestingly, was not retrapped in 2017 or 2018. -NRF

Banded 17:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Gray Catbird
2 Blue-winged Warblers
4 Yellow Warblers
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
4 American Goldfinches