April 19th – Taking Advantage

A reward for braving the conditions – American Woodcock. -FAS

The forecast for this morning was abysmal and a great reason to just shut off the alarm and go back to sleep; hell, a great reason to not even set the alarm. But this is weather and, by its very nature, capricious. And the only place to make a decision about whether to proceed or not is at the banding lab – boots on the ground, so to speak. And it wasn’t raining there…and it didn’t start to rain for a couple of hours into the morning. So we opened some nets and traps and tried to take advantage of this rain reprieve. And it’s a good thing we did as one of the first birds of the day was an American Woodcock. It was only the 9th one banded at the station and just the 2nd banded in the Spring. So it was a treat and caused us to consider the poor decisions by those who chose to stay in bed this morning based on a forecast…..and to pat ourselves smugly on the back for our good decision.

Carol had never seen a woodcock before – and got to release it; down by Net 4 where I had been hearing it early in in the morning for the past 2 weeks. -FAS

The rain started shortly into the census, lightly at first but growing in intensity – Carol and Faye were quite wet by the end. We closed when the intensity increased.

Banded 15:
1 American Woodcock
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 American Robin
5 Chipping Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
3 Swamp Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 43 spp.

Fern Hill Burlington – March 18th:

A treat: Northern Mockingbird. -KAP

Thursday was a fantastic day at Fern Hill, the kind of day where you go home full to the brim with gratitude to the birds for bringing together a really inspirational group of birders and students. Janice invited Nicole Richardson to the school who was so warm and friendly, and just brimming with interesting facts and stories about her experiences banding raptors. She spent the morning with us in the Field Station, and gave a Lunch and Learn talk in our school’s science room leaving the students “enRAPTURED” with her stories and photographs of hawks, owls, shrikes, and falcons. I’m so grateful to Janice for inviting her inspiring birder friends, first Ross Wood last week and then Nicole, to our school to share their passions with myself and the school community and inspire the next generation of birders.

Nicole in the banding lab. – KAP

Lunch and Learn with Nicole. -KAP

Checking out different band sizes. -KAP

Banded 21 birds of 11 species:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 American Robin
1 Northern Mockingbird
4 European Starlings
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Chipping Sparrow
6 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 Common Grackles
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 39 spp.

Perhaps Nicole brought some good luck along with her, because we caught On Thursday morning we caught our FIRST EVER Northern Mockingbird! This neat bird is in the Mimidae family along with Catbirds, Cuckoos, and Thrashers. They have a wide range of calls and can mock or mimic a variety of sounds.

Releasing the mockingbird. -KAP

Our lucky catch led to a thoughtful conversation with some of my older students as Mockingbirds have long held a special place in folklore and stories, perhaps the most well known example is Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird“. In this story the mockingbird is used a symbol to represent innocence. Perhaps our first catch of a Mockingbird on the weekend of Earth Day is fitting as we all reflect upon the beauty, resilience, innocence, and fragility of nature, and consider ways in which we can make a positive impact on the world around us.
More Photos:

Greasing the nestbox poles – Troy ad Sophie. -KAP

Early Bluebird eggs – despite the weather conditions!! -KAP

Birds of a feather band together: Janice and Nicole. -KAP

The Three Amigas: Katherine, Janice, and Nicole. -KAP

Happy Earth Day,

April 17th & 18th –

Ruthven Park:
We seem to be in a holding pattern – cruising along at low speed waiting for something to happen. The weather conditions have been iffy at best with fluctuating temperatures (1 degree yesterday at opening and 19 today when closing up) and with enough wind to billow the nets. Still we’re catching birds and the observed totals are slowly inching upwards.

DeKay’s Brown Snakes came out with the first real warmth of the Spring. -MMG

There are other signs of Spring too: yesterday there were a couple of Mourning Cloak butterflies and a Red Admiral and today we saw at least 3 DeKay’s Brown Snakes.

Carol’s goodies – they always brighten up a gray day. -MMG

And there was baking: Carol’s lemon loaf….delicious!
April 17th; Banded 23:
1 Northern Flicker
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Eastern Bluebird
2 Field Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
11 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 42 spp.

April 18th; Banded 24:
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
7 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes
2 American Robins
1 Chipping Sparrow
3 Field Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco
4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 44 spp. (including a Pine Warbler)

Fern Hill – Burlington

April 17th:
Our day was beautiful in Burlington. Bright blue skies, Tree Swallows were chattering and swooping overhead, seemingly enjoying the weather and checking out our school’s nest boxes. We have begun monitoring our school’s nest boxes, so today I brought our Junior Kindergarten class out to peek inside a box. Last week when I checked it I found a nest that didn’t look like a typical Bluebird, Swallow, or House Sparrow nest (the usual suspects found in our boxes) because it was lined with moss. I thought for this reason it might be a chickadee nest. To all of our delight and surprise, when I opened it up we found a female Eastern Bluebird and three eggs! It seems a bit early but I appreciate her go-getter attitude and I hope the weather cooperates for her little family.

Today we banded 5 birds including:
1 Field Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
1 House Sparrow
1 Northern Cardinal

Throughout the day, Janice had a total of 40 species [ET’s] including our first sighted pair of ospreys passing through. Last year a pair nested on the nearby hydro towers, so here’s hoping for many more sights to come.

April 16th – Heatin’ Up

Despite this spate of lousy weather both here and to the south of us, migrants can only hold back so long. They are internally driven to move north….and they’ve started to do so in bigger numbers. Both Ruthven and The Oakville campus of Fern Hill experienced some of this today. Thanks goodness; it was getting tedious.

This adult male American Kestrel is only the 2nd one we’ve banded at Ruthven. -MB

Ruthven Park:
What a fantastic day! Now, there could be a few reasons for this … To start the morning, the winds were light and it was a beautiful sunrise with the pink sky and warm sun topping the horizon. There were two Purple Martins at the gourds (Rick saw the first one for the season yesterday). At opening, there was a pulse of bird activity and song along the net lanes, with the anticipation and promise of a busier day! The first net round we were handling Golden-crowned Kinglets, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Brown Thrasher and new for the season were Swamp Sparrows! It was great having David Brewer back, engaging with the large school group and sharing his wealth of knowledge. New for the season was the first Myrtle Warbler and …. the highlight for me was banding my first American Kestrel! Everything went well handling and banding this beautiful raptor! At closing, the rain had settled in, feeling cool and damp. So, it was a fantastic day that was busy and exciting! Not only with the birds we handled but also, the birds that we could hear calling throughout the morning. In total, we handled 73 birds!

This kestrel was a banding first for Nancy. What a great feeling that is! -MB

Applying a 3B band to the kestrel. -MB

Fait accompli. -MB

Banded 48

American Kestrel -CAJ

1 American Kestrel
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Tree Swallow
1 Carolina Wren
3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets

2nd Brown Thrasher of the year. -NRF

1 Brown Thrasher

1st Myrtle Warbler of the year – a young (SY) male. -NRF

1 Myrtle Warbler
4 Chipping Sparrow

Comparison: 3 sparrows with a rufous head- Chipping (left), Field (middle), and Swamp (right). -NRF

4 Field Sparrow
3 Song Sparrow
6 Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrows are subtle but very handsome don’t you think? -NRF

3 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
13 American Goldfinches

This male American Goldfinch was originally banded as a young or “hatch year” bird on November 27th, 2012. -NRF

ET’s: 44

Fern Hill – Oakville Campus:
I took in the beautiful sunrise as well and contemplated the old adage of “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” but I also knew from the forecast that the morning was going to be good…..and so it was! We were catching right from the getgo. We banded 49 birds but what is uncanny (to me, anyhow) is that well over half – 32 – were Black-capped Chickadees. As I noted last week when we banded a total of 31 over two days, these birds are on the move, all carrying big fat loads. Why are we getting them at Fern Hill. My guess is that these migrant chickadees had been moving along the forested area along the nearby creek when they ran into this rash of poor weather. Mr. Hinks has been keeping our feeders topped uo and feeding a large number of local birds. I think the migrants became aware of this feeding behaviour and decided to join in. As well as the new birds today, we retrapped a number chickadees that we had banded last week – so they have been sticking around, taking advantage of this rich food source and waiting out the cold.

One of the Black-capped Chickadees we banded today had white central rectrices. -KAP

Banded 49:
1 Eastern Phoebe
32 Black-capped Chickadees
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper

First Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the year at Oakville campus. -KAP

1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 American Robin
1 Song Sparrow
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
5 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Common Grackle
1 Brown-headed Grackle
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 32 spp.

April 15th – Silver Lining

That old adage goes: every dark cloud has a silver lining. Well, we had quite a dark cloud: violent thunder storm last night (complete with lightening), cold temperatures (+2 this morning), raw NW wind, and a mix of rain, sleet and snow. A good day to roll over and go back to sleep but….we had a large school group visiting today so we had to be there to look for an “opening”. And we got it – for an hour and a half starting at 9:30 the rain tapered off enough to open a couple of the close nets and set out a few traps. We ended up catching 32 birds (one for each student).

And while this was satisfying it was NOT the silver lining. Just as I was about to get into my car at the end of the morning I took one last look at the Purple Martin nest gourds and, lo and behold, an adult male Martin emerged from one, took a flight over to the Mansion and then returned to the gourds – the first one of the year and hopefully the start of this year’s nesting colony. I’ve been anxiously awaiting since the beginning of April for their return. This was truly a silver lining.

Now there’s another old adage, or at least the bastardization of one: behind every dark cloud there’s another. The rest of this week looks pretty nasty. It’s a tough year to be an early migrant.

Banded 12:
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco
4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.