May 26th – What Happened To Spring?!

It seemed to take forever before we got “seasonable” Spring weather. During those few days the long-distance migrants we had so anxiously been awaiting blew through. And here we are: right in the middle of Summer temperatures. What was the high today? 32? 37 with the humidex? Yikes!

Opening the nets before dawn has been pleasant – nice temperatures, stars high overhead and the start-up of the “dawn chorus”. It’s fun to try to pick out (and count) all the various species as they come alive with the coming sun and want to make their presence felt. And then POW! – the sun clears the horizon and all hell breaks out with birds chasing each other to declare who owns what territory and to dominate particular mates. By 8:00 o’clock you can feel the heat. The chasing doesn’t slow down….but the net rounds seem to. By closing time (around 11:00) the heat is hard to bear and you’re sweating like crazy (I was going to say like a fat pig but thought that might be somewhat…..offensive to some).

Most long-distance migrants that are going further north have already done so. There are still a few stragglers but the vast majority is well north of us. But migrants that will breed in the area – or will try to breed in the area are still arriving in good numbers. A lot of these are females; eg., we banded 8 Yellow Warblers this morning – most of them were females (young or SY females at that); the 5 Indigo Buntings we banded this morning were all females. And we’re still getting Baltimore Orioles! The 4 we got this morning pushes our total to 117 – tying the record set last year (one I thought we wouldn’t top).

May 25th; Banded 28:
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
1 American Robin
4 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Blue-winged Warbler
2 Tennessee Warblers
1 Yellow Warblers
2 Magnolia Warblers

Male Magnolia Warbler. -RSG

1 American Redstart
1 Mourning Warbler

One of the last warblers to arrive at Ruthven: Mourning Warbler. This is an ASY male. -DOL

1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Song Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Baltimore Orioles
1 Orchard Oriole

A young, or SY (second year) Orchard Oriole. Note the bronze feathers beginning to moult in. -DOL

1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 60 spp.

May 26th; Banded 33:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. -RSG

2 Eastern Wood-pewees
2 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 Blue Jay
2 Swainson’s Thrushes
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing
8 Yellow Warblers
1 Mourning Warbler (another ASY-M)
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
5 Indigo Buntings
1 Red-winged Blackbird
4 Baltimore Orioles
1 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 57 spp.
Other Pictures:

Here’s another look at that female Cerulean Warbler we go the other day. Such a beautiful, subtle blue. -RSG

The female Indigo Bunting also shows a subtle blue. -RSG

Female hummer coming into the feeder. -RSG

Quite a nondescript bird: Warbling Vireo. But its song is anything but nondescript. -RSG

Another “late” warbler at Ruthven: Wilson’s Warbler. -RSG


May 24th – Second Wave?

The treat of the season: female Cerulean Warbler. -KMP

Just when I thought the season was winding down…..we had a busy day. Lots of bird activity around the site. The highlight would have to be the female Cerulean Warbler I found in net 4. We’ve only seen a few of these in our 25-year history here so any Cerulean that we get is a treat.

Cedar Waxwings. The male (on the right) is feeding the female. -MMG

Yesterday we banded only 1 Baltimore Oriole but today they were back with a vengeance – we banded 12 bringing our total up to 110, just seven shy of the record that was set last year.

Covid-19 has greatly reduced the number of people using the park. One of the readily noticeable results is the number of animals that we see. Deer are birthing their fawns within 300 meters of the banding lab; raccoons and foxes are around; there’s beaver in the river. Good things are happening. Just have to get rid of those pesky humans…..

Just finding its legs. -MMG

Banded 53:
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
3 Traill’s Flycatchers
2 House Wrens
1 Veery
3 Gray Catbirds
1 European Starling
1 Warbling Vireo
2 Yellow-throated Vireos
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Tennessee Warbler
9 Yellow Warblers
1 Cerulean Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warblers

Female Chestnut-sided Warbler. -MMG

2 Magnolia Warblers
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
2 American Redstarts
1 Northern Waterthrush
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Scarlet Tanager
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Song Sparrow
12 Baltimore Orioles

ET’s: 68 spp.

Male Blackpoll Warbler in the front of the Mansion. -KMP

Male Cedar Waxwing – note the black chin and relatively wide yellow terminal band on the tail. -KMP

I wonder how many hidden creatures – like this raccoon – keep track of our passage through the woods. -KMP

A just-born fawn hesitantly making its way in the world. -KMP

We think these are map turtles – a species at risk – just across the river. -KMP

Quite likely the larger deer in behind is the mother of the two fawns. -MMG

Field Sparrow gathering nesting material. -MMG

Female Yellow Warbler with nesting material. -MMG

Green Frogs. -MMG

Nothern Parula. -MMG

Phlox phestoons the forest paths. -MMG

Swainson’s Thrush. -MMG

It’s been a productive breeding season for American Toads. -MMG


May 23rd – The Wheel Is Coming Off

Thanks to Darren O’Neil

When I was a kid, our family would make a yearly hike along the railway tracks from west Hamilton to Dundas. Every now and again we’d have to “get out of the way!” as a train approached. What a feeling as this oh so powerful machine rushed by within a few meters of us and then….the wind and silence as it disappeared around the bend. This is what today felt like: The train, that was the massive movement of migrants heading north, has rushed by leaving the relative silence as it recedes into the distance.

We had such a lousy Spring – cold, wet, windy. It held up the migration. But as soon as the conditions became favourable the birds, feeling the need to get going (they were late!), blew by in a matter of a few days. Whew! I can only imagine the mass of migrants that flew over each night while I slept; it must have been awesome. But now, things are winding down. We weren’t nearly so busy today as we were yesterday or, even more so, the few days before that. Oh, we’ll still be getting migrants for the next 2 weeks or so but not nearly in the numbers that just went through.

May 22nd; Banded 65:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Least Flycatcher

Easy to miss if it’s not calling: Least Flycatcher. -AG

1 House Wren
11 Gray Catbirds
9 European Starlings (nestlings in 2 nest boxes)
3 Blue-winged Warblers

We have a significant breeding population of Blue-winged Warblers at Ruthven. (This is a male.) -DO

5 Tennessee Warblers

Tennessee Warbler. -ELO

8 Yellow Warblers
1 Canada Warbler

Female Canada Warbler. -ELO

1 Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush. -DO

1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
13 Baltimore Orioles
1 Orchard Oriole

Lovely shot of an older Orchard Oriole. -KMP

3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 57 spp.

May 23rd: Banded 32:
1 Least Flycatcher
2 House Wrens
1 Swainson’s Thrush
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Warbling Vireo
1 Yellow-throated Vireo
2 Blue-winged Warblers
2 Tennessee Warblers
4 Nashville Warblers
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Ovenbird
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
5 Indigo Buntings

SY male Indigo Bunting. -FAS

3 Song Sparrows
1 Baltimore Oriole

ET’s: 64 spp.

The second half of May is a good time to be looking for shorebirds. This is a Short-billed Dowitcher. -CB

One of my favourite shorebirds: Whimbrel. -CB

What a stern look! Great Horned Owl. CB

Size of a crow: Pileated Woodpecker. -AG

Male Blackburnian Warbler. -AG

Male (black eyebrow) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. -AG

A fairly late migrant at Ruthven: Wilson’s Warbler. -AG

Male Chestnut-sided Warbler. -CB

Tree Swallow eggs. -ELO

European Starling eggs. -ELO

Eastern Bluebird eggs. -ELO

The male Killdeer has been attending the female more these last few days – the eggs are about ready to hatch! -ELO

Baby chickadees – “the size of a thumb nail”. -KMP

You try drinking a martini upside down on a pole…… I guess the more you have the easier it gets. -KMP

Steve Irwin…..I mean…. Liam Thorne with a young Anaconda, er, Garter Snake. -JET

Male Canada Warbler. -HV

Male Black-throated Blue Warbler. -HV

Boy in the fog. -FAS


May 20th – Migrants Still Pouring Through

Stunning male Blackpoll Warbler. -MMG

It wasn’t nearly as frenetic as yesterday morning but there were still a LOT of great birds moving through the trees and understory. We saw 16 species of warblers and banded 13 of them. The warbler highlight was a male Golden-winged Warbler that Liam and Joshua turned up on the census – they had great looks at it. Back in the 80’s you would encounter this species back on the edges of the slough forests. Now they have been replaced by Blue-winged Warblers (which breed at Ruthven in good numbers) and Golden-wings are a rarity.

Grasshopper Sparrow showing its pronounced median stripe. -AT

Another “neat” bird (and a banding first for the Park) was a Grasshopper Sparrow! I couldn’t believe it but….there it was.

Grasshopper Sparrow. -AT

Another view. -AT

After 40 dismal days of banding, the last 10 days have been….well, they’ve been great! Our birds banded per day average of 55 for April 11th – 20th is well above the average of 44.8 going back to 2011. I guess April showers do bring May showers…..eventually.

We are continuing to catch and band loads of Baltimore Orioles. The 11 we got today pushes our season total up to 84.

Banded 69:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher. -AT

4 Swainson’s Thrushes

This Swainson’s Thrush is snacking on Sumac berries – sumac provides a good food source for thrushes in the Spring, especially during bad weather. -MMG

5 Gray Catbirds
1 Blue-winged Warbler
4 Tennessee Warblers
2 Nashville Warblers
3 Northern Parulas

There were at least 7 Northern Parulas around this morning (probably quite a few more). -AT

The diagnostic green saddle of the Northern Parula. -AT

6 Yellow Warblers
4 Chestnut-sided Warblers
5 Magnolia Warblers
3 Myrtle Warblers

Great shot of a male Myrtle Warbler. -RW

2 Blackburnian Warblers

Another stunning male Blackburnian Warbler; there were at least 14 around the site today. -AT

1 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 American Redstart

American Redstart. Note the black feather just above the eye. This indicates that this is a male; in their second year they look VERY much like females but begin to moult in the black feathers that will eventually result in that brilliant black and orange plumage that we associate with them. AT

Female American Redstart. -MMG

3 Common Yellowthroats
1 Scarlet Tanager

Male Scarlet Tanager – almost electric! -DOL

1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting

Male Indigo Bunting; the brown feathers in the wing tell you it’s a “young” bird – in its second year. -AT

Note the blue edging to the wing feathers of this male Indigo Bunting – an “older” or after second year bird. -KV

1 Grasshopper Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
11 Baltimore Orioles
3 Orchard Orioles

After second year male Orchard Oriole. -AT

Female Orchard Oriole. -KV

ASY male Orchard Oriole on oranges. -KV

ET’s: 68 spp.

Karen found this adult female Map Turtle the other day moving up the bank to sun itself. Keep your eyes open! They’re becoming fairly rare. -KMP

Male Black-throated Green Warbler. -MMG

Liam with the Grasshopper Sparrow – a “lifer” for him. -AT