November 2nd & 3rd: A Real Fall Weekend

One of the two Northern Saw-whet Owls we banded Saturday night. -CR

It was windy and cold on Saturday and cold and windy on Sunday although we got something of a reprieve Saturday night when the wind dropped. Late Winter residents are still on the move and we’re still getting a few late migrants. There are foraging flocks of a variety of species moving through the site as they strip patches of food wherever they find them: flocks of robins and waxwings in our hackberry trees and dogwoods (where they are joined by blackbirds and starlings); American Goldfinches whirl through and over the meadows taking advantage of the lush crop of goldenrod seeds that we have. Sometimes they get close to the nets and we catch them but more often than not they pass them over and we can only watch (and count).

Ruthven’s “Owl Lady”. -CR

We were lucky Saturday night – the rain that was listed as a good possibility earlier in the day never materialized so we set out lure tapes and opened nets for Saw-whet Owls….and got lucky, catching two! Not sure why they have such appeal….but they certainly do!

A potential Christmas card….. -CR

The patchy fluorescence of this owls wing indicates it is an older bird. -CR.

November 2nd; Banded 21:
1 Mourning Dove
2 Northern Saw-whet Owls
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets

Not sure which is more spectacular…the Ruby-crowned Kinglet or the nails. -DOL

1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Our biggest sparrow: Fox Sparrow. -ELO

1 Fox Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
8 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 41 spp.

A banding first: Mourning Dove – a real handful for these two. -ELO

November 3rd; Banded 39:
9 Mourning Doves

Male Golden-crowned Kinglet -ELO

3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
2 American Robins
1 Cedar Waxwing

Young European Starling; these birds are a pain to extract from the nets. -JET

2 European Starlings
1 Tennessee Warbler
2 Myrtle Warblers
2 Northern Cardinals
2 American Tree Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
6 American Goldfinches

This Nashville Warbler was carrying a great deal of fat – fuel for the long (overdue) trip to Central America. -ELO

Brown Creeper. -CWB

Two Tundra Swans heading SW toward the Turkey Point marshes. -ELO

ET’s: 40 spp.

And this week at Fern Hill Oakville:
As you know our Owl Night on Monday the 28th in Oakville was very quiet owl-wise, but the students had a great night learning about owls, playing games, and enjoying Halloween treat in between the net checks. Around 9:00PM heavy fog and mist rolled in which made our walks through the cemetery to check the nets very spooky!

Early morning fog at the Oakville campus. -KAP

The next morning in some blurry eyed Young Ornithologists did show up in the morning but the fog was still thick and there was heavy mist on the nets. We opened the traps and eventually all of the nets but banding was slow.

The new banding lab at Fern Hill Oakville. -KAP

We banded:
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Mourning Dove
1 Song Sparrow
1 House Finch

Young (and Old) Ornithologists checking out a bird. -KAP

November 1st
A very cold start to our day in Burlington, and in fact I had my first snowy drive in of the season. Winter is definitely on the way! We were hoping to see Juncos and Tree Sparrows today, but the feeder area was surprisingly quiet considering they were full of sunflower, Niger, and mixed seed. We have been observing Eastern Bluebirds in the area around the nest boxes throughout the Fall and today we could hear them singing despite the cold weather. Today my students and I collected and recycled leftover jack-o-lanterns and turned them into bird feeders.

An all-natural bird feeder. -KAP

We banded
1 Field Sparrow
1 American Robin
1 European Starling
2 Blue Jays

November 1st – Windy And Cold

The 1st Fox Sparrow banded here this Fall… long last. -NRF

The wind was blowing like stink all night and into this morning. Plus it was cold – two degrees – and there was a hint of snow. All good reasons to sit back patiently, have a coffee and one (a few) of Carol’s top shelf rice krispie squares, and discuss the meaning of life. This was followed by a census and then we opened a few of the more sheltered nets for a couple of hours. In less than 4 hours we ended up handling 45 birds: 26 banded and 19 retraps. Two of the retraps were warblers: Tennessee and Nashville; both were in great shape with lots of fat. On the banding side we finally caught a Fox Sparrow – the first of the season.

This retrap Tennessee Warbler has been hanging around for just over a week now. It has LOTS of fat so I don’t know what it’s waiting for. -NRF

Banded 26:
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Fox Sparrow
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
20 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 33 spp.

October 31st – Before The Rain

This very late Nashville Warbler was a pleasant surprise. -DOL

When I arrived there was a fine mist in the air but no actual precipitation. Hannah and I took a chance and opened about half of the nets. We were able to run them for about an hour and a half before the mist turned to drizzle and then to rain. There was a considerable amount of activity in the Butterfly Meadow which shows just how important this sort of habitat is to migrating birds as well as pollinators, young rabbits (which I’ve been seeing every morning for the past week), butterflies….and on and on. We have a lot of goldenrod this year and American Goldfinches are taking advantage of their seeds – to the point of eschewing the 2 nijer feeders over by the banding lab. Sparrows seem to like to hunker down in the plant tangles seeking protection from predators and the elements while being surrounded by food.

Nancy modelling the new look in banding attire….. -DOL

Banded 37:
1 Swamp Sparrow
4 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
8 Dark-eyed Juncos
22 American Goldfinches

This juvenile White-crowned Sparrow’s bill was not right: there were two flanges – one on either side of the bill that prevented it from closing fully or tightly and the upper mandible was shorter than the bottom. I cut off the flanges so that the bill would close fully but, obviously could do nothing about the under-bite. -DOL

This picture shows the difference in length between the upper and lower mandibles quite well. -DOL

ET’s: 25 spp.

October 28th-30th: Last Leg

Note the “fault bar” running across the end of this White-throated Sparrow’s tail – a sign that the bird experienced nutritional stress when those feathers were being grown. -RW

We don’t have long to go now; we’re on the last leg. Long-distance migrants are long gone; the bulk of short-distance migrants have pretty well all moved through; Winter residents have been moving in and soon will be done as well (except for the few stragglers that can make late Fall/early Winter birding so interesting). We’ve been trying to catalogue it all, sometimes buring the candle at both ends – we tried for owls at Fern Hill Oakville on Monday night but with no success.

We’ve been through a good run of warblers; are just finishing off the sparrows; and currently catching goldfinches and juncos. Like any year there have been some noteable ups and downs; e.g., Myrtle Warbler #’s are well below the long-term average (95 vs 307) as are Blackpoll Warblers (28 vs 62) but Red-eyed Vireos hit record levels (157 vs 57). White-throated Sparrow #’s are well above average (317 vs 221) whereas White-crowned Sparrows are quite low (4 vs 16) and we have yet to catch a Fox Sparrow. Cedar Waxwings, which have become one of our “bread and butter” Fall species, are lagging (158 vs 230) despite a good berry/grape crop. And so it goes….. But what has happened to Northern Saw-whet Owls!? So far we’ve banded only 6 (as opposed to the 81 we did last Fall). We’re looking into it – most stations have reported lower numbers of this irruptive species.

October 28th; Banded 66:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
5 Hermit thrushes
2 Cedar Waxwings
4 Song Sparrows

Young Swamp Sparrow. The yellow in the lores and (hard to see) on the upper breast can be confusing. -DOL

2 Swamp Sparrows
8 White-throated Sparrows
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
39 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 33 spp.

October 29th; Banded 76:
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Brown Creeper
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes

An American Robin with something very ugly going on with its feet. This is the 6th robin in the last 10 days or so that have had foot anomalies. Does anyone have any idea what this might be? Or how to treat it? -DOL

1 American Robin
9 Song Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
9 Dark-eyed Juncos
43 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.

October 30th; Banded 27:
1 Brown Creeper
6 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 American Robin
1 Myrtle Warbler
1 Song Sparrow
7 Dark-eyed Juncos
10 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 33 spp.

Sophia with her first banded bird: the first American Tree Sparrow of the season at Oakville. -DOL

October 28th; Fern Hill Oakville:
We had a full day – banding passerines during the day and trying for owls in the evening. It’s amazing to me that we’re catching sooo many goldfinches at Ruthven but I saw only 3 at the school!? And the 2 White-throated Sparrows were the first I’ve seen at Fern Hill this Fall while at Ruthven we’ve banded well over 300. But we do have one thing in common: NO Northern Saw-whet Owls. We made 3 rounds…..3 futile rounds with nothing to show for them.

Ceileigh releasing a White-throated Sparrow. Even her magic hat couldn’t produce Saw-whets that same night. -RW

Banded 13:
1 Blue Jay
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
2 Northern Cardinals
1 American Tree Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
3 House Finches
1 House Sparrow

This Red Fox caught a mouse just after this picture was taken. The mice are hanging out around the base of the bird feeders taking advantage of any spillage. -RW

ET’s: 23 spp.