November 5th & 6th – The Charge Of The Flight Brigade

The price of handling grape-eating waxwings, thrushes, robins and starlings. -NRF

The birds knew that something was up. All morning they were moving around, up in the tree-tops, in big groups watching and waiting. The word was out: after the 4th we needed to band just 94 birds to make 3000 for the season, making it a better than average season; that would work out to 32 birds per day. Usually this sort of parameter puts the jinx on us and we fall short but we were determined we would get there! The birds were determined that we wouldn’t. And to add insult to injury they decided that they’d tease and taunt us by skirting the nets and playing up high. But we knew that the food they wanted – wild grapes – was down at net height. It would come down to a battle of wills. Finally this morning they couldn’t take it any more, the grapes were calling out to them, like muffins to a bander. So they charged with the express intent of knocking down the nets with the force of their onslaught and…..they almost succeeded. Seeing that the nets were old and brittle with UV damage they threw in their heavyweights right at the start – starlings and robins. The nets took a beating but the banders were faster – extracting almost as fast as they hit the nets, purple projectile poop notwithstanding. And in the end the banders prevailed: 50 yesterday, 122 today crushing the 3000 level. The flocks, sensing their defeat, flew off to lick their wounds so to speak…maybe to try another day. Lord knows there’s still lots of grapes.

Ruthven, November 5th:
Every net lane was catching today as the winds were light, causing less billowing of the nets (the last few days have seen strong winds). Lovely weather by mid-morning with sunshine, blue sky and cumulus clouds! It was a busy day processing a total of 81 birds of 23 species. We hope this weather will continue for the next two days before the fall migration monitoring season finishes on November 7th. We are close to a season banding total of 3000 birds!

Banded 50:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Downy Woodpecker

It’s Movember and this male Northern Flicker is proudly showing his ‘stache. The guy holding it will have to wait another 10 years. -JET

1 Yellow-shafted Flicker
2 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

What do you call a group of 6 Eastern Bluebirds? A choir……(I just made that up). -NRF

6 Eastern Bluebirds
1 Hermit Thrush
16 Cedar Waxwing
1 Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
3 American Tree Sparrow

Fox Sparrow. -NRF

2 Fox Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 White-crowned Sparrow

This junco is also supporting Movember. -NRF

3 Slate-colored Junco
10 American Goldfinch

One of at least 2, maybe 3, Carolina Wrens that have been hanging around Ruthven all Fall. -NRF

ET’s: 37 species

Ruthven; November 6th:
The morning started off rather slowly and there didn’t seem to be much bird activity. We simply weren’t aware of the flocking starlings and robins that were lurking in the treetops, sneaking around the periphery, sizing up the situation and locating their purple plunder. And then they made their move. We knew it was coming – large flocks of birds like this sound almost like a train passing when they take flight. We started heading for the nets and found loads of kamikaze starlings and robins hanging in them while behind us juncos tried a sneak attack. It was touch and go for awhile (actually “ring and fling”) but we prevailed. The total of 122 banded pushes our Fall total to 3,078. Nancy will be trying for 3100 tomorrow – our last day.

Banded 122:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Black-capped Chickadee
3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
6 Hermit Thrushes
13 American Robins
1 Northern Mockingbird
7 Cedar Waxwings
52 European Starlings
1 Northern Cardinal
3 American Tree Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow

Rust, the colour of autumn. Hermit Thrush on the left, Fox Sparrow on the right. -DOL

1 Fox Sparrow
4 White-throated Sparrows
1 White-crowned Sparrow
16 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 House Finches
9 American Goldfinches

This adult female Nashville Warbler has been hanging around for a week now – even with a large fat load that would provide enough energy to get her to Central America. -NRF

ET’s: 36 spp.

Fern Hill Oakville; November 5th:

One of 3 Mourning Doves caught in traps. -KAP

It was fairly quiet at Fern Hill, surprisingly so. There’s a very different mix of birds there compared to Ruthven. For example, at FHS I counted 26 House Finches and 2 American Goldfinches in the course of the day; at RP there were 60+ golfinches and NO House Finches. At FHS Song Sparrows were relatively common but there were NO White-throated Sparrows; at RP there were 20+ White-throats (double the number of Song Sparrow).

Banded 15:
3 Mourning Doves
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 American Robin
3 Song Sparrows
7 Dark-eyed Juncos

ET’s: 23 spp.

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.