May 14th – Turnover

The days you hope for – “warbler days”. From left: Orange-crowned, Chestnut-sided (male), Chestnut-sided (female), Black & White (male), and Magnolia (male). -DOL

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday there were virtually no warblers around other than the local breeders: Blue-winged, Yellow, and Common Yellowthroats and we handled a lot of American Goldfinches but today it was largely warblers! We encountered 12 species. Further, we had 6 new arrivals for the year: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo (including one we had banded last year), Orange-crowned Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager. And American Goldfinch numbers were down.

May 13th (Mother’s Day); Banded 52:
2 Tree Swallows

Karen with a Tree Swallow. -MMG

1 Tufted Titmouse
2 House Wrens
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
5 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing

Male Cedar Waxwings; this species has shown up in just the past few days. -KMP

1 Warbling Vireo
3 Blue-winged Warblers
1 Nashville Warbler
8 Yellow Warblers
4 Common Yellowthroats
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Baltimore Orioles
17 American Goldfinches
1 House Sparrow

ET’s: 55 spp.

May 14th; Banded 60:
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 House Wren
1 Veery
7 Gray Catbirds
1 Nashville Warbler
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
10 Yellow Warblers
4 Chestnut-sided Warblers
7 Magnolia Warblers
1 Myrtle Warbler
1 Black & White Warbler
3 American Redstarts
1 Ovenbird
4 Common Yellowthroats
1 Indigo Bunting
2 Song Sparrows
5 Baltimore Orioles
1 Orchard Oriole

Kate with an adult male Orchard Oriole she has just banded. -DOL

8 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 64 spp.

Nancy Furber gathers a crowd of interested on-lookers as she bands a hummingbird. -DOL

Nancy applying the band to a hummingbird. -KMP

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. -MMG

Somehow this Red Squirrel got into the banding lab and had a hard time finding its way out…… -MMG

This older female (originally banded in 2014) could easily be confused as a male without a good look. -MMG

This Yellow-throated Vireo, rarely caught at Ruthven as it is a bird of the tree-tops, was originally banded last year. -KMP

Mother’s Day helpers. -KMP

Soaring Red-tailed Hawk. -KMP

The female of an Eastern Bluebird pair that has been working hard at trying to carve out a next box from the grasp of the Tree Swallows. -KMP


May 12th – International Migratory Bird Day

This is an ideal time to celebrate migrating birds – we’re at the height of their migration. It’s exciting! But before we talk about today we should go over yesterday’s results…..from 3 locations: Ruthven, Fern Hill Oakville, and Lowville Park.

May 11th; Ruthven Park:
An overcast, cooler day with winds from the north. This morning, there was a steady flow of orioles feeding on the Grape Jelly in the martini glass feeder that hangs next to the banding lab . With the oranges that Carol brought, the orioles were well fed and there was even one Orchard Oriole feeding on the jelly, too. The first few net rounds were productive but the numbers dwindled through the morning. Temperatures remained cool and never got above double digits.

We handled twelve Baltimore Orioles and twenty-one American Goldfinches with some older retraps. The bird of the day was an older female Yellow Warbler retrap. She was originally banded on May 13, 2014 as an adult.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird – one of two banded today. -NRF

Banded 46:
2 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Blue Jay
3 Gray Catbird
2 Warbling Vireo
2 Nashville Warbler
9 Yellow Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
4 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Field Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
8 Baltimore Oriole
9 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 61 spp.

Sunrise on the drive down the “Mountain” heading toward Oakville. -KAP

May 11th; Fern Hill Oakville:
We opened the nets in a cool easterly wind; and it stayed cool throughout the day. The conditions brought birds to the feeders accounting for the large number of Icterids that we banded (as well as a number of White-crowned Sparrows). A number of the older students were away on school trips so some of the younger, up-and-coming banders got a good opportunity to develop skills.

Ella with a Common Yellowthroat that she has just banded. -KAP

Our outdoor banding workshop at Fern Hill. -KAP

Banded 45:
1 Blue Jay
1 House Wren
1 American Robin
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Yellow Warbler

Northern Waterthrush. -KAP

1 Northern Waterthrush
1 Common Yellowthroat

Samuel with an Ovenbird he’s just banded. -KAP

1 Ovenbird
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Savannah Sparrow

Bentley with one of 6 White-crowned Sparrows we banded. -KAP

6 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
9 Red-winged Blackbirds
10 Common Grackles
8 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 45 spp.

May 11th; Lowville Park:
This morning started off cold! It was only 2 degrees! I figured this meant for a slow day, but a quick check of NEXRAD radar showed these birds were not going to be stopped by some cold weather and NW winds. The first round was large, with 24 birds captured! The next two rounds were steady but nothing compared to the first. In exciting news the Cerulean Warbler was still singing. First of year birds were Yellow throated vireo, Warbling vireo, Red eyed vireo, Least flycatcher and White crowned sparrow.

Banding Total: 38
Wood thrush-3
Warbling vireo-1
Ruby crowned Kinglet-1
Least Flycatcher-1
Grey Catbird-5
Magnolia warbler-2
Yellow Warbler-1
Black and white warbler-1
Nashville warbler-1
Myrtle warbler-1
White throated sparrow-2
White crowned sparrow-1
Rose breasted Grosbeak-3
American Goldfinch-13
Ben Oldfield

Baltimore Oriole (left) and Orchard Orioles taken grape jelly and oranges from the feeder. -KMP

May 12th; International Migratory Bird Day:
Not a very auspicious start to the day: cold, NE wind and rain. The rain tailed off around 6:30 and we quickly opened the nets and a couple of traps. Migratory birds were VERY noticeable. Orioles were hitting the grape jelly feeder with gusto; grosbeaks were after the sunflower seeds; and goldfinches were swarming the nijer feeders. We were kept very busy and ended up with our biggest day of the year so far. We banded 91 and handled another 42 retraps (for a total of 133 birds)!

Kind of astonishing: this Yellow Warbler and American Goldfinch were both banded on May 13th, 2017 (ten minutes apart) and then recaptured today (30 minutes apart)! I wonder where they were in-between these encounters. -KMP

Banded 91:
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
4 Gray Catbirds
2 Warbling Vireos
3 Tennessee Warblers
2 Nashville Warblers
21 Yellow Warblers
2 Myrtle Warblers
1 Western Palm Warbler
4 Common Yellowthroats
6 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

For comparison: top bird is a young or SY male; the lower one isan ASY bird. -KMP

3 Indigo Buntings
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
4 Red-winged Blackbirds
9 Baltimore Orioles
1 Orchard Oriole
24 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 56 spp.
Photo Gallery:

Male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. -KMP

Male Indigo Bunting – one of three banded today. -KMP

Katherine instructing partner, Robert, in the finer points of handling a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. -KMP

ASY male Orchard Oriole. -KMP


May 10th – Getting To The Heart Of It

An oldster! This Baltimore Oriole was originally banded May 10th, 2012. At that time it was at least 2 years old, so it’s in at least its 8th year now. Note that it was retrapped once in 2013 and then not again until 2017…and then today. -KAP

One third through May and into the heart of the Spring migration. It’s such an exciting time! You just don’t know what you might find in the forest or…..nets. Some are just passing through – the majority of warbler species – but some are returning to their “summer home”. We are retrapping a good number of long-distance migrants that we banded several years ago. One notable returnee was a male Baltimore Oriole. It was originally banded on May 10th, 2012. At that time it was “aged” as an after second year bird meaning that it had hatched in 2010 or even earlier. It was recaptured once in 2013 and then not seen for a couple of years, not until 2017. And then again this year. Wouldn’t you like to know where it spends the Winter? And how it gets there and back?

Not for the faint of heart! When we were looking a Wood Thrush over for ticks, Karen noticed a lump in the eye. When we removed it we found it to be a leech! I’ve never seen this before. The Thrush was none the worse for the intervention. -KAP

We have been checking migrants out for ticks. When we find any we send them to John Scott at the university of Guelph where he is looking at the possibility that birds might be helping to spread southern tick-borne diseases by transporting the ticks. When Karen was checking out a Wood Thrush this morning she spotted a dark purple orb between the birds eye and the socket. We figured it was a tick but when we removed it found that it was a leech!! I have never seen this before.

Banded 53:

Normally a bird of the tree tops, this Great Crested Flycatcher was caught in the lower panel of a net. Maybe looking for shed snakeskin to line its nest with. -KMP

1 Great Crested Flycatcher
1 Wood Thrush
6 Gray Catbirds
1 Blue-winged Warbler
9 Yellow Warblers

Male Cape May Warbler on the left and a female on the right. -KAP

2 Cape May Warblers
1 Myrtle Warbler
1 American Redstart
2 Common Yellowthroats
5 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Indigo Bunting

Brilliant ASY male Indigo Bunting. -KAP

3 White-throated Sparrows
2 Baltimore Orioles
17 American Goldfinches
1 House Sparrow

ET’s: 64 spp.

Male Cape May Warbler. -MMG

A solitary Sandhill Crane flew over the banding lab in mid-morning. =KMP

Wing detail of the ASY male Indigo Bunting. Note the bright blue edging on all the wing feathers. -DOL

While walking along the Carolinian Trail, Karen noticed this Turkey Vulture sitting only a few feet off the ground. -KMP


And from Ben Oldfield at Lowville Park on May 9th:
The day started off cool with a lot of activity, looking at NEXRAD radar it was clear migrants were pouring through Ontario last night! In total I banded 25, from 0600-0800. The highlight unfortunately did not fly into the net, but a singing Cerulean Warbler ( a Species at risk) graced the banding area with its song. New arrivals were Magnolia warbler, Ovenbird, Cerulean warbler, Bobolink and Veery.

Banding Total: 25
Blue jay-1
Grey Catbird-1
House wren -2
Magnolia warbler-1
Common Yellowthroat-3
White throated sparrow-6
Lincoln’s sparrow-2
Brown Headed cowbird-4
Rose Breasted Grosbeak-1
Song Sparrow-1
American Goldfinch-1

May 9th – Some Nice Surprises!

Seven years ago – to the day! – Joanne Fleet started volunteering at Ruthven Park. To celebrate the birds conspired to congratulate her and talked this Summer Tanager into making an appearance so she could band it. It’s the first one we’ve ever seen here. There can be no other explanation.

What a delightful day! A school class cancelled (did you know that we have ticks here!?) and some fun bird-people showed up and…we caught some neat birds including the first Summer Tanager at Ruthven!!! We also got two Eastern Kingbirds, a common enough bird but one that we don’t catch very often (just 21 in the past 23 years). Further, there were a lot of birds around. The Birding Machine (Janice Chard and Katherine Paveley) identified 63 species during the hour and a half census, including the first Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year.

After a record-setting 63 species seen on census, the team of Janice Chard (left) and Katherine Paveley celebrate. -JDF

Polina (seen with Sain and the pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks they banded today) will be heading out tonight for England to pursue bird research. -SEF

On a sad note though, long-time volunteer, McMaster student Polina Utkina, spent her last morning here. She just finished her undergrad degree and is now moving on to pursue birds in Great Britain and beyond. We wish her the best of luck! She couldn’t have left on a better note.

The first hummingbird banding of the year. -SEF

Banded 63:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2 Eastern Kingbirds

One of two Eastern Kingbirds banded today – both males. -DOL

3 Tree Swallows
1 Swainson’s Thrush
4 Gray Catbirds

For comparison: male Blue-winged Warbler on the left, female on the right. Note the difference in head colour and the intensity of the eye stripe. -NRF

1 Blue-winged Warbler

This stunning male Yellow Warbler was originally banded in 2016 and not encountered since then. -KMP

5 Yellow Warblers

The first Magnolia Warbler of the migration. A SY male. -SEF

1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Western Palm Warbler

Western Palm Warbler. -SEF

5 Common Yellowthroats
1 Summer Tanager

Another shot of the Summer Tanager. Note the massive bill. -SEF

2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
3 Chipping Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
6 White-throated Sparrows
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
1 Baltimore Oriole
22 American Goldfinches

Sian and Jared processing a pair of male Eastern Kingbirds – a bird we don’t catch very often. -JDF

ET’s: 75 spp.