December 31st – The End of a Remarkable Year

New Year’s Eve – time to reflect on the past year and to plan for the coming one. The past year, banding-wise, has been a remarkable one at Ruthven: we banded 7,880 birds of 110 species. This involves the birds banded at the Ruthven banding area and the birds we caught in our Snow Bunting project (but does not include the Tree Swallows banded by Christine Madliger in her Master’s project – the addition of which would push the total to well over 8,000 birds).

We expanded the banding program in a couple of ways this year, starting in the Fall: we put in 3 new net lanes – one between Nets 10 & 2, to increase our catch of birds moving along that very productive wood-edge and two extending down to the River from Net 8, to begin to look at the use of the river flats by migrants. These nets increased our catch considerably. The other “expansion” was the start of what we hope will be an annual Fall activity: banding Saw-whet Owls. We captured 6 birds: 5 we banded and 1 was already banded somewhere else (see below).

The year is divided into 5 quasi-arbitrary periods:
January 1 – March 31: Late Winter – 1,175 banded
April 1 – May 31: Spring Migration Monitoring – 1,214 banded
June 1 – August 31: Summer – 599 banded
September 1 – November 7: Fall Migration Monitoring – 4,763 banded
November 8 – December 31: Early Winter – 129 banded

Top Ten for 2010
1. Snow Bunting – 995
2. American Goldfinch – 827
3. White-throated Sparrow – 566
4. Cedar Waxwing – 450
5. Dark-eyed Junco – 395
6. Song Sparrow – 288
7. Myrtle Warbler – 246
8. Golden-crowned Kinglet – 228
9. Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 220
10. Gray Catbird – 199

I just recently received information about 7 birds that we caught at Ruthven but which had been banded elsewhere – these are referred to as “foreign recaptures”. Two American Goldfinches and a House Finch were banded by Mike Furber at his station on Dry Lake Road (about 10 km away); another Goldfinch had been banded by Martin Wernaart just south of St. Williams on the north shore of Lake Ontario; a Goldfinch was banded at Long Point Bird Observatory; a little further away, a Goldfinch was banded at Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio. But the most exciting recapture was a Saw-whet Owl. The “owl team” (Nancy Furber, Christine Madliger, and Chris Harris) caught the bird on the night of November 6th; it had been banded on October 25, 2009 at Valley Falls State Park in West Virginia!

Another very notable achievement was the number of visitors attracted to the banding program -2,395. Considering that we had a total of 0 visitors in our first couple of years, this is truly a remarkable number. Beyond the engaging personalities of the banders themselves, the major factors driving this increase were the busing support funds that allowed a wide range of school children to visit during the Spring and Fall migration monitoring periods and the occasion of our first annual “For the Birds” weekend extravaganza held on the 2nd weekend of September (same time in 2011 so mark your calendars now!).

And just think, tomorrow it starts all over again…….

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