February 14th – Flexible Plans

A lone Horned Lark perches on the traps – the only bird we saw around them during the two hours we watched and waited. -ELO

Love (appropriately) was in the air when I left the house this morning. Despite the -16 degree temperatures, male House Finches were melodiously conveying their ardour to any and all females within range. It had to be Valentine’s Day.

I had guarded, albeit high, hopes about catching Snow Buntings. We had get some new snow – a couple of centimeters, nothing like what had been forecast – and the temperature had plummeted. So…..what the heck. I set out the traps and waited….and waited. A group of our young ornithologists arrived, even more excited than I was, to catch and band Snow Buntings. Alas, it just wasn’t to be. Except for 2 Horned Larks that dropped in to check things out, and feed on all the cut corn that was outside the traps, we got nothing. In the far distance I had spotted a swirling flock of buntings but they remained in the distance. So we went to plan ‘B’: go to Ruthven, open the feeder nets, do a census and process what we catch.

Today’s team of young bird enthusiasts: Liam, Nola, Eila, and Aliya. If they keep progressing the way they are, I will be able to direct the whole operation from a chaise longue in front of the banding lab in the not-too-distant future. -RG

A really nice thing about this group of young people is that they’re happy learning in the lab and with each other. Liam and Eila set out to do a census but quickly returned to announce they had found an Eastern Phoebe! Is this a very early migrant or an over-wintering bird. Either way, it was special and got us thinking about the Spring migration which is imminent.

A lovely surprise! An early (or over-wintering) Eastern Phoebe braving out the frigid temperatures by basking in the sunshine around the Mansion. -ELO

We’ve had a number of birders arrive over the last couple of weeks just to see, photograph, and check off a Tufted Titmouse – a bird that can reliably be seen visiting our feeders. A number (birders) have come all the way from Pickering!

One of “our” Tufted Titmice; we think there are at least 3 breeding pairs in the immediate area. -ELO

Eila with a Tufted Timouse. -ELO

Eila’s fingers getting the drubbing they so richly deserved. -ELO

Over the couple of hours we had nets open we were able to process 27 birds: 5 new ones and 22 retraps. This relaxed pace gives us time to study common species and sort out the why’s and wherefores of determining age and sex – figuring out “what to look for”.

The wing of an ASY (After Second Year) male American Goldfinch. Note the jet black primary coverts (red arrow) that don’t contrast with the black of the secondary coverts (blue Arrow). -AG

The steel blue colour of this Blue Jay’s primary coverts (arrow) are in strong contrast to the blue secondary coverts beside them indicating that this is a young jay, in just its second year. -AG

Banded 5:
1 Blue Jay
3 House Finches
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 19 spp.

Note the dark belly band on this Red-tailed Hawk at Ruthven. -ELO

Note the lighter belly band on this Red-tailed Hawk in Oakville. -AG


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