The summer banding program at the Ruthven Park banding lab occurs during the months of June, July, and August. It’s an interesting time to band with the young birds leaving nests and the healthy population of adult birds within the area. The total number of birds banded so far this summer has been 119. The different species of young birds (fledglings) banded include: Song Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downey Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpecker, E. Wood Peewees, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow Warblers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. One retrap of particular interest was a female Yellow Warbler, originally banded as a second year bird on May 25, 2006.
Another aspect of the banding program through the summer is the monitoring of the Purple Martin colony. The first sighting of Purple Martins arriving this spring at Ruthven Park was on April 09, 2013 … a year to the day we saw them for the first time in 2012. Ruthven Park has two, active 24-unit houses that have been on site for over sixteen years. For the past three years the Purple Martins have been returning and raising young with the colony growing each year in size. This year, throughout the months of April and May the size of the colony grew to over 40 birds! For the months of April, May, and June the Purple Martin colony has been monitored regularly. Last year, the peak of egg laying was on June 8 with a total of 68 eggs from 14 nests. This year, the peak was on June 21 (a full week later) with 73 eggs from 21 nests in addition to 15 young from 4 nests! This number of eggs should have been higher but I’ve had eggs disappear from the nest, or I’ve found eggs on the ground, or I’ve found eggs cracked in the nest. Also, there has been a mortality of two adult, female Purple Martins occurring in the spring when the weather was cold. These two birds were quite emaciated. But, despite these set-backs, other nests continued to have eggs laid in them. To date, there have been 15 chicks banded and 1 adult banded.
In addition to the Purple Martin colony, there is a Barn Swallow colony that I monitor at the old barn on Ruthven property. The size of the colony and the success of egg-laying has been smaller than what I observed from last year. The timing of egg laying has been much later as well. Lasy year young birds were initially banded the first week of June; this year the first young Barn Swallow was banded in the middle of June. I’ve had a total of 10 Barn Swallow eggs from five nests and only two of those nests have been successful. From the two nests I’ve banded three young. All of the other eggs remained in the three nests unhatched. As with the Purple Martins, there was a mortality of two adult, female Barn Swallows occurring during the cold/wet weather in the spring. On a more positive note, the old barn and the platforms that we’ve established in the barn for swallows have provided a haven for Eastern Phoebes. There was one successful brood already fledged (I banded three young) in the spring, and there’s a second brood on a different platform in the barn that has young.
I will be at the banding lab every Wednesday until the end of August with the nets opened between 8 and 11 am. Everyone is welcome to come and visit, to see birds up-close, and learn more about our banding program. Also, Ruthven Park is a wonderful place to spend a day in the country; you can – take a tour of the 1845 Greek Revival Mansion (tours on the hour) – enjoy the walking trails – or, have a picnic on the grounds!