June 2nd – Catching Up…And Finishing Off

A peaceful day on the Grand River – looking out at Slink Island. -S. LaFleur

We spent the last two days of banding “on a mission”: we needed just over 30 birds to hit 2,000 for the Spring. Should be doable….right? Just 16 birds a day. Easy peasy….Well Mother Nature, that capricious b*#&h, just wasn’t going to let it happen. We got 15 on the 30th but just 12 on the 31st ending with a total of 1,996 – so close and yet so far. Still it was our 3rd highest total since inception.

Blue Jay originally banded n October 2005 – almost 12 years old!! -MMG

At this time of year, sometimes it’s the recapture of previously banded birds that can provide the most excitement. We recaught a Blue Jay that had been banded in October of 2005 as a young or HY (Hatch Year) bird. So it was likely hatched in June of that year making it now 11 years, 11 months old. This is the oldest bird that we have handled. Given that it looked to be in very good health there is every reason to think that it could go on for a few more yet. Interestingly, we had recaptured it in 2006 and again in 2008 but hadn’t encountered it since then – 9 years. I wonder how many other banded birds are out there that we just don’t recapture. We assume that they have died but this just may not be the case.

Brown-headed Cowbird egg in a Yellow Warbler nest. -MMG

Yellow Warblers have lost no time in nesting. On a brief walk around the trails we found (easily) 4 nests. Marnie was able to get a picture of the contents of one (we didn’t want to go up to the nests or disturb the immediate area for fear of attracting/leading predators to them). It contained 4 warbler eggs and 1 cowbird egg. We took this back to the banding lab. It weighed 3.1 grams. This is equal to the weight of a hummingbird and is one third of the weight of the host warbler. If it hatched it is easy to see how it would take over the nest and any nourishment that the parents brought back.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow – a pair is nesting in a vent at the back of the washroom building and this one found itself in a net nearby. -CHS

Two species of swallow – Purple Martin and Tree Swallow – commonly nest around the banding area. We’ve seen Barn Swallows checking out some of the structures but, so far, they haven’t tried to nest nearby (although they’re across the highway at the deserted barn). Northern Rough-winged Swallows have nested in holes in the bank right across the river but not directly around the banding area…..until now. A pair showed up a few days ago and showed great interest in one of two vents at the back of the washroom building. This is essentially a hole covered by 3 cross pieces that open, releasing air from the inside of the building. On the 31st the pair seemed to be in some distress, flying around the back of the building. When we checked it out, we found that the vertical pieces had closed. When we checked the vent we found the beginnings of a nest…So I screwed one of the cross pieces open and the swallows continued to build their nest. We caught and banded one of the pair when it flew into a nearby net – maybe we’ll be able to keep tabs on it in future years.

Buffy chest marking this brown swallow as a Northern Rough-wing. -CHS

A nice banding “tick” for Caleb: Northern Rough-winged Swallow. S. Lafleur

May 30th; Banded 15:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
1 Gray Catbird
2 Yellow Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 64 spp.

May 31st; Banded 12:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
1 Gray Catbird
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Blue-winged Warbler

Blue-wing. -CHS

3 Yellow Warblers
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Field Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 63 spp.

Ruthven Photo Gallery:

Sharing a lighter moment on the last day of banding. -JDF

Male Blue-winged Warbler. -CHS

Field Sparrow with a strange growth on its bill. -MMG

Young Purple Martin. -S. LaFleur

Love is in the air…… -S. LaFleur


Logan-super happy because he was allowed out of class to band his favourite bird!

Fern Hill – Burlington; May 31st:
The last official day of Spring Migration came and went, and we celebrated with a few special firsts. We caught Fern Hill Burlington’s first male Rose Breasted Grosbeak of the year, a young male easily identified by plumage. I also made a deal with the Young Ornithologists this morning that if we ever caught their favourite bird I would pull them from class so they could band or release it. Sure enough one of my students loves Cedar Waxwings, so today was his lucky day as we caught and banded our school’s first today.

We banded a total of 10 birds of 7 species including:
1 Trail’s Flycatcher
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Burlington’s first caught Rose-breasted Grosbeak. -KAP

1 Song Sparrow
3 American Goldfinches
ET’s: 42 spp.

Mostly brown flight feathers tell you that this male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a young one – in its second year. -KAP

Mix of brown and black rectrices on this male grosbeak. -KAP

The first caught Cedar Waxwing of the year. -KAP

Our estimated total of species observed around the property was 42. We also spotted at least one raven multiple times swooping around the school. The male Red-winged Blackbirds and even a tough male Baltimore Oriole were kept busy harrying it as it went about it’s business. All in all a great day!

Evan with an unusual bird for this area at this time of year – Purple Finch. -KAP

Fern Hill – Oakville; June 1st
We had surprisingly busy day at the Oakville campus, banding 22 birds. You just don’t know what you’re going to see at this spot, on the edge of the metropolis of Mississauga. There are a number of flowering trees around right now and these are attracting Orioles. We caught 2 male Orchard Orioles. An older (After 2nd Year – ASY) male is a magnificent bronze and black while a young (Second Year – SY) male has the greenish yellow feathering of the female but with a black bib. Interestingly one of the birds had the bronze feathering overall but with patches of yellow showing through in places leading me to think that this might be a bird in its 3rd year….

Adult male Orchard Oriole. The smattering of yellow/olive feathers suggests that this bird is in its third year as second year males don’t show the bronze but are greenish yellow with a black bib.. -KAP

Banded 22:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Willow Flycatcher
3 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 Barn Swallow
1 Blue Jay
1 American Robin
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Common Yellowthroat

Bentley with a male Common Yellowthroat. -KAP

1 Song Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Orchard Orioles
1 Purple Finch
2 House Finches

ET’s: 44 spp.

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