May 14th – International Migratory Bird Day

Female Hooded Warbler - only the second banded at Ruthven.

For some time now the second Saturday in May has been used to recognize migratory birds. Very, very few people are aware of, or even consider the fact, that each night through the Spring there’s a massive movement of birds above their heads, winging their way north to their breeding grounds. Sometimes in the Spring (but much more often in the Fall), if you listen to the sky during the night, you can hear their call notes high overhead. Usually small birds migrate at night. It’s cooler and there’s little chance of predation by hawks. They take off shortly after sunset and may fly upwards of 6 hours, ~150 km, at an elevation of 1,000 m. Toward sunrise they begin to descend to find a habitat that will provide hiding places from predators and food sources. It’s an amazing feat! And yet, sadly, most of us don’t even know it’s going on. That’s one of the most interesting things about monitoring the migration daily at Ruthven: you notice when there are new species arriving or when others have left. For example, yesterday was the first day that we heard/saw Eastern Wood Pewees. There distinct song is easily heard and recognized – you would know if it was around. But until yesterday it wasn’t. And then, out of the blue, there it was. For a couple of months these birds had been working their way north from their Winter home in the subcanopy of the jungles of South America. And on May 13th they reached us. Think of what they had seen and what topography they had traversed in doing this. Amazing!

Female Hooded Warbler

To help us celebrate the day, we were visited by only the second Hooded Warbler we’d ever had at Ruthven. What a treat that was!

Marylene Boulet and Loretta Mousseau - a flashback to the "good old days".

Also to help us celebrate was the arrival of Marylene Boulet, taking a weekend off from her teaching post at Bishop’s University. For the first hour or so it was just Marylene, Loretta, and myself – just like the “good old days” when we had little help and even fewer visitors. How things have changed….mostly for the better I might add. [I should add that Marylene was instrumental in getting McMaster and their students involved at Ruthven.]

Weather-wise, it was pretty unsettled with patches of drizzle throughout the morning changing to a light rain around noon (causing us to close up the nets). We ended up handling 93 birds (49 banded; 44 retraps) for a respectable day. [In fact, I had been expecting more but I would imagine that the bad weather to the south of us kept many birds on the ground.]

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird - weighs 3 grams, less than the weight of a twoonie.

Banded 49:
3 Mourning Doves
1 Least Flycatcher
8 Gray Catbirds
1 Warbling Vireo
2 Red-eyed Vireos
1 Blue-winged Warbler
2 Nashville Warblers
8 Yellow Warblers
2 Chestnut-sided Warblers
1 Magnolia Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Hooded Warbler
4 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 White-throated Sparrow
3 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Baltimore Orioles
1 Purple Finch
4 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 44:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Blue Jay
1 Glue-gray Gnatcatcher
4 Gray Catbirds
2 Blue-winged Warblers
5 Yellow Warblers
2 Common Yellowthroats
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Indigo Bunting
11 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
6 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Orchard Orioles
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 58 spp.


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