May 16th – A Sign Of Things To Come?

David Brewer (far right) in a 2011 photo.

We had the great good fortune of having David Brewer drop in to help with the banding – he has done this for the last couple of years for several days throughout the banding season. He’s written several books on birds and banding and his birding travels have taken him all around the world – so he’s a guy who not only is fun to talk to but whose opinion is well worth considering.

Plumage comparison: young (SY) male Indigo Bunting on left; older (ASY) male on right.

David and I were sitting at the picnic table talking over the state of the (birding) world and the main topic of conversation was the apparent lack of long-distance warblers. This is something that I have been concerned about for several years and, as it turns out, so has David. In some ways, it must have sounded like a couple of fishermen talking about the good old days and the “lunkers” that we had caught. But there was a thread of truth in our discussion. For example, I have written a couple of times in the last week that there have been 12 or 13 species of warblers around the site on the same day. Folks, I can remember when I was a kid and just really getting into birding, running home from school and finding 13 species of warblers in just one big tree in our back yard in the east end of Hamilton. Not to be outdone, David recalled finding 8 species of warblers in one mist net at the same time. Now, warblers seem to be few and far between. And, frankly, I’m concerned when I wander along the wooded trails at Ruthven during what should be the height of the Spring migration and find none. Interestingly, Yellow Warblers are common and perhaps even increasing. But when you consider that they prefer “disturbed” or second-growth habitats – which are increasing in the Tropics – this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Interesting Warblers (like this Canada) are few and far between so far this season at Ruthven.

David discussed the idea that many species are suffering from the drastic destruction of habitat in their wintering areas. Even before this destruction, migrants would be faced with “compression” – in the breeding areas of northern Canada/U.S. they cover a huge area but then they are funneled down into a much smaller area in the Tropics. With the loss of habitat this compression becomes ever more critical. He mused that people of “our generation” may be the last ones that actually experienced the huge migrations of long-distance warblers. That, my friends, is a very sobering thought.

Despite inclement weather, our numbers continued to be modest.

One of two of our very active Martin houses - the colony now numbers at least 17 individuals.

Banded 28:
1 House Wren
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Tennessee Warbler
8 Yellow Warblers
3 Magnolia Warblers
1 American Redstart
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Canada Warbler
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
2 Indigo Buntings
1 Common Grackle
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
4 American Goldfinches

Four young Killdeer and their parents continue to thrive in the upper parking lot.

Retrapped 32:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 House Wren
3 Gray Catbirds
2 Blue-winged Warblers
4 Yellow Warblers
2 Common Yellowthroats
9 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
2 Chipping Sparrows
3 Song Sparrows
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Baltimore Orioles
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 64 spp.

A couple of baby shrews were found in the mulch pile - they don't look like the fearsome predators they are as adults.


1 thought on “May 16th – A Sign Of Things To Come?

  1. I have been enjoying your blog posts almost daily, but today’s post was downright depressing. Sometimes reality is that way. Thanks for your interesting and informative posts…even the disturbing ones.

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