May 17th – Crunch Time

Male Bay-breasted Warbler - one of my favourites.

A walk or drive along the Grand River will turn up loads of swallows. The cold, wet and windy conditions have resulted in low insect food supplies and these birds are looking for midges that are emerging from the water, trying to stave off starvation. But it’s happening. Christine Madliger, who is studying Tree Swallows at Ruthven reported that she found a dead male in one of her boxes. It was completely emaciated, weighing only 15 grams – well below its normal 21-22 grams. Birds that nest early (like Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebes) are running into a hard time. There were Phoebes nesting under the roof of the Mansion two weeks ago but they abandoned after being unable to withstand the pressure from the rainy and windy conditions. The longer these conditions persist, the more mortality we’re going to witness. That’s the gamble: take a chance on an early start; if the conditions are good you may raise two or even three broods; if they’re bad, you may not raise any.

Great Crested Flycatcher: normally a bird of the canopy, caught in the lowest panel of the net.

It was interesting to find a Great Crested Flycatcher in the lowest panel of one of the nets (#4). Normally these a re a bird of the treetops but there’s no food up there at the moment and they’ve been forced down to take advantage of whatever they can find.

It was just 6.9 degrees when I arrived and only got up to 8.9 by noon. But the strong, gusting NE wind was a killer, making it seem colder than it was – it just felt “raw”. I opened just a couple of nets, the ones I felt were the most sheltered (although all of them were affected). I also set out all the traps. We handled 64 birds but more retraps than “new” birds. Most of the retraps were caught in the traps. The birds know where the food is and are going after it. [In fact, the retrap numbers shoiuld have been higher but, if I saw it was a banded Chipping Sparrow (and invariably it was), I let it go right away.]

Tennessee Warbler

Still birds are trickling though. We had 9 species of warblers as well as Veeries and Swainson’s Thrushes. Nancy reported running into a “pocket” of warblers while she was doing the census (including a Mourning Warbler) but they were few and far between otherwise.

Banded 28:
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
3 Veeries
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
1 Red-eyed Vireo
2 Tennessee Warblers
1 Nashville Warbler
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
4 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Chipping Sparrow
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Common Grackle
4 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 36:
2 Mourning Dove
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Blue Jay
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Yellow Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
7 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
2 Chipping Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
8 Brown-headed Cowbirds
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 60 spp.


1 thought on “May 17th – Crunch Time

  1. Rick,
    Your post today reminds me of something Rachel Carson wrote,

    “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, the excitement, and the mystery of the world we live in.”

    You are that adult. You are a mentor extraordinaire. Thank you for pouring your energy and enthusiasm into our kids. It MUST be exhausting being you! Rest up.

    Joanne Fleet

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