May 3rd – Another Good Day

Joanne can make the most mundane bird sound wonderous - a Northern Waterthrush.

There was a heavy fog blanketing the area when Loretta and I opened nets starting at 5:30. Now I know for a fact that there was no fog last evening up until at least 11:30….so this turn of events had me kind of excited. In fogless and windless conditions, like those last evening, migrating birds would have taken off shortly after dusk. They would be prepared to fly 6-8 hours before coming to earth before dawn. However, they would cut short this agenda if they encountered adverse conditions that would likely impair their ability to navigate – heavy fog. They would then come down wherever they happened to be. And this seemed to be the case at Ruthven. One of the neat things about intensely investigating a particular site, rather than going from place to place, is that you notice subtle changes that occur. Yesterday there wasn’t a single Orchard Oriole, Common Yellowthroat, Least Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, or Yellow-throated Vireo to be seen, but today they were here. And some species that had arrived, but only in one’s or two’s, now had many representatives; for example, yesterday I estimated (and please note that my estimates are conservative) that there was only 1 Gray Catbird and 6 Yellow Warblers around. Today there were at least12 and 28 respectively. Through the night there had been a major influx of new migrants. And I guess it’s this “flow” of birds into an area that makes Spring birding so exciting….and lifts the expectations of banders as they do the early morning net openings. [I knew things would be good when I caught a Swamp Sparrow while I was opening a net at 5:30.]

Today's volunteers enjoying "elevenses".

As well as an influx of birds, we had an influx of birders – old friends that have been coming out and contributing in many ways over the years. In fact, the supply of muffins was daunting. When I read Lord of the Rings I was intrigued by the notion a late breakfast: elevenses. What a neat meal! But what about nineses and tenses then as precursors? I think I may be onto something…….

Working my way through the pile....all in a day's work.

We get a lot of visitors and we try to teach and get them involved as much as we can. Sometimes these efforts have unexpected consequences as this letter from Kellie…..demonstrates:

Kellie, visiting all the way from Waterloo, bands her first bird - a junco.

Hey Rick,
Not sure if you remember me from visiting a couple weeks ago; first with my Mom, and then with my boyfriend Devin. Anyway, I am still so excited over visiting Ruthven, even now a couple weeks out from the experiences, and I wanted to pass along that I actually did learn something while I was there…
Tonight, I took a bike ride through the neighbourhood, and stopped by a pond (actually, a storm water catchment) where I’d seen two families of Canada Geese yesterday; one with four goslings, the other with five. I was a little concerned when I saw merely one gosling when first arriving tonight, and no adult Canadas taking responsibility for the little one! I watched a little while longer, and near by, I heard some gosling chatter coming from some weeds. A gosling had managed to thoroughly tangle itself in the weeds! So, being that I cannot just sit back and let a bird in need go without help, I stepped in and used my “bander’s grip” to grab the little gosling out of the weeds and carry him to the safety of the pond. The little one insisted on being on the mud and not swimming towards the family of three which had now appeared, but that was besides the point. I heard yet more gosling chatter coming from the weeds… yes, I got to practice my bander’s grip on two goslings this evening! The two huddled together on the muddy embankment as Mom approached with the other three in tow. I stuck around a little too long, since she swam at me, splashing some mucky water and hissing! Thankfully, I’d had a decent ride already and was going to shower anyway… but I’m sure she felt like a total boss.
Anyway, I wanted to thank you again for teaching us how to hold birds properly and also for letting me band that junco. I’ve been looking at all the legs of the birds at my feeders with my binoculars (especially juncos, though it’s tough since they’re on the ground nearly always) to see if I can spot any bands, but nothing yet. Maybe one day…

Banded 79:
3 Least Flycatchers
1 House Wren
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2 Hermit Thrushes
2 American Robins
6 Gray Catbirds
1 European Starling
1 Warbling Vireo
2 Blue-winged Warblers
3 Nashville Warblers
11 Yellow Warblers
9 Yellow-rumped Warblers
2 Western Palm Warblers
1 Black and White Warbler
2 Northern Waterthrushes
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
3 Field Sparrows
6 Swamp Sparrows
10 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
5 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Baltimore Oriole
2 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 17:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Tree Swallow
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 House Wren
1 Gray Catbird
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
2 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 57 spp.

Photo Gallery:

Warbling Vireos have arrived en masse.

Northern Waterthrush - common breeder back in Ruthven's slough forests.

Male Common Yellowthroat - yesterday there were none around; today they were common.

Very noticeable fault bar on the rectrices of a SY male Baltimore Oriole

Fault bar showing on this oriole's secondaries.

Male Blue-winged Warbler.


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