October 12th – Getting Ready for Owls

Nancy with the Long-eared Owl she banded at Hilliardton Marsh.


She also got to band some Boreal Owls (left) and a lot of Northern Saw-whet Owls (right).


Matt hauling the "owl sound system" back to the lab from Net 8R.


Boreal Owl


Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Last week Nancy spent 3 nights (and days) at Hilliardton Marsh just north of New Liskeard in order to learn more about banding Northern Saw-whet Owls. She’s come back all pumped up to catch some here (and build on the 6 she and the “owl team” – Christine and Chris – captured last year). For the past 2 nights she’s been out to set up nets after dark and play a “lure tape”, trying to attract any birds that might be in the vicinity into the nets. So far she’s had no luck. But when things get a little colder then things should start to happen. If you’re interested in coming out to help, get in touch with her (oriskanynn@look.ca) to arrange a time.


Birds were definitely on the move today, trying to put in as much distance as possible before the nasty weather hit – the rain held off until just after we got the nets down around 1:30 (and we’re supposed to have showers for the next few days). Migration was quite visible as we had unusually large numbers of American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, Myrtle Warblers, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Eastern Bluebirds, especially when compared to the last several days. Throughout the morning we would get the occasional very light shower. That and the cloud cover seemed to bring the Myrtle Warblers down from the treetops so we were able to catch them in good numbers (62 for the day).

Return of the prodigal son: #2291-39125; banded on October 13th, 2008.

We had some very interesting retraps today. Perhaps the most interesting was a White-throated Sparrow that we originally banded on October 13th, 2008. These birds are only migrants at Ruthven – they don’t breed here. It’s very unusual for a station to recapture a transit bird. Think about it: 3 years, almost to the day, this migrating bird, which might have flown as many as 500+ km. to get here, returned to Ruthven on its journey south. Amazing!! We also recaptured a male American Goldfinch that we banded as a SY-M in May, 2008, making it 4 years old. And last, we recaptured a Blackpoll Warbler that we initially banded on October 6th. At that time, it weighed 16.8 g (a very good weight considering that its fat-free weight is around 10 g); today it weighed 18.5 g – it’s put on almost one and a half grams, getting ready for a long haul.


We had quite a philosophical discussion today on the theme: are White-crowned and Chipping Sparrows smarter or dumber than other sparrows. We are catching and then recatching these 2 species over and over each day in the baited ground traps. Are they just dumb and get recaught because they can’t figure it out OR are they smart and have got it figured out? They know that there’s a good food supply in those traps and those humans just let you go after a couple of manipulations. My vote is that they are smarter and know a good thing when they see it.

There was an odd phenomenon at the banding lab today – it was strangely devoid of muffins. And this despite the fact that Liz was a) up at 5:00 AM; b) wouldn’t leave the house for Ruthven until 7:30; c) had already-prepared muffin dough in the fridge; and d) was planning on coming to Ruthven today. Odd…..very, very odd……she blames her son Brent but I’m not sure of the connection….or logic. I can predict that many of you will be aghast at this news so I have added not just one, but two, muffin recipes at the end of this missive (Liz’s and Bronwen’s – both tried and true….and delicious).

Plumage of an AHY-M Myrtle Warbler


The white chin separates the Myrtle from the Audubon's Warbler, which has a yellow one.

Banded 88:
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Nashville Warbler
62 Myrtle Warblers
5 Chipping Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
8 White-throated Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 House Finch

This American Redstart lost its tail about 3 weeks ago; it has grown in about 1/3rd.

Retrapped 31:
2 Mourning Doves
2 Eastern Tufted Titmice
1 Hermit Thrush
4 Myrtle Warblers
2 Blackpoll Warblers
1 American Redstart
1 Northern Cardinal
5 Chipping Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
5 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 American Goldfinch


ET’s: 49 spp.

Birds banded per 100 net hours: 58

Muffin Recipes:

Liz’s Six Week Bran Muffins –Company’s Coming Muffins & More

4 cups (1 L) Bran flakes cereal
2 cups (500 mL) all bran cereal
2 cups (500 mL) boiling water

1 cup (250 mL) butter or margarine
1 1/2 (375 mL) cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 (375 mL) cups brown sugar
4 eggs
4 cups (1 L) buttermilk
1/4 cup (50 mL) molasses

5 cups (1.25 L) all purpose flour
2 tbsp. (30 mL) baking soda
1 tbsp. (15 mL) baking powder
1 tsp. (5 mL) salt
2 cups (500mL) raisins

In large bowl put cereals and boiling water. Let stand.
In mixing bowl cream butter and sugars together. Beat in eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Mix in buttermilk. Add molasses. Stir in cereal mixture.
In another bowl put flour, soda, baking powder, salt and raisins. Mix thoroughly. Add to batter. Stir to combine. Store in refrigerator. It will keep for six weeks. As required, fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven for 20-25 Minutes. Remove from pan after 5 minutes.

Variation:Brans may be switched to use 2 cups bran flakes and 4 cups all bran cereal. Or you may use natural bran to replace one cereal.

Rick: the muffins I made the morning I brought them to Ruthven had 4 cups bran flakes and 2 cups natural bran. Use whatever cereal is available. They also had molasses but no salt (I never add salt to my baking).

Bronwen’s Muffins/Cake

Hi Rick – here is cake recipe that I put in muffins and cooked for 18-20 min at 350. I also used milk/cream combo soured with vinegar instead of sour cream. When I did before I used yogurt and replaced 1 c of w flour with oatmeal in small bunt pan & it worked well too.
• 1/2 cup shortening
• 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sour cream
• 2 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar. Beat in the egg. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in rhubarb. Pour into two greased 8-in. square baking dishes.
2. Combine the topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. May be frozen for up to 6 months.


2 thoughts on “October 12th – Getting Ready for Owls

  1. Congratulations on the retrap of the prodigal son: An astonishing and powerful story to follow the Merwin sentiment. Nice work.

  2. Wow Rick that was quite the muffin dillema yesterday! 🙂 How did you survive?! I would love to come out and help Nancy some night with the owls. I’ll email her.

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