October 20th & 21st – Bird Festival Weekend

Part of our Festival crew – looking leprechaunal. -DOL

We held our Bird Festival at a time of the Fall when we could tap into the mass of short-term migrants that pass through the area on their way from the boreal forest to their Winter homes in the middle and southern United States. October is when we get our largest daily numbers. As well, it is the time of the passage of migrating Northern Saw-whet Owls. We set it up so that visitors and participants could experience passerine banding Saturday morning; watch and raptor show and listen to speakers in the afternoon and early evening; band Saw-whets at night; and then get involved in more passerine banding Sunday morning. Whew! To make it easier to take in the whole event, we encouraged anyone that was interested to sleep over in the historic Coach House so that time wouldn’t be lost travelling to and from home.

And we had great results: banded 74 birds on Saturday morning; 12 Northern Saw-whet Owls Saturday night; and another 75 birds Sunday morning. Interspersed with this were two wonderful speakers: Dr. David Brewer (Everything You Wanted To Know About Penguins) and Peter Thoem (The Owl Foundation). We fueled all this with a pizza supper and continental breakfast. Whew!

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch. -ECG

As if this wasn’t enough…..we also greatly enjoyed playing host to Dr. Oliver Love’s post-graduate lab from the University of Windsor. It was both fun and inspiring to be around such keen students – interested in the natural world around them and how it works. It had a nice synergy: us helping them learn field methods and them helping with the grunt work (net rounds, closing nets, etc.).

Saturday Morning; Banded 74:
1 Northern Flicker

Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to move through the site. -KMP

1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
2 Brown Creepers
3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
6 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
4 Hermit Thrushes
6 American Robins

Just one of 35 Cedar Waxwings banded over the weekend. -ECG

20 Cedar Waxwings
1 Nashville Warbler
5 Myrtle Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
2 Chipping Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
2 Purple Finches
1 House Finch
13 American Goldfinches

A sad story: we saw this Common Nighthawk flying around the Bobolink field on Thursday and Friday; on Saturday it lay dead underneath one of the junipers behind the Mansion. On examination it was found to be emaciated. It was a young, “hatch year” bird, likely from a late nesting and had simply run out of food. Usually we seen them at the end of August or early September so this bird was very late. -ECG

ET’s: 59 spp.

Saturday Night; Banded 12 Northern Saw-whet Owls:
The night wasn’t looking very promising when we opened the nets and set out the sound systems: patchy light rain and westerly wind. After the first net checks, in which we didn’t get anything, we debated whether to close it down but the weather maps were showing a clearing trend and, so, we opted for patience. And it was a good thing! The drizzle stopped as the wind moved to the NW and dropped and the skies began to clear. We got at least one owl in all of the subsequent net checks and in one we caught 5! I’m sure we would have continued to catch if we’d stayed open but we/I were getting tired so we closed around 12:30. Sleeping in the Coach House was a treat as I went to sleep right away before anyone’s snoring could bother me (and before I became aware that my snoring might be bothering others. (Evidently, so I’ve been told, my snoring can be aggravating……)

Sunday Morning; Banded 75:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker
1 Black-capped Chickadee
10 Golden-crowned Kinglets
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
3 Hermit Thrushes
6 American Robins
15 Cedar Waxwings

A big surprise – female Black & White Warbler. -RAS

1 Black & White Warbler
1 American Tree Sparrow (1st of the season)
5 Chipping Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
6 Dark-eyed Juncos
7 Purple Finches
12 American Goldfinches

Bonaparte’s Gulls and Common Mergansers have returned. -ECG

ET’s: 49 spp.

And at Fern Hill School in Burlington on Saturday:
If you’re going to be at school on a Saturday, I can think of no better way to spend the time then to be outdoors birding and banding. We had an Open House at Fern Hill Burlington so I invited a couple of Young Ornithologists out to spend the morning with the birds. The sunrise was beautiful, as was the Bald Eagle that flew low over our school, a big reward for waking up early and coming to the school on a Saturday! The trees and shrubs surrounding our nets were busy with birds enjoying the the berries of our buckthorn, dogwood, and wild grapes, as well as hitting the feeders hard.

Throughout the morning, potential students and their families wandered over to the Field Station to experience bird banding for the first time, a truly unforgettable experience. It’s always special to see the wonder and curiosity in their faces as they’re turned on and tuned into the birds for the first time.

We banded a total of 13 birds (not bad for only one net open) including:
2 Black-capped chickadees
6 House Sparrows
1 Swainson’s Thrush
3 Northern Cardinals
1 Red-winged Blackbird


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