October 27th – Catching Up With The Week

The blog experienced some technical problems (hmmmm….can a blog actually “experience”?) which, fortunately, Jeff was able to sort out. In the meantime, there has been a lot of action at Ruthven and people have sent me a fair number of photos (and I’ve taken some myself) so I’ll try to summarize the week and do a big “Photo Gallery” to try to give you a sense of what has happened.

Here’s what’s coming folks! Look where this storm is headed. It will be a heck of a week!

But just before looking backward, let’s take a peek at what’s in store for this week. The NOAA shows tropical storm Sandy rebuilding into a hurricane just before making landfall and heading right toward…..Ruthven. This just won’t rain on your parade, folks…it will blow your parade away!

October 23rd – A Lull In The Rain

It had rained on and off throughout the night; we had even had thunderstorms. I made the classic mistake of checking the weather radar when I should have just rolled over and gone back to sleep. The radar showed a “gap” in the shower activity around the time that a group of school children was coming. So, dutifully, I trundled off to Ruthven and, sure enough, around 8:30, the rain stopped. We quickly opened a few nets. But I don’t think we were expecting the big influx of birds that we got in the period of about an hour and a half before resumption of the rain forced us to close up again. We caught 86 birds; 60 were “new” and got banded while the other 26 were retraps and just got weighed. Calculations for the time period that the nets were open showed that we were catching birds at the rate of 208 per 100 net hours!

Banded 60:
2 Mourning Doves
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
4 Hermit Thrushes
4 Myrtle Warblers
2 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
9 White-throated Sparrows
17 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Purple Finches
2 Pine Siskins
11 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 33 spp.

White-throated Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Song Sparrow (left to right).

October 24th – A Sparrow Day
Most birders that I know live and die for brightly coloured warblers. And I can’t blame them. Their rich colouring and (usually) long-distance migrations make them both beautiful and interesting. But I have a soft spot for sparrows. At a distance they’re just those pesky little brown birds that are hard to identify and usually skulk about in the vegetation, disappearing before you can really get a good look at them. But in the hand….in the hand it’s a different story. You have to marvel at the richness of the various hues of russet and brown and beige and the way they meld together to result in these exquisite little creatures. And today I got a treat as I was able to handle (band or retrap) 10 different species (if you count juncos as a sparrow…and you should). And one of them, an American Tree Sparrow, was the first for the Fall migration.

Chipping Sparrow, (HY) White-crowned Sparrow, Field Sparrow (left to right).

The first American Tree Sparrow of the Fall.

We handled 120 birds on the day; 49 of these were retraps or previously-banded birds which suggests that the conditions during the night (light rain/drizzle) was not conducive to migration and many birds stayed put waiting for a better chance. The rate of capture was a more modest (but realistic for this time of year) 80 birds per 100 net hours.

Banded 71:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
7 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Swainson’s Thrush
8 Hermit Thrushes
1 Myrtle Warbler
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
4 Song Sparrows
8 White-throated Sparrows
3 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
26 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Pine Siskins
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 38 spp.

Meadow in the early morning mist. -L. Mousseau

October 25th – “Can’t Believe This Is The End Of October” Weather

The light ground fog of early morning burned off shortly after the sun came up and the temperature climbed quickly as the sun rose into a largely blue sky. It was shorts and sandals weather! Sunny and 20+ degrees. Despite the weather, we started off the day sort of painfully with a “hit” of 6 Northern Cardinals in net 6A. Cardinals are one of only a couple of birds that we band that get a stainless steel band rather than an aluminum one. Their bite is so strong that they sometimes crimp (overlap) an aluminum band, making it tight against their leg or they can eradicate the number by repeatedly biting at the band. Stainless steel bands are much harder to apply but they are safer for the bird (don’t crimp) and last longer (you can read them a year later). So you can imagine, if they can do that to an aluminum band, what must they be able to do to one’s fingers. And 6 of them at once…..

A flock of Northern Cardinals hit net 6A. -L. Mousseau

For the time of year, we had a good variety of birds around – 45 species. But the total banded (56) wasn’t very high despite an influx of Pine Siskins that are taking full advantage of our nijer feeders. And the rate of capture was down around 50 birds per 100 net hours.

Banded 56:
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Myrtle Warbler
7 Northern Cardinals
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
2 Fox Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
6 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
21 Pine Siskins
9 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 45 spp.

Yours truly with the record (#56) Northern Saw-whet Owl. -B. Fotheringham

October 26th – Preparing For The Storm (& A New Record)

The day actually started off last night. I opened for the Saw-whet Owl folks and, as luck would have it, I pulled a beautiful young female owl out of net 9 on the first net check at 8:00 – very early for catching. This bird was the 56th we’ve banded this Fall and breaks last year’s record of 55. Good thing too as this was the only owl caught during the night.

The record owl displaying just a hint of attitude. -B. Fotheringham

It was a mild night (15 degrees at dawn) and, although cloudy at first, was clear at census time. There must have been a good movement of birds during the night as there were a lot of birds around and we were catching lots – but very few already-banded ones (suggesting that the ones that had been hanging around had moved on). We had some interesting “influxes”: we banded 10 Black-capped Chickadees (usually we might get one or two…if any); we banded 34 American Goldfinches (we had been catching lots….in September and early October but they had tailed off lately); and we got 23 Pine Siskins. This brought our Fall banding total for Pine Siskins to 125. This is exactly the total number of Siskins we have banded in all the years put together going back to 1995. What’s going on!? It must have been a very poor food crop in the north this past Summer, at least for siskins. We ended up handling 136 birds on the day and had a rate of capture of 111 birds per 100 net hours.

Pine Siskins cleaning up underneath the feeders.

Siskins have been hitting the feeders hard; many have big fat loadings.

Interestingly, a larger proportion of these birds were caught later in the morning rather than early, which is the opposite of what usually occurs. Late, a big cloud bank began to move in from the west; the wind switched from the S to the NNW and picked up in intensity (and net-filling leaf-blowing capacity); and the temperature began to drop (I was in a t-shirt and could really notice it). These changes weren’t lost on the birds either and they began to drop into the feeders and shrubs to feed heavily, getting ready for the bad weather that is coming our way. Man, even I was getting a hankering for hamburgers and home fries to boulster my fat condition to meet the bad conditions predicted by these changes. (Funny how “in tune” I am around that food stuff….)

Banded 113:[1 Northern Saw-whet Owl]
10 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
2 Red-breasted Nuthatches
9 Golden-crowned Kinglets
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Hermit Thrush
3 Myrtle Warblers
2 Northern Cardinals
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
6 White-throated Sparrows
10 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Purple Finches
2 House Finches
23 Pine Siskins
34 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 48 spp.
Fall Banding Total: 4,512
Year-to-Date Banding Total: 7,097

Photo Gallery:

4 odd growths on the lower abdomen of a Pine Siskin.

Enmeshed Tufted Titmouse – lots of these around; you just have to be patient. -C. Scholtens

Dark eye of an adult (AHY) Dark-eyed Junco.

Wing detail – AHY male Dark-eyed Junco.

Adult Bald Eagle on one of its favourite perches: a spruce in front of the Mansion. -M. DeGelder

Young Red-tailed Hawk. -B. Fotheringham

The large leaf of a Sycamore. -C. Scholtens

Male Golden-crowned Kinglet -C. Scholtens

Male Downy Woodpecker -C. Scholtens

Eastern Bluebirds have been common in large numbers this past week. -C. Scholtens

Female Downy Woodpecker. -C. Scholtens

Young Red-tailed Hawk. -B. Fotheringham

Hermit Thrushes have been pouring through. -C. Scholtens


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