October 4th – Riches To Rags….And Back Again

Two Saw-whets! What a treat. -DOL

With yesterday’s invasion of migrants I thought the floodgates had opened. And when we got thunderstorms during the night with rain right up until opening I was thinking “fallout”. But it just wasn’t to be. Somehow the wheel had fallen off….again….and we had another very slow day for this time of year. (see the banding totals below)

I needed a pick-me-up and I knew just the place to go: Fern Hill’s Oakville campus. About 2 weeks ago we had stumbled across a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar quite by chance. When I brought it to the attention of the JK teachers, Ms. Lydall jumped on it and we soon had a butterfly incubator on the go. Yesterday I got word that the butterfly had emerged so I headed for the school equipped with a Monarch “tag” that Karen had given me ready to help the students send it on its way to Mexico. What a treat to watch two dozen intent faces watch the tagging process and the joy as they watched emerge from Ms. Lydall’s hands. It circled a couple of times (ostensibly to orient itself) and then headed off to the SW toward a field full of goldenrod and asters. What a treat the whole experience was.

We found this caterpillar by chance on a milkweed plant next to the playing field. Ms Lydall’s JK class took it under their wing….so to speak. -AL

Feeding well on fresh milkweed replaced daily allowed the caterpillar to grow and thrive…..and turn into a beautiful chrysalis. -AL

After 12 days of anxious waiting the adult Monarch emerged!! -A:

The butterfly got a lot of interested scrutiny. -AL

And then it was time to tag it and let it go…..on its way to Mexico. -AL

Tagged and ready to go. -AL

Riding that high I returned to Ruthven to help Nancy, Ruthven’s “Owl Lady”, in her pursuit of Northern Saw-whet Owls. The nets were open just after dusk and 2 sets of sound systems were playing. We weren’t going to put a lot of time into the evening – just “probe” to see if the owls might be back. It theoretically was a good night for it: light northerly winds; cool temperatures; and clear skies (the stars were magnificent!).

Ruthven’s “Owl Lady” with the first of the season. -DOL

We were skunked on the first net check. But we got the first one on the next check and on the third (and last) we got 2 more (and just missed another that bounced out of the net). I’m sure that if we had kept netting we would have got more. But what a great start to the season!

Our first Northern Saw-whet of the season!!! A young or HY female. -DOL

The McMaster Rule:
Mistakes should result in a benefit. The person making the mistake should learn from it and the person(s) supervising the effort should get something to……don’t you think. Years ago when Mac students first starting coming to Ruthven to learn about birds and banding we developed a policy of having the students “learn by doing” (supervised of course!). Now we know that mistakes will happen – usually in the form of a bird escaping inside the banding lab. It happens. But it should only happen ONCE. To reinforce this we came up with the McMaster Rule: one mistake/escape is forgivable but two!? There is a penalty – the next time you come you bring baked goods. This has been quite effective in limiting the number of mistakes. It has also been quite effective in bringing goodies into the banding lab. This is usually a plus….based on the ability of the baker. Due to its effectiveness we decided to generalize to all participants with good effect as you can see:

The invocation of the McMaster Rule results in: home-made cookies!

Banded 20:

Bill Read with a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. -KMP

1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
2 Tennessee Warblers
2 Nashville Warblers
1 Magnolia Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler. -KMP

2 Black-throated Green Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Song Sparrow
3 White-throated Sparrows
1 Purple Finch

Brilliant adult male Purple Finch – living up to its name. -ARM

ET’s: 45 spp.

2 thoughts on “October 4th – Riches To Rags….And Back Again

  1. Really enjoyed the lone monarch caterpillar story, must have been so exciting for the kids and a great learning experience. I never knew there was a Purple Finch, wow, what a treat to see one of them. I just love those little Saw Whet Owls, hopefully one day I have the opportunity to be up close and personal with one.

  2. Pingback: Monarch release video now online | Ruthven Park Nature Blog

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