October 5th – Crunch Time?

Liz with the first Dark-eyed Junco to be banded this season.

September can be a great month for banding at Ruthven or (like this year) it can be a bust. It really seems to boil down to the weather and whether it produces “fall-outs”. But there’s about a two-week period in October where it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, we’re going to get birds in big numbers. I think we’re there. Today was simply beautiful: clear and sunny, little wind, and, although cool at first light, quite mild. The sort of weather that, in September, would result in “fly-overs” and, consequently, low banding numbers. But today it didn’t matter. We handled 93 birds (68 banded, 25 retraps).

Matt Timpf and I opened right at 6:30 when it was still quite dark. All around we could hear the chip notes of White-throated Sparrows – always a good sign! Our first round was a good one…..but so was our last one. We ended up banding 32 White-throats and recapturing 11 from previous days.

One puzzling thing though is the almost complete lack of American Goldfinches. Over the past 10 years, we’ve averaged 528 goldfinches banded in the Fall; so far this season we’ve banded only 109. We felt our niger seed wasn’t quite right so we tossed it and replaced it with fresh seed but still nothing. We estimated that there may have been 15 of them in the area today but this was an optimistic estimate. So what’s going on?

Part of today's team: Erich, Lorraine, Liz and Matt (l. to r.).

This was a good day to have lots of birds because we had lots of grade 9 students from St. Thomas More high school in Hamilton in attendance. It’s so much easier to engage kids about birds when you’ve got lots of them and those kids that are keen can hold and release their “own” bird.

Among banding stations, Ruthven would seem the place to be for......lunch.

The return of the Sisters of Mercy - Bronwen and Elaine.

As I’ve said many times before: a banding station is like an army in that it marches on its stomach. Today was another gustatory bonanza with 3 separate sets of homemade muffins, sandwiches, coffee and other nibblies. If this keeps up I’ll have to jog around the net lanes to keep my weight down……

Sandy teaches banders about muscles...er...mussels.

After lunch, Sandy, the Species-at-Risk Co-ordinator took us all down to the river to show us the different types of mussels that are to found there – 12 species in total; 3 of them endangered. She also shared descriptions about the more interesting aspects of their breeding biology. If you happen to be dropping by Ruthven during the week, find Sandy and say: “Hey, what about those mussels?” An hour later you’ll be much wiser. (Make sure you get her to show you the videos.)

Female Dark-eyed Junco.

Banded 68:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
2 Blue Jays
1 Black-capped Chickadee
3 Brown Creepers
4 Golden-crowned Kinglets
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes
6 Myrtle Warblers
1 Western Palm Warbler
6 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
32 White-throated Sparrows
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco

Retrapped 25:
2 Downy Woodpeckers
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
11 White-throated Sparrows
6 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows

ET’s: 50 spp.

Birds banded per 100 net hours: 51


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