May 18th – Quality Not Quantity

A “skulker” – this Canada Warbler works its way through a juniper. -LI

We weren’t particularly busy today, or, at least, it didn’t “feel” busy. But if you put in the work there were birds to be found. In fact, by the end of the morning we had rung up 79 species. But many of these were in small numbers or were singles. Still, a species is a species and when you’re counting every one adds up. The relaxed pace was ideal for teaching the younger aficionados the skills of extracting and banding and we had a good number of skilled adults to oversee their efforts – so a good morning all round.

Caught on hidden camera, wood pixies frolic in the meadow. -AT

The other day Carol left some feathers for the Tree Swallows so we went out to entice them. What fun! The swallows swoop in to snatch them out of the air. They’ll chase each other until one drops the feather at which point another will tear in to grab it before it can hit the ground. Tree Swallows line their nests with feathers. Over the years we have seen a very strange assortment of them in various nests and they’ve left us scratching our heads as to what kinds of birds they have come from and how the swallows managed to get them.

Throwing caution….and feathers….to the wind. Nesting material for the Tree Swallows. -AT

Banded 44:
1 Mourning Dove

Nola with a Downy Woodpecker she’s just processed. -ELO

1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Usually a bird of the treetops: Great Crested Flycatcher. -ELO

1 Great Crested Flycatcher
1 House Wren
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 American Robin
3 Gray Catbirds

Brown Thrasher. -MAS

1 Brown Thrasher
2 Warbling Vireo
1 Nashville Warbler

For comparison: female Yellow Warbler on the left, male on the right. -ELO

10 Yellow Warblers
1 Magnolia Warbler

ASY male American Redstart. -JWC

1 American Redstart
2 Common Yellowthroat
6 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (bringing our total to 70; old record was 61)
1 Song Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow

Another “stumpy” – a young male Red-winged Blackbird missing its left foot. The bird was otherwise in good shape. -MAS

2 Red-winged Blackbirds
4 Baltimore Orioles (bringing our total to 93; old record was 51)
2 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 79 spp.
More Pictures:

“Liam, if you hold this Rose-breasted Grosbeak right……no pain. If you do it wrong…..pain…..great pain” -JET

No pain! -JET

Female Red-winged Blackbird in the meadow. -AT

Female Blue-winged Warbler with an aberrant black feather on its head. -ELO

Grey head, white eye ring, yellow underneath…..Nashville Warbler. -ELO

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker. -ELO

Striking male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (well named!). -ELO

Tufted Titmouse. -ELO

Male Magnolia Warbler. -JWC

We have a good population of Yellow-throated Vireos nesting around the site. -JET

Male Chestnut-sided Warbler. -JWC


May 17th – A Fine Weather Day!

The Ruthven Ringers Birdathon Team; From left: Ethan Gosnell, Ezra Campanelli, Alessandra Wilcox, Ben Oldfield. -DOL

[Our wonderful Birdathon Team, as you can see below, finished with 158 species!! And in typical style they were beating themselves up for what they didn’t see and setting goals for next year. Congratulations you guys – 158 species!!!]

I would like to thank everyone that donated! Below is a summary of our big day:
The day started at 0300hrs in Burlington, where Alessandra, Ezra and I drove to Caledonia to pick up Ethan. Once the crew was assembled we powered down to St. Williams conservation area and quickly picked up Whip-poor-Will, American Woodcock and Ruffed grouse. From here we headed to Hahn marsh and picked up marsh birds such as American and Least Bittern, Sedge Wren and Sandhill crane. The next bird to be heard at another local spot was King Rail, King Rail is a very rare bird in the area and we were all happy to hear it. At this time we headed to Backus woods and arrived around 0700hrs and found Carolinian rarities such as Cerulean Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and many other birds. As the temperature began to rise we drove to Oldcut. Oldcut has a world-renowned banding station and for good reason. The park, as usual, was filled with birds. Over 20sp of warblers were found quickly and the banding operation was kept busy with birds consistently flying into the nets. Once we were satisfied with migrants we began to check our list and fill in spots checking places on the way back such as Port Rowan wetlands, the lookout on the bay and spooky hollow. We collected Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrow on the way and we checked an odd spot for Clay Coloured Sparrow, beside the O.P.P station in Simcoe. As in the last 7 years, they did not disappoint. From here we drove to the Townsends sewage lagoons and were rewarded with many duck species and some shorebirds including a very rare migrant in the spring, Red Necked Pharalope. Once finished here we drove towards Ruthven with windows down picking up Bobolink, once at Ruthven we chatted with Rick and Nancy and took a quick look for Yellow Throated Vireo and Orchard oriole. The time was approaching 1400hrs and we drove towards the Halton area where we stopped at Windemere basin and picked up Greater Scaup and Northern Mockingbird. We were still missing migrants so we checked Confederation park, the only thing of notice in the shrub habitat was an abundance of ticks. We totaled approx. 15 on us 4, including one black-legged tick that I found at home. The lake was a little bit better, with a Long-tailed duck. The last bird added was a Peregrine falcon at the lift bridge, after a detailed count we confirmed our suspicion that we broke the record with 158SP. The total is amazing as we only were able to go to 1700hrs due to fatigue(didn’t get enough sleep). The total none the less was fantastic and we were all extremely happy with the result. Out of curiosity, I complied birds that we missed and could have gotten for sure and other birds that were reported in the area that we missed. These are below. As you can see a total of 170 is possible, and we have a new goal for next year!
All the best,

Ben Oldfield

Golden Crowned Kinglet
Winter Wren
Prothonotary Warbler
Common Nighthawk
Canada Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Orange-Crowned Warbler
Red Necked Grebe
Iceland Gull
Bonaparte’s Gull
Eastern Meadowlark
Great Horned Owl
Eastern Screech Owl
Red Headed Woodpecker
American Kestral.
Blue Headed Vireo.
Lark Sparrow(Looked for and missed by an hour.
Harris Sparrow(Report seen too late)
Fox Sparrow(Reported did not see)

And today at Ruthven:
There must have been a massive lift-off last night from the Ruthven area as the diversity and overall number of birds was considerably less today than yesterday. Still, we did well and each net round brought some surprises.
Banded 64:
1 Blue Jay
1 Tufted Titmouse
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
9 Gray Catbirds
3 Warbling Vireos

Male Blue-winged Warbler -JWC

2 Blue-winged Warblers
2 Tennessee Warblers
12 Yellow Warblers

Female Canada Warbler -MAS

1 Canada Warbler
1 American Redstart

Tick on a male Common Yellowthroat. -MAS

4 Common Yellowthroats

This was a tough male Rose-breasted Grosbeak to age. The wing feathers have all been moulted which you don’t see in SY birds (you get a mix of juvenile and freshly moulted feathers) but the body feather appear to be juvenile. -JWC

7 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
2 Indigo Buntings
4 Song Sparrows
9 Baltimore Orioles (bringing our total to 89!)
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 72 spp.
More pics:

Underwing of a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. -JWC

Male Bay-breasted Warbler -JWC

Red-eyed Vireo – well named…… -MAS

Long-distance flier: Blackpoll Warbler. -MAS

Carolina Wren -MAS

Female Tree Swallow. -MAS


May 16th – We’re In The Thick Of It!

The Ruthven Ringers Birdathon Team stopped at Ruthven to pick up a couple of species for the birdathon. They got them….and when they left were up to 148!! From left: Ethan Gosnell, Ezra Campanelli, Alessandra Wilcox, Ben Oldfield. Best birds to that point: Red-necked Phalarope. Wow! -DOL

The migration of long-distance migrants is in full swing. Tremendous variety around today. Check out these numbers: the Ruthven Ringers were up to 148 species for their 24-hour birdathon effort and still had lots of time to go; Nancy upped the bar for the census by recording 62 species; for the day, we recorded 82 species at Ruthven, including 21 different warblers. What a great day to be a birder!!

Our Baltimore Oriole numbers raise some interesting questions. We have banded 80 which, as mentioned, is much higher than the previous high of 51 and much much higher than the average going back to 1999 of just 32. And we’re not the only ones reporting high Oriole numbers. I have seen many comments on social media from many areas of eastern North America noting an apparent increase. What’s going on? Greater nesting success? Better wintering conditions? This is something that would be worth researching.

Caelyn releasing a blue-winged Warbler. There is a large breeding population at Ruthven. -AML

Good picture of Jeff MacLeod (blogmeister)……not so good of the Tennessee Warbler. -JML

Banded 78:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpeckers
1 Least Flycatcher
1 Tree Swallow
2 Red-breasted Nuthatches
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Carolina Wren
3 Veerys (Veeries?)
7 Gray Catbirds
2 Red-eyed Vireos
3 Blue-winged Warblers
3 Tennessee Warblers
1 Nashville Warbler
10 Yellow Warblers
3 Chestnut-sided Warblers
6 Magnolia Warblers
2 Bay-breasted Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
3 American Redstarts
3 Northern Waterthrushes
5 Common Yellowthroats
3 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow

Baltimore Oriole #80! The old Spring record was 51. -AML

6 Baltimore Orioles (bringing our total to 80!)
3 Orchard Orioles
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 82 spp.

Fern Hill Burlington:

Here’s a banding surprise for the Burlington folks: a Spotted Sandpiper. -KAP

Today was a very special day at our school. It is a day where the students invite their Grandparents, or Special Friends, to the school as VIPs who get to experience life as a students at Fern Hill. I just think it is so special for them to see their little ones in a new light and in their roles as students and bright young learners. It is always a joy to show the Grandparents the beautiful birds migrating through (so many of them are birders and bird lovers themselves), and to watch as the Grandparents see their little ones demonstrating their bird handling and ID skills. Such a treat.

The day started off at 7:30AM as we kicked off the morning watching Baltimore and Orchard Orioles bombing the feeders and fruit set up along the net lanes. We even had hummingbirds zipping about charming the Grannies and Grampies! We also spotted our first ever RED-HEADED WOODPECKER at our school, peeking down from the tree tops at the feeder action. So exciting! Throughout the day we caught a nice variety of birds and it was a great success. One Grandmother, a self described bird lover, confessed during the banding that she had never seen an Eastern Bluebird. Wouldn’t you know it, a beautiful male showed up within minutes at a nest box so close that she didn’t even need binoculars to see it. I was so, so happy to see her joy, and definitely understand that “bluebird feeling”.

If that wasn’t good enough, we caught our first ever SPOTTED SANDPIPER! A complete surprise although we do hear them in the muddy flats near the net lanes from time to time. Janice and I were high five-ing each other all day!

Banded 21:
Spotted Sandpiper – 1
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Least Flycatcher – 1
Gray Catbird – 2
European Starling – 1
Yellow Warbler – 2
White-crowned Sparrow – 4
Red-winged Blackbird – 2
Baltimore Oriole – 3
American Goldfinch – 4


May 15th – One of Those Days

U. of Windsor post-grad students Jason and Madison sporting their new HBO chapeaux that they “won” for banding their 1st 100 birds (each). -MAS

You just knew it was going to be one of those days, those memorable days, when the weather is just right and the birds are all around you. Just after opening I sat and watched a magnificent sunrise followed by the antics (and zipping) of a pair of Northern Parulas just above my head at the picnic table and then Common Loons flying north. And it just kept coming. Every net round, it seemed, turned up interesting birds. At one point I stood at the top of net 6 and watched 8 warblers fly into it (including one of my favourites – an Orange-crowned).

Northern Parula -JWC

Last night’s clear skies and gentle southerly winds must have induced many birds to set out with today’s result. Debbie and Laura doing census counted 60 species (the high count so far this year) and overall our species count was 77 – our highest to date. This included 15 species of warblers.

Banded 71:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers

Least Flycatcher. -MAS

1 Least Flycatcher
3 House Wrens
5 Gray Catbirds
2 Blue-winged Warblers
3 Tennessee Warblers

Nashville Warbler -JWC

6 Nashville Warblers

Orange-crowned Warbler. -MAS

2 Orange-crowned Warblers
7 Yellow Warblers
Male Chestnut-sided Warbler -JWC
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
3 Magnolia Warblers
1 Black & White Warbler
2 Ovenbirds
4 Common Yellowthroats

First (male) Wilson’s Warbler of the year. The black cap looks almost like an ill-fitting toupee. -MAS

1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
3 Chipping Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
3 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
8 Baltimore Orioles (bringing our total to 74!)
1 Orchard Oriole
6 American goldfinches

ET’s: 77 spp.

Male Yellow Warbler; banded in May 2016, hatched in 2015…so 4 years old. -JWC

This Blue-winged Warbler was hatched and banded in 2013 making it 6 years old now. It has returned to Ruthven every year since. -MAS

For comparison: Black & White Warblers – male on the left, female on right. -MAS

For comparison: Tennessee Warbler on left, Orange-crowned on right. -MAS

Banding a male Northern Cardinal. -MAS

Another shot of the Orange-crowned Warbler. -MAS

For comparison: Tennessee Warbler (left), Least Flycatcher (middle), Nashville Warbler (right). -RB

Fern Hill Burlington:

Grade 2’s watching the feeders. -KAP

Busy day around the Field Station, and luckily the thunderstorms held off until the end of the school day. The Orioles have been hitting our feeders, and we’ve been having fun determining which fruits and jelly they prefer. Thus far, grape jelly and orange slices are the biggest hit.

Orchard Oriole at the feeders. -JJC

Today we banded 17:
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Field Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
4 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
4 Gray Catbirds
2 Baltimore Orioles
1 American Robin
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Mourning Dove

Jessica with a White-crowned Sparrow. -JJC

ET’s: 53 spp.