Spring 2019

Rick is out at sea counting birds, but sent this update describing Spring 2019. Thanks to all who volunteered, donated, and participated! See some pics from the season below.

After a disastrous April in which we banded only 535 birds – one of our lowest totals ever – we rebounded with our best ever May: we banded 1,385 birds giving us an overall total of 1,920 birds banded (ranking 5th). We also banded 91 species, which is our highest total.
May was truly exceptional. I break the month up into three 10-day periods and average the number of birds banded per day for that period. We exceeded the average in all three periods: 59 per day (vs 42.3) in the first; 46 (vs 44.6) in the 2nd; and 30 (vs 23.8) in the 3rd. (You will recall from previous posts that we were well under the daily average in all 3 periods in April.)

We set new banding records or tied existing ones for 21 species:
(Note: birds in bold are significantly higher compared to the mean going back to 1999)
American Kestrel – 1 (a new Spring species at Ruthven)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – 14
Traill’s Flycatcher – 30
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 12
Carolina Wren – 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 111
Brown Thrasher – 6
Blue-headed Vireo – 11
Philadelphia Vireo – 5
Red-eyed Vireo – 20
Orange-crowned Warbler – 4
Blackburnian Warbler – 7
Black & White Warbler – 10
Mourning Warbler – 7
Yellow-breasted Chat – 1 (only the 2nd banded at Ruthven)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak – 85 (previous high was 61)
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 17
Swamp Sparrow – 25
Orchard Oriole – 26 (previous high was 16)
Baltimore Oriole – 117 (previous high was 51!!)

Top Ten:
American Goldfinch – 226
Yellow Warbler – 127
Baltimore Oriole – 117
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 111
5. Gray Catbird – 91
Rose-breasted Grosbeak – 85
White-throated Sparrow – 81
Song Sparrow – 72
Chipping Sparrow – 61
Brown-headed Cowbird – 52

I don’t have the exact figures with me but we had well over 1,000 visitors in April and May. To achieve these banding results and deal with all these visitors we had to have the help of a very skilled and determined group of volunteers – and we did!! Thanks to you all for a very successful season! (Haha….at the end of April I didn’t think I’d be saying that…..)


Nashville Warbler -DW

Male Chestnut-sided Warbler -JWC

Beautiful male Eastern Bluebird. -RF

U. of Windsor students Jason and Madison, showing off a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. (Get used to those smiling faces – they’ll be around for a couple of months.) -NRF

Male Canada Warbler. -MAS

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

Long-distance flier: Blackpoll Warbler. -MAS

One of our most beautiful birds: male Blackburnian Warbler. -MAS

A later migrant and one of my favourites – male Mourning Warbler. -MAS

Picnic!! -RF

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

Geezer and Nola with a pair of Baltimore Orioles (female on the left, male on the right). -ELO

May 29th – 31st, 2019 – The end of the spring 2019 migration monitoring season

May 29th: Diversity
Another overcast, cool day with intermittent showers …. just the type of weather that makes for an interesting day. The winds were light and we opened all of the nets, closing them an hour earlier when the rain became persistent. Higher numbers of Cedar Waxwings were observed today with a small ‘hit’ at one net. Overall, a good day with great diversity!

Banded 47
1 Black-billed Cuckoo
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Eastern Wood-Peewee
2 Yellow bellied Flycatcher
7 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Wood Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
19 Cedar Waxwing
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 American Redstart
2 Mourning Warbler
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 59 species


Black-billed Cuckoo

Northern Flicker

Male Northern Flicker – note the mustachio

Wilson’s Warbler

Eastern Wood Pewee

Yellow Billed Cuckoo

Female Magnolia Warbler

Female Mourning Warbler


May 30th: Longevity Record
A foggy, damp morning at opening but once the fog burned off, it was overcast and muggy. A busy day with good diversity handling a number of flycatchers, warblers and cedar waxwings! The highlight today was an OLD Blue-winged Warbler retrap that was originally banded on August 15, 2010. It was a male and it would have hatched in 2009 or earlier based on the age at the time it was banded. It wasn’t until the next day that the original retrap card was found. It was handled once last year on May 21st, 2018 and different times in previous years.
It’s been a busy week with large school groups visiting the banding lab every day . Today, we had a group of 47 Kindergarten students for our last program of the season. We handled 55 birds today and again, good numbers of Cedar Waxwings were observed with another small ‘hit’ caught in the one net.

Banded 45
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
8 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Gray Catbird
20 Cedar Waxwing
4 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Blackburnian Warbler
1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
2 Song Sparrow
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 51 species


Retrap Card for a Blue-winged Warbler caught today. The bird was born in 2008 or earlier.

The Blue-winged Warbler that was born in 2008 or earlier.

Wilson’s Warbler

Madison extracting a waxwing and avoiding the mud

Female Blackburnian Warbler


May 31st: The End
With the unsettled weather we had all week, today was just the opposite being sunny and warm. Needless to say, it was a different day compared to the last two days with the slower pace and more retraps. A good day with different volunteers helping with the program for the last day of Spring Migration Monitoring. Highlights today included an Olive-sided Flycatcher at the front of the mansion and Liam spotted a Common Nighthawk flying around the banding lab at sunrise. Handled a total of 30 birds for the last day.

Banded 9
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Gray Catbird
1 Warbling Vireo
1 Mourning Warbler
1 Baltimore Oriole

ET’s: 58 species


Mourning Warbler

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Grand River from the Fox Den Trail

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Eastern Wood Pewee retrap, first banded as a hatch-year bird in 2014

Gray Catbird – the last bird banded for Spring 2019

Fern Hill Update

Janice and I have been enjoying our last few days of the migration season. It has definitely slowed down and for the most part the long distant migrants seem to have moved on to their breeding grounds for the season.

Wednesday May 29th we banded 7 birds with an estimated total of 37 species. We banded:
1 Lincoln Sparrow
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Common Grackle
1 Orchard Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

Friday May 31st we banded 7 birds with an estimated total of 40 species. We banded:
1 American Goldfinch
1 Lincoln Sparrow
1 Gray Catbird
1 Orchard Oriole
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Blue Jay
1 Common Grackle

May 28th – Cool & Wet…..Again

Gorgeous ASY male Indigo Bunting. -NRF

What a difference today – the weather was cool with winds from the north-east. A few of the nets located closer to the banding lab were opened and closed in-between rain showers early this morning. By mid-morning the rain held off long enough to open all of the nets and process a total of 35 birds. The school group visiting the lab today saw a nice mix of species.

Banded 18:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Cedar Waxwing
6 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
3 Indigo Bunting
1 Baltimore Oriole

ET’s: 53 spp.

May 27th – Edging Into Summer

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding. -IT

You really get the feeling now that the migration is at an end. Most of the birds we’re seeing may be long-distance migrants but they’re local breeders. Most aren’t likely to move on. In this vein it was wonderful to retrap a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that we had banded last year. We don’t catch many of these secretive birds to start with so recapturing one a year later is a treat especially when you consider that this bird spends the Winter in northern South America (maybe even as far south as northern Argentina) and crosses the Gulf of Mexico on its northward migration.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – a retrap from last year! -MAS

U. of Windsor students, Jason and Madison, are getting a great chance to learn about birds and both have banded close to 200 each. Today Madison got to realize 2 dreams: band a cuckoo (in this case a Black-billed Cuckoo) and a hummingbird!

Madison with a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird that she has just caught in the Hall trap behind her and is about to band – her first one!!

Nancy instructing Madison on how to band a hummingbird. -MAS

Measuring bill length. -MAS

Banded and ready to go. -MAS

Banded 17:
2 Black-billed Cuckoos
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers
1 House Wren
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Veery
1 Gray Catbird
1 Philadelphia Vireo
1 Magnolia Warbler
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole
2 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 59 spp.

I’ll bet you’re starting to think that all we do is eat…….a picnic with the Larks to end the morning. -DG

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Note the rufous wing panels – a good thing to look for when they’re flying and you can’t see the bill. -DG

Black-billed Cuckoo; note the brown wing panel. -MAS

Female Baltimore Oriole searching for nesting material. -IT

Purple Martin (left) and Eastern Bluebird (right); both species love to perch on the crosspieces of the martin gourd array. -iT

The feeders remain busy: female Rose-breasted Grosbeak (left); male Red-bellied Woodpecker (middle); Downy Woodpecker (right). -IT

Cedar Waxwing among the blossoms. For the past weeks small to medium-sized flocks have been moving through the area. -IT

Male Eastern Bluebird. -IT

Scarlet Tanager – this species seems to be in short supply at Ruthven this year. -IT

Fern Hill Burlington:

A very uncommon bird for the area: Clay-coloured Sparrow. -KAP

It was a beauty of a day at Fern Hill Burlington. We were catching birds throughout the day, and a really nice variety too! We caught our first ever Clay Coloured Sparrow, a real beauty. Our feeders are still busy with a variety of birds including Orioles and Goldfinches, flashy species that our students are very excited to spot and easily identified.

Young Ornithologists with a Cedar Waxwing. -KAP

Banded 21:
5 American Goldfinches
1 Tennessee Warbler
2 Yellow Warblers
1 Clay Coloured Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Trail’s Flycatcher

ASY male Orchard Oriole. -KAP

SY male Orchard Oriole. -KAP

2 Orchard Orioles
4 Cedar Waxwings

Bright male Baltimore Oriole. -KAP

2 Baltimore Orioles
1 American Robin
1 European Starling