November 2nd – Thank God It’s Pieday!!

Still warm……….. -DOL

Carol was a little late this morning….it’s a good thing we weren’t opening nets since the driving drizzle was almost hypothermic. But unlike many volunteers who manage to arrive just after the nets are open, she had a viable excuse: “I was baking a pie.” And so she had – we enjoyed the first piece still warm from the oven! It put us in such a good frame of mind that we even enjoyed hosting a horde of grade 7 students and giving them the low down on birds using a scad of retraps from the traps (where all the rich food, for them, was). Banding itself was pretty dismal (like the weather) as we only got 2 before closing up when they departed.

The census was pretty slow as well, the only excitement occurring when a Bald Eagle landed very close to a Great Blue Heron (much to the latter’s consternation as it flapped and croaked away upstream) and only 10 meters from us, hidden behind some dogwood shrubs.

Banded 2:
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco

ET’s: 19 spp.

The end of a hard day. -DOL

October 29th – November 1st – Catching Up

Two local wood nymphs – conjuring owls. -KMP

It’s been a hectic time with lots on the go. Weather conditions have been all over the map with a preponderance of wet days (except for the 30th which was clear). Long-distance migrants have almost all moved on and we’re seeing the end of the moderate-distance ones. The big flocks of Cedar Waxwings are no where to be found and the field edges that only a few days ago were alive with the early morning chips of White-throated Sparrows are now quiet. But….where are the American Tree Sparrows? They should be here now en masse but we’ve seen only a few and banded a mere 4.

The American Goldfinches have finally started to show up – both new, young birds and oldtimers. These latter we seem to get with regularity. They show up in either Spring or Fall or both, stay for awhile and then disappear only to show up again during the next migration period. They seem to have built the Ruthven feeders into their travel plans.

On the other hand…..on the evening of Hallowe’en we ran a small owl training workshop for a few of our regular banding volunteers. We thought if we could get a couple it would give them some much-needed hands-on experience. We caught 15(!) – 11 “new” ones and 4 others that we had banded within the last 10 days – I think the generally poor weather conditions may have kept them in place. Needless to say we had a great time – made even better by Irene’s baked goods and Dave’s deep-fried Lake Simcoe perch prepared in situ.

And at Fern Hill in Oakville it was mostly Black-capped Chickadees. The biggest surprise was a diminutive Red-bellied Snake we found in good condition on the 29th and an Orange-crowned Warbler that we banded today. But NO American Tree Sparrows……

October 29th:
Ruthven; Banded 35:

Lyn with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Their numbers are petering out. -KMP

2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes
1 American Robin
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
26 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 30 spp.

Young Ornithologist with a House Finch – there is a large flock at the school feeding in a burdock patch. -KAP

Fern Hill Oakville; Banded 24:
14 Black-capped Chickadees
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 American Robin
1 Northern Cardinal
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 House Finches

Red-bellied Snake – a big surprise on a cold late-October day. -KAP

The Red-bellied Snake. -KAP

October 30th; Ruthven; Banded 43:
1 Blue Jay
1 Brown Creeper

An unusually late House Wren. -KMP

1 House Wren
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
1 Fox Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
2 Swamp Sparrows
12 Dark-eyed juncos

This male goldfinch was banded as a youngster in November 2016. -KMP

18 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 34 spp.

Ginny learning how to process a bird. -RB

October 31st:
Ruthven; Banded 14:

1 Mourning Dove
3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 Northern Cardinal
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 27 spp.

The Satyr of the Sough Forest with a Saw-whet. -MMG

Ruthven; Owloween; Captured 15 Northern Saw-whet Owls/ Banded 11

One net round’s “haul”. -KMP

One of 15 Northern Saw-whets caught Wednesday night – Owloween. -KMP

Dave Maida’s breaded perch, made on the spot – yummy! -MMG

Same species but very different facial patterns. -MMG

Northern Saw-whet Owl. RF

Two banded Saw-whets getting ready to take flight. -RF

November 1st:
Ruthven; Banded 20:

4 Mourning Doves
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
7 Pine Siskins
7 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 12 spp. (observations were limited by the persistent heavy rains)

Fern Hill Oakville; Banded 12:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Downy Woodpecker
3 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
1 Dark-eyed Junco
2 House Finches

October 27th & 28th – Wet Weekend….But NOT A Washout

Canada Geese heading inland to forage. -KMP

A lot of rain fell over the course of the weekend starting Friday night. It came down steadily on Saturday but petered out on Sunday morning being mostly light drizzle until about noon and then stopping. We even got a few flakes of snow!

Buoyed by the finding of some “strange” juncos we decided that we would put out traps on Saturday which we could watch and clear quickly – birds could get a good feed but wouldn’t get soaked. As juncos come readily to traps we wanted to try and recapture some of the suspect birds so we could get a better look. We figure that there were around 8 all caught at close to the same time. On Sunday we opened traps again but also unfurled nets 1A and 2 – the “feeder nets” – when the drizzle diminished. Despite the few nets we caught a lot of birds banding 9 new birds on Saturday but handling 32 retraps and today we banded 31 but handled 64 retraps including most of the suspect birds (you can look at their pictures below and decide for yourself).

Saturday, October 27th; Banded 9:
1 Mourning Dove

AHY Blue Jay – there are still lots of jays moving through the site. -MMG

1 Blue Jay
7 American Goldfinches

Note the lovely tail on this adult goldfinch. -MMG

ET’s: 24 spp.

Karen says there’s 141 Canada Geese here…….please check. -KMP

Sunday, October 28th; Banded 31:
1 Mourning Dove
1 American Tree Sparrow

Lots of sparrows still on the move including this Fox Sparrow. -MMG

1 Fox Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
8 Dark-eyed Juncos

One of two Pine Siskins caught today. -MMG

2 Pine Siskin
15 American Goldfinches
1 House Sparrow
ET’s: 29 spp.
Junco Pictures:

For comparison: regular Dark-eyed Junco (left) and the Oregon/Cassiar/Pink-sided Junco (right). Personally, I am going with Oregon Junco…… -DOL

Dark-eyed (left) and possible Oregon (right). -DOL

Front view. Dark-eyed on the left. -DOL

Dark-eyed on left. -DOL

Samuel with the possible Oregon Junco. It has been around for 4 days now. -DOL

A “regular” adult male Dark-eyed Junco. -MMG

Another suspect junco. -MMG

Another possible Oregon/Cassiar/Pink-sided Junco – a female. -KMP

More detail. -KMP

Oregon? Cassiar? Pink-sided? Your opinion? -MMG

Another look. -MMG

CAO Marilynn Havelka was telling visitors that this was a Seattle Junco – a very specific designation indeed. -MMG

Some pictures from Thursday’s Owl Night (we caught 10 Northern Saw-whets!

One of 10 owls captured Thursday night. -CR

Long-time supporter Dorothy Smith with a Saw-whet. CR

Part of the “owl team”. RY

Marg with an owl she’s just banded. -CR

And From Fern Hill Burlington:

Burlington YO’s hard at work. -KAP

After Fern Hill Oakville’s two day and one overnight at Ruthven, it was nice to be back in Burlington with the Young Ornithologists there. The winds on Thursday and Friday brought large number of unbanded chickadees to the feeders and nets at the school; at one point 20 in one net at once! Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting a chickadee must be aware of their tenacity and feistiness, and willingness to give as good as they get, and after extracting 20 in one net round, “that chickadee feeling” had a new meaning to it.

Thursday-banded 23

Burlington birders with an adult White-crowned Sparrow. -KAP

Friday-Banded 10 ET’d 26species
RBNU-1 (an uncommon catch for us!)

Outside of bird banding in my Field Studies classes we observed one Eastern Red Backed Salamander under one of our observation boards, and found an Eastern Garter Snake, unusual to see on a colder day, but exciting for the grade eights who are working on a hibernaculum!

Exploring… just never know what you might find. -KAP

Eastern Red-backed Salamander. -KAP

Braving the late October conditions: a Garter Snake. -KAP


October 25th & 26th – A Puzzler

An “unusual” junco: Pink-sided, Oregon, Cassiar? What is your opinion? -KMP

Distinctive bib and flanks. -KMP

Chocolate saddle. -KMP

Brown primary coverts indicate a HY bird. -KMP

Note the cream-coloured undertail coverts – I’ve never seen that before in a junco. -KMP

On the 24th, with the Fern Hill Young Ornithologists and amidst a lot of birds, we handled 34 juncos, all banded as Dark-eyed Juncos. At the time we were running 3 banding “stations”, all under the supervision of an experienced bander – this way we could maximize the learning opportunities for the students. Nonetheless it was hectic at times.

On the 25th I retrapped one of these juncos and noticed that, while a junco, it was markedly different than any Dark-eyed Junco I had seen before in southern Ontario. Karen got lots of pictures of it and since then we have been trying to get a reliable identification of it. If you have an opinion (that you can back up), I’d like to hear from you.

The last two days have been much quieter, both in terms of numbers and of variety. No more wheeling flocks of Cedar Waxwings or the myriad chips of White-throated Sparrows from the meadow and shrubbery at opening. Things are definitely winding down. On the other hand, Northern Saw-whet Owls continue to move through in good numbers.

October 25; Morning – Banded 68:
1 Downy Woodpecker
7 Golden-crowned Kinglets
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
4 Hermit Thrushes
5 Cedar Waxwings
2 Northern Cardinals
3 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
10 Dark-eyed Juncos
10 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Purple Finch
22 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.

Evening; Banded 9 Northern Saw-whet Owls.

Another first that I simply chanced upon: Orange-marbled Orb Spider -KMP

October 26th; Banded 36:
1 Mourning Dove
3 Hermit Thrushes
1 American Robin
4 Cedar Waxwings
2 Fox Sparrows
3 Song Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
12 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 36 spp.

Be on the lookout!

Male Evening Grosbeak. It’s been quite a while since we saw these big “goldfinches” at Ruthven but there are reports of them recently in southern Ontario. Keep your eyes open! -FJS

Female Evening Grosbeak -FJS