September 15th – Hit Parade!

Went to close Net 10 and found, lo and behold, this hit of (mostly) warblers. Just one of several hits we had through the morning. -MMG

You’re not going to see many pictures in this post – we were simply too busy.

Opening at 6 AM I could see Orion almost right overhead and, more importantly, I could hear the call notes of numerous birds as they were winging their way across the sky. And then they got louder as they got lower….and lower. They would want to find a place to feed and rest before the sun came up and rendered them visible to avian predators. A LOT of them came down around Ruthven. We got good numbers of birds on all net rounds and several sizeable “hits” – mixed species feeding flocks moving through the shrubs and hitting a net or nets at about the same time. When the dust settled we had banded the highest total so far this season – 108 – with the most diversity, 31 species, 17 of them warbler species.

Banded 108:
1 Downy Woodpecker
3 Eastern Wood-pewees
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Blue Jay
2 House Wrens
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Veery
1 Swainson’s Thrush
3 Gray Catbirds
2 Philadelphia Vireos
25 Red-eyed Vireos
2 Tennessee Warblers
1 Nashville Warbler
3 Northern Parulas
1 Cape May Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warblers
8 Magnolia Warblers
2 Black-throated Blue Warblers
3 Black-throated Green Warblers
3 Blackburnian Warblers
1 Western Palm Warbler
21 Bay-breasted Warblers
3 Blackpoll Warblers
1 Black & White Warbler
1 Canada Warbler
4 American Redstarts
5 Ovenbirds
2 Common Yellowthroats
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Song Sparrow

ET’s: 59 spp.

The Pipits – cousin to the Larks. -DOL

A welcome addition to our migration monitoring team is a group now known as The Pipits – a takeoff on another group, the Larks. The Pipits have made the commitment to come out on Sunday mornings and help us do the census. The tradeoff is that while we get extra sets of helping eyes and ears, they get hands on training in birding….and having fun in an ecological setting. They certainly make the day better. Now if they could just learn how to bake……

September 14th – Moving Through

What the well-dressed bander is wearing these days. -MMG

T-storms during the night were followed by a beautiful bright full hunter’s moon which lit up the banding paths while I was opening. Yesterday’s movement continued today although not in the same huge numbers. Although we didn’t band as many (51 vs 79) we did encounter one more species on the day for an ET of 56 species. Warblers continued to provide a large part of the banding total.

Early morning flock of Canada Geese flying inland to feed. -KMP

Banded 51:
2 Eastern Wood-pewees
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 House Wren
2 Carolina Wrens
2 Veerys

First Swainson’s Thrush of the season. -KMP

3 Swainson’s Thrushes
1 Warbling Vireo
1 Philadelphia Vireo
3 Red-eyed Vireos
2 Tennessee Warblers
2 Northern Parulas
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
3 Magnolia Warblers
4 Bay-breasted Warblers
6 Blackpoll Warblers
1 Black & White Warbler
1 American Redstart
3 Ovenbirds
5 Common Yellowthroats

Female Scarlet Tanager. -ELO

1 Scarlet Tanager
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
2 Song Sparrows
2 Lincoln’s Sparrows

ET’s: 56 spp.

Faye and Nola went out hunting for Monarchs and were able to catch and tag this one (the tag is barely invisible under Faye’s finger….) -FAS

Young Red-tailed Hawk. -KMP

Karen’s Kreeping Korner:

American Lady. -KMP

Painted Lady. -KMP

Common Green Darner. -KMP

Young chipmunk looking for a way out of the buffet. -KMP


September 13th – Unsettled Weather – You Gotta Love It.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – note the tiny band.. -KMP

September 12th
It was a windy, wet day with only a few breaks in the showers. Conditions didn’t improve as the the morning progressed and any nets that were opened were quickly closed again once the showers settled in. We anticipate a good day tomorrow with winds from the east and unsettled weather conditions!

September 13th
A big day that was busy from the first net check to closing! Net rounds were always exciting with small ‘hits’ of birds in Net #2 and Net #4 located along the east side of the park. There was always a nice mix of warblers with their challenging fall plumage! Just as we were closing nets, there was a clap of thunder and a brief shower …. and when Karen and Carol arrived at Net #4, it was full of birds and I received the text ‘Help’! So, a fantastic day from beginning to end where we handled a total of 100 birds!

Banded 79
2 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Least Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher. -KMP

1 Great-Crested Flycatcher
1 Blue Jay
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 House Wren

1st Philadelphia Vireo of the season. -NRF

1 Philadelphia Warbler
20 Red-eyed Vireo
3 Tennessee Warbler
7 Nashville Warbler

Northern Parula. -NRF

2nd Northern Parula. -NRF

2 Northern Parula

Chestnut-sided Warbler. -KMP

2 Chestnut-sided Warbler
8 Magnolia Warbler

Male Black-throated Blue Warbler. -KMP

2 Black-throated Blue

Black-throated Green Warbler. -NRF

2 Black-throated Green

Blackburnian Warbler. -NRF

2nd Blackburnian Warbler. -NRF

2 Blackburnian Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler. -NRF

2 Bay-breasted Warbler
3 Blackpoll Warbler

Female Canada Warbler. -NRF

1 Canada Warbler
2 American Redstart
1 Ovenbird
3 Common Yellowthroat

Female Scarlet Tanager. -NRF

1 Scarlet Tanager

Rose-breasted Grosbeak -KMP

5 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Song Sparrow
1 American Goldfinch

Cape May Warbler. -NRF

1 Cape May Warbler

Connecticut Warbler. -NRF

1 Connecticut Warbler

ET’s: 55 species

Fern Hill – Oakville:

First banded bird of the season at Fern Hill Oakville: American Goldfinch. -DOL

The Fall season kicked off at the Oakville campus with an American Goldfinch and…..a brand new field studies room/banding lab!!!!

Katherine standing outside the brand new field studies/bird banding facility. -DOL

Looking pretty barren – the inside needs a lot of work….. -DOL

We had a reasonably busy morning between setting up the new lab, setting up nets, banding birds and tagging Monarchs.

A tagged Monarch released at Fern Hill. -KAP

Banded 18:
2 Black-capped Chickadees
3 Red-eyed Vireos
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 American Redstart
2 Song Sparrows
9 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 19spp.

September 12th – Common Nighthawks

One of at least 10 Common Nighthawks seen by Karen over Caledonia last night. -KMP

I got an urgent text from Karen last night letting me know that there was a sizeable group (10 at least) of Common Nighthawks flying around the vicinity of her house in Caledonia. Half an hour later I went out on my back porch to watch the coming thunderstorm and saw at least five flying acrobatically over the Grand River. These might have been some of the ones that Karen had spotted and they had moved downriver or….they might have been other ones. I’m hoping they were in addition to the ones that Karen had seen. This hope is based on the fact that the number of this bird has taken a significant nosedive since the 1970’s.

Common Nighthawk resting on wires during the day in York last September. -MAL

When I was kid (well before the 70’s), growing up in the east end of Hamilton, the sound of nighthawks was often the last thing I heard before falling asleep on warm Summer nights. They were common everywhere and it was a favourite pastime of mine to watch them just before dusk chasing insects high overhead or swooping toward earth only to pull up at the last minute. Some nested on the gravel roof of W.H. Ballard Public School just 2 blocks away. In those days there were many gravel roofs – tarred roofs hadn’t taken over yet. As far as I know you don’t see them in Hamilton anymore in the Summer. That sizeable breeding population just doesn’t exist anymore.

Female Common Nighthawk trying to scare us away from her nest. -RB

A look at the maps in the 2001-2005 Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas is pretty depressing. Most of the squares in southern Ontario have a little black dot in them indicating that they were present during the time of the first Atlas (1981-1985) but not in the second. Bob Curry in his Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas noted that the species was confirmed in only one atlas square in the Hamilton area. He also noted that birds migrating south have dwindled in the area from “quite large flocks” in the early 90’s to groups of just 20-38 in the early 2000’s. So the 10-15 that Karen and I saw between us might represent a significant sighting.

You don’t hear much about the migration of this bird but it’s a real long-distance migrant nesting throughout all of Canada except Nunavut and wintering in most of South America although it’s most abundant in eastern Peru, eastern Ecuador and southern Brazil. Incredible to think about!

Common Nighthawk “nest”. -RB

So what’s the problem? Like the rest of the aerial insectivores the use of pesticides and agricultural mono-cropping has, likely, decimated the insects they depend on. Simply put there’s just not enough insect food to maintain them, especially in southern Ontario. Further, nesting places down here are few and far between… more gravel roofs for one thing, to say nothing of urban sprawl. So, if you get a chance, wander down to the Grand River in the next week or so in the late evening and maybe you’ll see remnants of a once great population of a marvellous bird as it heads toward South America.