May 31st – The Fat Lady Has Sung

Red-eyed Vireo gleaning the underside of the leaves. -MMG

Yes, her dulcet tones reverberated over the banding area as we took down the nets at the end of the morning. It’s time. Most of the migrants have passed through. Continuing to band would only interfere in nesting – keeping females from their nests/eggs. It’s necessary to let them concentrate on the major job at hand – continuing their gene pool – and for us to rest up and begin to plan for the Fall season. (It might seem a long way off at the moment but it will be upon us before you know it.)

Net-opening time is accompanied by the “dawn chorus”. It’s interesting how the makeup of the birds generating it change as the season progresses. Today there were the usuals (robins, song sparrows, titmice, etc.) but they’ve been joined by the long-distance nesters: cuckoos, wood-pewees, vireos (red-eyed, warbling, and yellow-throated), and Indigo Buntings. It was even so quiet this morning that I heard Blue-winged Warblers! Usually I don’t pick them up – age or something….hardening of the ear drums…..

We ended up banding 1,675 birds of 90 species. Although our April was terrible (over 200 birds below the 10-year average – 489 vs 693), both the May (1,186) and overall total were above the 10-year average (1,120 and 1,622 respectively).

The most noticeable thing that was missing was the camaraderie from the gathering of like-minded individuals enjoying the birds, the migration and each other. I’m not sure this is going to change quickly but it will eventually and I think it’s important to try and keep things going in a limited way until there are improvements.

Banded 18:
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
2 House Wrens
3 Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings continued to move into and around the site – still migrating. -ELO

1 Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo. -ELO

4 Indigo Buntings

Female Indigo Bunting. -MMG

1 Eastern Towhee

A pleasant surprise – a male Eastern Towhee. The 2nd one we’ve banded this Sparing. -DO

1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 57 spp.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. -MMG

Black-billed Cuckoo. -MMG

The Purple Martin colony seems to be doing well; we’re seeing 16+ birds daily now. -ELO

There are still some hangers-on; in this case a male Chestnut-sided Warbler. -KV

Columbine in Carol’s Garden. -MMG

We’re seeing deer almost every day. The lack of people on site seems to have made them less wary. -MMG

Red Fox patrols the far side of the river. We are seeing them there regularly. -MMG

There’s no question: Purple Martins prefer the “gourds” to the metal boxes. -MMG


May 30th – The End?

Hey! What’s goin’ on? -KMP

Is the migration over? They say nothing’s over till the fat lady sings…. She wasn’t singing today but you could hear her humming in the background. Almost all the migrants that breed further north have passed through and the migrants that intended to nest here are…here and well into nest building and about to lay eggs (if they haven’t already started).

The Baltimore Orioles didn’t waste any time on their return but got right into the business of reproducing. This brand new nest is ready to go. -KMP

As is usual at this time of year, the banding numbers have dropped off and the species variety has declined (although we’re still catching some neat birds and our species count today was a respectable 61).

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the Killdeer eggs hatched and the parents spent a couple of days ushering the four chicks around the parking lot. Yesterday morning I watched as the parents began to move them down to the river – a time fraught with danger and anxiety (the latter for me especially). In the past the adults have (wisely to my way of thinking) lead them via the meadow trails and then the banding lanes at Net 8 and the owl lanes to the river. This year they chose a curious route: through the long grasses and shrubs between nets 4 and 4C down to the stream, Rick’s Rill. I think they would follow the stream down to the Grand. This is NOT a good route as they would be very visible to the many predators along the way: racoons, mink, raptors, crows, jays. Also, the stream is not clear-flowing – it is often blocked by tree debris. So this morning when two adult Killdeer returned to the parking lot I wondered if these were the parents about to try again….

Two Killdeer returned to the parking lot this morning. Are they “new” or does this signal that their young ones didn’t survive the journey to the river? -RD

On a more positive note, the Purple Martin colony seems to be catching on. We counted 19 birds there just the other day and there were at least 16 this morning. They are building nests. This is interesting in itself: the birds fly SW from the colony and then return some time later from that direction carrying nesting material. I would love to know where (and how far) they’re going to get this.

After some very anxious moments in the cold days of April and early May when we wondered if the Purple Martin colony would return, it is gratifying to count somewhere between 16 and 20 individuals now most of which are busy gathering nesting material. -HV

We were able to confirm the presence of both cuckoo species at Ruthven this morning:

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – note the reddish wing panel. -KMP

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Another good distinguishing mark is the large white spots in the tail. -RD

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s reddish wing panel can be seen as a good distance and is a great distinguishing mark. -KMP

Black-billed Cuckoo; note the drab brown wings compared to a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. -KMP

Banded 25:
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
2 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers
2 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
1 House Wren
3 Gray Catbirds
8 Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings have returned en masse in just the last several days. Our count of 50 today was quite likely too low. -KMP

2 Red-eyed Vireos

Red-eyed Vireo letting me know his displeasure….. -HV

1 American Redstart
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Song Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 61 spp.
Other Photos:

Turkey Vulture. -RD

Warbling Vireo; quite a nondescript bird but a marvellous singer. -RD

Female Baltimore Oriole. -RD

Eastern Wood-pewee singing (and hawking insects) from the understory. -KMP


May 28th – Drawing Down

Killdeer chick. A happy result of Covid-19 – the parking lot where the adult had her nest was little bothered by traffic. -HV

It’s feeling like Summer: heat and almost no new migrants moving through. I had to work hard to squeeze the 14 birds out of the bushes for banding. To make up for this lack, Yellow-billed Cuckoos flitted about the site giving us good views every now and again. And Red-eyed Vireos and Eastern Wood-pewees are calling now in good numbers – another sign that Summer is here.

One of at least four Yellow-billed Cuckoos that were around the site this morning. -HV

Banded 14:
2 Traill’s Flycatchers
2 Gray Catbirds
4 Red-eyed Vireos

We’ve been getting Red-eyed Vireos in just the past few days. -HV

3 Yellow Warblers
1 Indigo Bunting

Brilliant male Indigo Bunting. -HV

1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole (pushing the record to 121)

ET’s: 55 spp.

Anxious parent with one of four chicks. -HV

Check local hayfields to find Bobolinks. -MMG

A young (SY) male Common Yellowthroat signalling his territory limits. -HV


May 27th – New Record!

Male Baltimore Oriole taking advantage of flowering trees. -MMG

This female Baltimore Oriole is gathering dandelion ‘fluff’ for her nest lining. -MMG

Records are made to be broken….so it’s said. But after banding 117 Baltimore Orioles last year, 66 more than we had ever banded before n a single season, I thought that record was pretty safe. Sort of like Wayne Gretzky’s hockey scoring records. But as of yesterday we were actually tied. Surprisingly there wasn’t much action at the oriole jam feeder this morning; the birds are getting down to the serious stuff – building nests and raising young, the reason they make the long trek from Central America in the first place. By closing time we hadn’t caught a “new” (i.e., unbanded) oriole. When we went to close nets 1 & 1A we found 3! This pushed the record to 120!

SY-Male Baltimore Oriole – breaking the banding record of 117 set last year – this is #118. -DOL

This SY-Female extended the BAOR banding record to 120! -DOL

Otherwise it was a pretty bland, one might almost say boring, morning with net rounds carried out in ever-increasing heat. The one BIG surprise was the Great Egret that Liam saw when doing census. It was flying south down the river.

Banded 19:
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Traill’s flycatcher
1 House Wren
1 Gray Catbird
1 Cedar Waxwing

Black chin and wide yellow terminal tail band indicate that this Cedar Waxwing is a male. -MMG

1 Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo. -MMG

3 Yellow Warblers
6 Indigo Buntings
1 Song Sparrow
3 Baltimore Orioles

ET’s: 52 spp.
Other Pictures:

American Robin on sumac – a good food source during hard times. -MMG

Black-capped Chickadees at Ruthven have become very quiet and hard to find – must be sitting on eggs. -MMG

Although we banded only 1 Cedar Waxwing today we counted at least 90 – they are arriving back in swarms. -MMG

Mallard ducklings – the same ones on the blog from a couple of weeks ago. They’re growing fast. -MMG