May 26th – Nearing The End

Our fight against Garlic Mustard (in certain areas) is resulting in some nice stands of wild flowers. -MMG

Beautiful day but slow birding/banding. Very few warblers around and variety, generally, was down (only 59 species for ET’s). This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, we’ve been at it for 56 days and most migrants should have moved through. Still, it’s a little….sad. I firmly believe that you’re given only so many migrations and this particular one is drawing to a close.

Jeff MacLeod passed on this very interesting article (see below). We sometimes think that migration is a pretty “doable” thing for birds but, in reality, it is fraught with dangers: adverse winds, rain storms, heat, poor body condition setting out, predators. And some birds (sometimes many birds depending on those conditions above) just don’t make it. One large obstacle that many birds cross is the Gulf of Mexico and it seems that enough birds don’t make it, consistently from year to year, with the result that Tiger Sharks have adapted to the phenomenon, having their young in exposed stretches but fairly close to the shore so that they can take care of (i.e., eat) the bonanza of birds that end up in the water. Check it out.

Banded 18:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
3 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers
1 Least Flycatcher
1 White-breasted Nuthatch

Wood Thrush -JWC

1 Wood Thrush
2 Gray Catbirds

Warbling Vireo. -JWC

1 Warbling Vireo
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Mourning Warbler
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Baltimore Oriole (#113)
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 59 spp.

For comparison: Philadelphia Vireo (left) and Warbling Vireo (right). -MMG

Nola with a hummingbird. -MMG

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. -MAS

Wild geranium (I think). -MMG

Although I’m sure many Canada Goose nests got wiped up by multiple floods on the Grand River, some obviously made it. There are 17 goslings in this group. (This is likely a combined group of goslings from several parents.) -CAJ

Sort of a surprise: 2 male Common Mergansers on the river. -MMG

Muskrat on the river. These used to be trapped for their fur. -MMG


May 25th – Rain Delay

Blue Jay caught shortly before the storm – note the dark clouds in the background. -JWC

Mother Nature is a capriciaous b@#&h. Any deity with the slightest bit of humanity would have started the thunderstorm at 4:30 AM when my alarm goes off. I could simply shut it off and roll over for another one or two hours of sleep. But no….she holds off until I get there and get a couple of nets open before opening the skies for a thunderous deluge, complete with chain lightening. But I know about her tricks. I opened only a few nets and we were able to get them all closed before the rain really hit. In the hour or so that they were open we even caught a few birds. For the next hour and a half the storm swept through and then it cleared and we reopened for a couple of hours.

As well as getting some “new” birds to band, we also got some interesting old birds – retraps banded in previous years:

This Blue-winged Warbler was banded on May 21st, 2015 as a SY bird meaning it was hatched in 2014 – making it 5 years old. It hadn’t been encountered since then. -MAS

Hatched….and banded….in 2014, this male Downy Woodpecker is 5 years old. It has been encountered here many times – this is home. -MAS

Just think of what that Blue-winged Warbler has seen/experienced on its 5 trips to and from Central America!

So many birds have come all this way to nest. And Brown-headed Cowbirds have been waiting for them so they can deposit their eggs in the migrants’ nest and have them raise young cowbirds – often to the great detriment of the host bird’s own young. We have been asked to look for evidence of this “nest parasitism”. Nancy found a new nest with a cowbird egg in it. We’re not sure of what species built it. Chipping Sparrow? Yellow Warbler? Just not sure.

Cowbird egg in a new nest – not sure what kind. -NRF

Banded 19:
2 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 Least Flycatcher
1 Blue Jay

Striking male Cedar Waxwing. -MAS

1 Cedar Waxwing

Note the “waxy” tips on the tail. -MAS

1 Philadelphia Vireo
3 Red-eyed Vireos

This tiny 10th primary feather indicates that this Red-eyed Vireo is an ASY bird. -MMG

1 Blue-winged Warbler

Female Blackpoll Warbler. In the Fall both males and females will look like this….fun. -MMG

1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Mourning Warbler

Another male Mourning Warbler. -MMG

1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Song Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow

Two male Orchard Orioles: SY (second year) bird on the left; ASY (after second year) bird on the right. -MAS

1 Orchard Oriole
2 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 66 spp.

May 24th – Picnic!

Picnic!! -RF

As I have tried to impress upon all of you, a banding lab runs on its stomach, much like Napolean’s armies. Many of you have taken this to heart and brought a wide assortment of goodies. Not only does the food fuel our energy reserves but food seems to bring people together and helps generate a warm atmosphere – making the banding lab an even better place to be. Thanks!! Dave Maida decided we were long overdue for a picnic….and he was right. So he advertised he was doing one of his famous fish fries and invited others to jump in: Irene brought an assortment of her splendid baking, Carol came with her famous rhubarb pie (complete with thick meringue), Laura kicked in a wide array of veggies with dip (perfect for the only vegetarian), and so it went. But it was Dave that contributed the lion’s share: fresh fried perch (caught when ice-fishing on Lake Simcoe), venison sausage (from a hunting foray), bacon-wrapped grouse (from another foray), macaroni salad with tuna (that I had caught in the Grand River). What a wonderful time! If you weren’t there….you really missed out. But feel free to start another one. I will readily contribute my appetite.

Lots of great food and interesting conversation among friends. -RF

Fortunately Irene’s “Death by Chocolate” dessert was non-fattening…… -RF

Although the season is winding down we still banded a good number of birds with great variety – 24 species. And for the day we encountered 71 species! Well….maybe 72 if you count the PEACOCK that Dave saw (and got a video of) on the far side of the river while he was doing the census.

Bob Fotheringham sent some pictures to show that orioles aren’t the only species that can be attracted to feeders with grape jelly and oranges slices:

The Fotheringhams got this male Black-throated Blue Warbler at their oriole feeder! -RF

The Fotheringhams also found that the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were interested in the oranges. -RF

Banded 42:
3 Traill’s Flycatchers
1 Eastern Kingbird
1 Blue Jay
1 Wood Thrush
6 Gray Catbirds
1 Philadelphia Vireo
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Nashville Warbler
3 Yellow Warblers
3 Chestnut-sided Warblers
2 Magnolia Warblers

Two female Blackburnian Warblers showing considerable variability in the intensity of the orange on their breasts. -MAS

2 Blackburnian Warblers
1 Bay-breasted Warbler

Female Canada Warbler. -MAS

2 Canada Warblers
1 Mourning Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
3 Wilson’s Warblers

Indigo Buntings: male on the left, female right. -MAS

2 Indigo Buntings
1 Song Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 Baltimore Orioles
2 Orchard Orioles
2 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 71 spp.

May 23rd – Dancing Around the Rain

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

We opened just after 5. At that time the skies were largely clear (the waning moon was quite visible in the western sky) but there was a cloud bank to the West – a fast moving cloud bank as it turned out. By the time Dave started the census (around 6:30) the sky was half covered and ominous clouds were rising in the distance. The weather/rain map showed the rain holding off until around 9:30….and it was right! But then a thunderstorm hit and it teemed down. Fortunately we had most everything closed down and prepared to sit it out. The rain map showed it passing by 10:30 and it was…almost….right. When it did pass we opened a few of the nets for another 2 hours.

Look at the bill of this big male grackle – a predator’s bill. And it can do a number on your fingers…… a retrap from last year. -JWC

We weren’t catching big numbers but we did get a few nice birds, especially a male Mourning Warbler, which is one of my favourites. Although generally a more northern nesting bird, I have found small nesting groups within 2 kilometers of Ruthven.

For a couple of years we have been collecting ticks from birds for John Scott, a researcher at the University of Guelph. (He’s the only person I know that gets positively excited about getting ticks!) We seem to be finding an inordinate number of parasitized birds this year. I don’t know if there’s more tick infestations or we’re just getting better at finding them. A couple of the birds today were carrying multiple ticks – House Wren with 3 and a Common Yellowthroat with 8!

3 ticks removed from the House Wren. -MAS

Banded 29:
1 Tree Swallow
1 Blue Jay

Tick above the eye of this House Wren. -MAS

1 House Wren
1 Eastern Bluebird
3 Gray Catbird
1 Red-eyed Vireo
3 Yellow Warblers

Chestnut-sides Warbler. -MAS

2 Chestnut-sided Warblers

For comparison: Magnolia Warblers – female on the left; male on the right. -MAS

6 Magnolia Warblers
2 American Redstarts

Mourning Warbler. -MAS

1 Mourning Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat

Male Wilson’s Warbler. -MAS

3 Wilson’s Warblers
1 Song Sparrow
1 Baltimore Oriole (bringing our total to 110)
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 64 spp.