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…..you 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


October 23rd & 24th – The Dust Has Settled!

Fern Hill Oakville’s Young Ornithologist getting ready to “camp out” in the Coach House. -KAP

Sometimes, when you start something, you just never know where it might lead. When Joanne Fleet started the field studies program at Fern Hill Burlington I’m not sure she envisioned at first the development of a keen group of “Young Ornithologists”. But she saw the wisdom of doing so early on and then passed this on to Katherine Paveley when she assumed the reins of the program when Joanne left. Katherine was instrumental in cloning the program at the Oakville campus. The great thing about the school is its flexibility to put students into specialized situations that will maximize their learning in areas of great interest.

For the past two days Oakville’s Young Ornithologists have been at Ruthven learning as much as they could about birds and bird study, including banding and censusing. “Camping out” in the Coach House allowed them to spend a full day banding and then stay up late enough to do some owling…..and then get up early to spend another morning opening nets, doing net rounds, banding and scribing. Whew! Quite an exercise in experiential learning.

The students were pretty tired when they left. And we were pretty tired by the time we completed the paperwork and data input – but if you want kids to learn, this is the way to go.

And the birds co-operated! we handled 155 on the 23rd (90 banded and 65 retraps), 5 Saw-whets at night, and another 115 on the 24th (62 banded and 53 retraps): 155 banded in 2 days. That’s a LOT of learning!

October 23rd (daytime); Banded 90:

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker…..and Sonali -DOL

1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 White-breasted Nuthatch

Samuel with his “spirit bird” – a Brown Creeper. -KAP

1 Brown Creeper
1 House Wren
1 Winter Wren

For comparison: House Wren (left) and Winter Wren (right). -DOL

7 Golden-crowned Kinglet
6 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
5 Hermit Thrushes
2 Myrtle Warblers
1 Northern Cardinal
6 Chipping Sparrows
3 Song Sparrows
3 White-throated Sparrows
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
22 Dark-eyed Juncos
7 Purple Finches
1 House Finch
19 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 47 spp. (including 2 Snow Geese!)

Math teacher (and budding Young Ornithologist….well, maybe not so young….) Chris Hincks with a Northern Saw-whet he has just banded. -KAP

October 23rd (night); Banded 5 Northern Saw-whet Owls:

Chasing midnight…but still lots of smiles. And why not? We were catching Saw-whets! -DOL

October 24th; Banded 62:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
3 Brown Creepers
6 Golden-crowned Kinglets
5 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes
5 American Robins
2 Northern Cardinals
1 Field Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow

Dark-eyed Juncos have arrived en masse. -DOL

13 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Purple Finch
1 Pine Siskin
14 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 43 spp.


Sabriyya with a junco (one of many that we banded over the two days. -DOL

Have pliers will travel. Janice Chard. JDF

Katherine doing some teaching. -JDF

Rasha with a Dark-eyed Junco that she’s just banded. -DOL

3 owls; 3 banders: Stefan, Sonali, Samuel. -DOL

A foreign retrap – sporting a band that isn’t one of ours. -KMP

Ella with a White-breasted Nuthatch. -KAP

David Brewer, a wonderful “bird resource”, checking out an owl. -KAP

Ella with a Saw-whet she has just banded. -KAP

Elliot with one of many American Goldfinches we banded. -KAP

Ella showing a grade 2 student (also from Fern Hill) how to hold a bird in a “bander’s grip”. -KAP

Stefan getting some expert training on how to handle an owl from Nancy. -KAP

And the training paid off: Stefan with an owl he’s just banded. -KAP


October 22nd – A Quick Summary Of Today’s Results

(From Saturday) Doing the census is a good way to get a sense of birds moving along the river. -D.Ciiona

Busy day…..busy night! so here’s a quick summary for the day. (Actually it started last night when Nancy and Allison banded 3 Northerv Saw-whet Owls. And, by the way, the next public owling night will be this Thursday starting around 7:45.)
Banded 112:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Winter Wren
4 Golden-crowned Kinglets
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
4 Eastern Bluebirds
7 Hermit Thrushes
13 Cedar Waxwings
1 Tennessee Warbler
8 Myrtle Warblers
2 Northern Cardinals
1 Chipping Sparrow
5 Fox Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
5 White-throated Sparrows
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
27 Dark-eyed Juncos
4 Purple Finches
1 Pine Siskin
22 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 45 spp.