October 7th –

Male Black-throated Blue Warbler -BGO

Today started off overcast, humid, with a light mist and a wind coming out of the North. I was thinking the mist would keep migrants grounded over night but I heard a few Myrtle Warblers giving chip notes overhead at 0630, well before sunrise. These birds may have chosen to migrate over the very low cloud ceiling and take advantage of the North winds. The banding day was never busy, but net rounds were always producing some birds giving us a total of 68 birds banded. I was interested by the numbers of warblers, including long distance warblers, still hanging around like Tennessee, Black throated blue, Black throated green, Blackpoll and Nashville. We retrapped 27 birds, proving a considerable amount of birds hung round last night for another visit to the banding station! I would like to thank the great volunteers that helped out today and made the day fun. To Rick’s and Nancy’s excitement, many volunteers will have to own up to the McMaster rule and bring freshly baked goods for next time!

Banded 68:
Swainson’s Thrush – 2
Hermit Thrush – 2
American Robin – 4
Eastern Phoebe – 1
Cedar Waxwing – 2
Ruby Crowned Kinglet – 10
Golden crowned Kinglet – 3
Black capped Chickadee – 2
Myrtle Warbler – 19

Blackpoll Warbler -BGO

Blackpoll Warbler – 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler – 2

Black-throated Green Warbler -BGO

Black-throated Green Warbler – 2

Tennessee Warbler -BGO

Tennessee Warbler – 4
Nashville Warbler – 3
Northern Cardinal – 1
Chipping Sparrow – 1
White-throated Sparrow – 7
Song Sparrow – 2
Slate Coloured Junco – 1

Retrapped Orange-crowned Warbler -BGO

ET: 49 spp.
Ben Oldfield

October 6th – A Window Of Opportunity

Jaqueline with her first banded bird – Cedar Waxwing. -NRF

After a rough weathered start to the morning (early thunderstorms and rain), we had a brief respite from the rain and were able to open up some nets before it came down again. What we didn’t expect was the amount of birds we’d catch, which quickly overwhelmed the two of us. Luckily (the ailing) Rick was just a phone call away and then some awesome University of Guelph students showed up. We were able to show them how to scribe and they picked it up quickly to help us out so we were able to “fly” through the large amount of birds we had! And when things slowed down they were able to band a couple of birds as well.

For any mammalogists out there: we found this dead weasel on the trail. Is it a long-tailed or short-tailed weasel. -NRF

Nice to see that the Cedar Waxwings have arrived en masse again.
Banded 89:
2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1 Tufted Titmouse
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
8 Golden-crowned Kinglet
6 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
8 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
32 Cedar Waxwings
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Nashville Warbler
12 Myrtle Warblers
1 Song Sparrow
11 White-throated Sparrows
2 Slate-coloured Junco

Ritchie with a Cedar Waxwing. -NRF

ET’s: 34 spp.

Chirayu with a White-throated Sparrow. -NRF


October 5th – 99!

White-breasted Nuthatch (left); Red-breasted Nuthatch )right). -NRF

What do you think of when you hear the number 99? Why Wayne Gretzky of course, the Great One! Unless of course you’re tallying things up at the Ruthven banding lab in which case you think: rats! One more bird and we would have had 100 and a Big Day. And so it was at Ruthven today. Here’s Sir Sanford Fleming’s Xavier Tuson’s take on the day:

After a semi-slow day yesterday, the weather finally cooperated and brought with it clear skies (as in no precipitation, finally..), cool temperatures, and most importantly, birds! Compared to our previous best count of 68 banded, we had a total of 99 birds banded today (21 species overall, with only 11 recaptures!) making it a new record for this season.

As part of our effort to breed the next generation of ornithologists, we even had the pleasure of teaching some school children the intricacies of bird banding and bird watching. What a treat it is to see enthusiasm coming from such a young crowd. Hopefully we instilled a seed of curiosity in them that will one day bring them back to become volunteers themselves!

A net full of Cedar Waxwings. -NRF

Banded 99:
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Black-capped Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch. -NRF

1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
18 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Swainson’s Thrush
20 Cedar Waxwings
1 Tennessee Warbler
2 Orange-crowned Warbler
15 Myrtle Warblers

Western Palm Warbler. -NRF

1 Western Palm Warbler
1 Chipping Sparrow

First Fox Sparrow of the season. -NRF

1 Fox Sparrow
3 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
9 White-throated Sparrows

Eastern White Crowned Sparrows: black & white adult (left); brown & tan juvenile (right). -NRF

4 White-crowned Sparrows
13 Slate-colored Juncos
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 51 spp.

Ben with a great first round!

And at Lowville Park Banding Station, Ben Oldfield was having a pretty good day too. Here’s his take on it:
The morning started off with lots of White throated sparrows chipping, augurs well for a good day. In this case 75% of the birds were captured on the first round! Banded a total of 32 birds in 4 hours.

October 4th – Riches To Rags….And Back Again

Two Saw-whets! What a treat. -DOL

With yesterday’s invasion of migrants I thought the floodgates had opened. And when we got thunderstorms during the night with rain right up until opening I was thinking “fallout”. But it just wasn’t to be. Somehow the wheel had fallen off….again….and we had another very slow day for this time of year. (see the banding totals below)

I needed a pick-me-up and I knew just the place to go: Fern Hill’s Oakville campus. About 2 weeks ago we had stumbled across a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar quite by chance. When I brought it to the attention of the JK teachers, Ms. Lydall jumped on it and we soon had a butterfly incubator on the go. Yesterday I got word that the butterfly had emerged so I headed for the school equipped with a Monarch “tag” that Karen had given me ready to help the students send it on its way to Mexico. What a treat to watch two dozen intent faces watch the tagging process and the joy as they watched emerge from Ms. Lydall’s hands. It circled a couple of times (ostensibly to orient itself) and then headed off to the SW toward a field full of goldenrod and asters. What a treat the whole experience was.

We found this caterpillar by chance on a milkweed plant next to the playing field. Ms Lydall’s JK class took it under their wing….so to speak. -AL

Feeding well on fresh milkweed replaced daily allowed the caterpillar to grow and thrive…..and turn into a beautiful chrysalis. -AL

After 12 days of anxious waiting the adult Monarch emerged!! -A:

The butterfly got a lot of interested scrutiny. -AL

And then it was time to tag it and let it go…..on its way to Mexico. -AL

Tagged and ready to go. -AL

Riding that high I returned to Ruthven to help Nancy, Ruthven’s “Owl Lady”, in her pursuit of Northern Saw-whet Owls. The nets were open just after dusk and 2 sets of sound systems were playing. We weren’t going to put a lot of time into the evening – just “probe” to see if the owls might be back. It theoretically was a good night for it: light northerly winds; cool temperatures; and clear skies (the stars were magnificent!).

Ruthven’s “Owl Lady” with the first of the season. -DOL

We were skunked on the first net check. But we got the first one on the next check and on the third (and last) we got 2 more (and just missed another that bounced out of the net). I’m sure that if we had kept netting we would have got more. But what a great start to the season!

Our first Northern Saw-whet of the season!!! A young or HY female. -DOL

The McMaster Rule:
Mistakes should result in a benefit. The person making the mistake should learn from it and the person(s) supervising the effort should get something to……don’t you think. Years ago when Mac students first starting coming to Ruthven to learn about birds and banding we developed a policy of having the students “learn by doing” (supervised of course!). Now we know that mistakes will happen – usually in the form of a bird escaping inside the banding lab. It happens. But it should only happen ONCE. To reinforce this we came up with the McMaster Rule: one mistake/escape is forgivable but two!? There is a penalty – the next time you come you bring baked goods. This has been quite effective in limiting the number of mistakes. It has also been quite effective in bringing goodies into the banding lab. This is usually a plus….based on the ability of the baker. Due to its effectiveness we decided to generalize to all participants with good effect as you can see:

The invocation of the McMaster Rule results in: home-made cookies!

Banded 20:

Bill Read with a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. -KMP

1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
2 Tennessee Warblers
2 Nashville Warblers
1 Magnolia Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler. -KMP

2 Black-throated Green Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Song Sparrow
3 White-throated Sparrows
1 Purple Finch

Brilliant adult male Purple Finch – living up to its name. -ARM

ET’s: 45 spp.