May 9th – Put Another Log On The Fire!

Male Yellow Warbler seems nonplussed by the conditions as he sings his heart out in the willow just outside the banding lab. -MMG

Wow! What weather we’ve been getting. I could have sworn that it was late November – if it hadn’t been for the migrant bird species all around. I must confess that I’ve been doing some banding but it’s been tough slogging with an ample supply of cold and wind. Hard on me and certainly hard on the birds. But as long as they can find food things will be ok. I banded 2 very different species on May 5th: Western Palm Warbler and Eastern White-crowned Sparrow. I recaptured one of each today and both had increased their weights by over 14%. The sparrow was more understandable for me as it eats seeds and we’ve had a number around the feeders taking advantage of any spillage. But the Warbler was surprise as insects seem (to me at least) to be in short supply. Evidently not that short.

It’s been a LONG time since baked good crossed the banding lab threshold but WOW! Pineapple upside-down cake – thanks Carla!. -MMG

It’s not just birds that benefit from supplemental feeding. There’s been a marked lack of baked goods at the banding lab. But the spell was broken today with this amazing cake. If I was a migrant I should be able to put in another few hundred kilometers…..
A few people have sent me pictures over the past few days and Marnie (who brought the cake and did a census) took some today. I’ll break them up into groups: earlier in the week and today:
This week

Tree blossoms and blue skies – a reminder of what May could be like….. -MMG

Mink are elusive but regular visitors at Ruthven. Last year one specialized in catching chipmunks along Rick’s Rill. -CB

Baltimore (and Orchard) Orioles are back and making their presence felt. Our grape jam feeders need filling twice a day. -DO

White-crowned Sparrows are moving through right now and finding local feeders to fatten up for the long flight to the north. -JG

Baltimore Oriole in flight. -LET

Black-capped Chickadees love black-oil sunflower seeds. -LET

Earliest of the vireos: Blue-headed Vireo. -LET

King of his domain. -LET

Chipping Sparrow. -LET

(Male – black “eyebrows”) Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. -MMG

Trilliums caught in the act – NOT practicing physical distancing. (This pic was taken in the Burlington area; Ruthven’s lone Trillium is more law-abiding.) -MMG

Chipping Sparrow. Reddish cap with black and white eye stripes: an easy sparrow to identify. -MMG

From Today:

The historic mansion obscured by a fierce snow squall. -MMG

Caspian Tern hunting. -MMG

Caspian Tern leaving the water after a miss. -MMG

The local deer have learned NOT to run into the nets – a real plus! -MMG

Eastern Kingbird braving the weather down in the river flats. -MMG

Checking the weather – our resident Eastern Screech Owl -MMG

Mother Killdeer has been benefiting from the Covid-19 shutdown – no traffic around her nest. -MMG

Male Myrtle Warbler putting in time until he can continue north. -MMG

Osprey against a blue sky – which lasted for about 10 seconds before returning to overcast with snow. Funny weather. -MMG

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Is he regretting leaving Colombia? At least at the moment. -MMG

Tree Swallows hunting along the river bank for anything they can find – likely midges. -MMG


May 4th – Roller Coaster Temperatures

Male Ruby-crowned Kinglet. -DO

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday: warm sunshine, T-shirt and shorts, picnic lunch and BBQ dinner on the deck…..and watching the orioles hit our jam feeders. This morning when I left the house early I thought I was back in early April: cold NW winds and 5 degrees – and it never warmed up past 8 degrees!

I was kind of surprised to see a migrating Common Loon this morning….for 2 reasons: first, it’s getting to be a little late for them (most have gone through already – I guess April’s lousy weather may have held some back) and, second, there was a stiff NW wind with gusts to >35 km/hour. Usually when I see them they’re really motoring, taking advantage of following winds. But this guy was labouring, the usual speed across the sky just wasn’t there. And, although his heading was NNW his actual course was NNE – the wind hitting him from the side. I’m willing to bet the house that this bird, instead of continuing straight through to Georgian Bay or Lake Simcoe, put down in Lake Ontario until better conditions will prevail.

One of the benefits of The Great Pause is that folks are concentrating on the areas right around them for birding and general nature observations. They’re seeing a wide variety of birds! And this is the time to be out looking for them – the long-distance migrants are upon us….and will be for the next 3 weeks or so. I think you’ll find that you don’t have to go to Point Pelee to see some great birds.

[Thanks to everyone that is sending me pictures. The hard thing is to decide what to post…]:

Gray Catbirds arrived back over the weekend. -AG

Yellow breast, gray head, white eye ring = Nashville Warbler. -AG

Pine Warbler. -AG

This is a great time for accipiters like this Sharp-shinned Hawk; the returning migrants must be like a buffet to them. -AG

Another bird predator: Merlin. -CB

Subtle beauty – one of my favourites: Western Palm Warbler. -AG

Western Palm Warbler. -CB

Western Palm Warbler – evidently they were all over the place….. -MMG

Goslings already! Amazing. -CAJ

A brilliant jewel: Blackburnian Warbler. -CB

Myrtle Warbler. -CB

A tough bird to find let alone photograph: Sora. -CB

Male Yellow Warbler announcing his return. -CB

(Banded) male Yellow Warbler. -MMG

Male Wood Duck…. -DO

Wood Duck pair; female on the right. -DO

Baltimore Orioles returned over the weekend; quickly discovered the feeders. -FJS

Karen’s first Baltimore Oriole of the year. -KMP

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker. -FJS

Common Grackle acting like a Red-winged Blackbird. -KMP

Male House Finch. -KMP

Female Red-winged Blackbird. They weigh only about 2/3 of their male counterparts. -KMP

Black-crowned Night Heron. -MMG

Male Black-throated Green Warbler. -MMG

Least Flycatcher. -MMG

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. -MMG

Peculiar white feathering on the back of this Rose-breasted Grosbeak. -MMG

Savannah Sparrow on a singing perch. -MMG

Song Sparrow. -MMG


May 1st – May Day

Great shot of the demise of a fish….. -CR

I would like to try and put a positive spin on this (just) past April but….I can’t….April showers brought…sure, some flowers, but also a hell of a lot of mud which I had to slog through every day. But….we’ve turned the corner and things are looking up. Today I saw 6 new species for the year: Gray Catbird, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Baltimore Oriole. (And this is on top of the Olive-sided Flycatcher I saw yesterday!) I think the next 2+ weeks are going to be awesome so try to get outside and enjoy them. You might be amazed at what you find in your backyard.

People have continued to send me photos from their various excursions into their immediate environments. So much to see locally, really locally, and one positive aspect of the “Great Pause” is that you have the opportunity to see what you’ve been missing. Thanks to everyone that contributed!

Handsome male Myrtle Warbler. -CAJ

Acting a bit like a Reddish Egret……Great Blue Heron. -CR

They certainly aren’t a handsome bird…..Turkey Vulture. (Unless, of course, you’re another Turkey Vulture.) -CR

Tufted Titmice have become commonplace in Haldimand so it seems. This bird (one of a pair) is just a little downriver from Ruthven. -FJS

Well hidden: a pair of American Goldfinches (female on the left, male on the right). -LET

Mourning Doves and a Robin. -LET

Liam is still trying to work the bugs out of his new camera……Pileated Woodpecker. (Evidently he has taken to wearing a beret and is talking of cutting off an ear….) -LET

This bird melts into the background: Brown Creeper. -MMG

A couple of fairly late Common Goldeneyes. -MMG

Brown Thrasher. -MMG

Bambi….. -MMG

Eastern Phoebe. -MMG

Mother Red Fox bringing home supper for the youngsters. -MMG

Great shot! Mother Fox clearing a fence with her meal. -MMG

Not quite May and already there are young Mallards. -MMG

Pine Warbler. -MMG

Barn Swallows are back. -WF

The coyote has become a regular part of a city’s ecosystem. -WF


April 25th – About Town

What a great shot of this Chipping Sparrow amidst flowering buds. -AG

The physical distancing requirements for dealing with this virus have resulted in a lot of folks staying close to home. But as these pictures will attest: there’s a lot of things to see in your own community – you don’t have to travel long distances.

April has been a brutal month for early migrants – for migrants generally. And storms in the American southeast have been holding things up as well. But…..I think we’re about to see the dam burst and these pictures will show a wide variety of birds.

Thanks to everyone that have sent me photos of their sightings over the past few days. I am going to try to organize them according to general habitats.

Running and open Water:

Horned Grebe in full breeding (or alternate) plumage. -AG

Male Lesser Scaup. -AG

Trumpeter Swan – complete with wing tag. -AG

Caspian Tern. -CR

Just 28 out of a flock of 61 Double-crested Cormorants over Caledonia, heading north. -KMP

Male Northern Shoveller. -MMG

Great Blue Heron on the prowl. -MMG

Mink seem to be more common in southern Ontario these days. Is it because mink coats have fallen out of fashion? -AG

Fields and meadows:

Tree Swallows taking ownership. -MMG

A swallow box makes a great hunting perch for this American Kestrel. -MMG

Swallow boxes also make great singing perches for grassland/meadow birds – like this Savannah Sparrow. -MMG

Savannah Sparrow. -WF

Tree Swallow taking ownership of a nesting box. -AG


Male Downy Woodpecker. -MMG

Goldfinches hitting the feeder. The males are getting really bright! -LET

Male Northern Cardinal checking out Karen’s backyard. -KMP

Pair of American Goldfinches at the backyard feeder. -CR

A pair of Northern Cardinals at the feeder. -AG

Common Grackle giving the owl some attitude. -LET

Forest and scrub:

Song Sparrow. -AG

Dog-tooth Violet. Yellow is their common colour but many of the ones at Ruthven are white. -MMG

Trillium – the Ontario floral emblem. -MMG

Male (black moustache) Northern Flicker in sumac. -MMG

Great shot of a male Ruby-crowned Kinglet. -MMG

A very handsome Song Sparrow. -MMG