May 14th – A Damp/Dark Morning

It was a damp / dark morning with a light misty rain. To open or not to open … that was the question. Was the rain going to stop or just settle in? A check with the radar and it showed a break in the weather but it never really cleared or warmed up very much. It was a quiet morning for bird activity and song. So much water laying around the banding lab, with the banding lanes ‘deep’ in mud. In total we handled 53 birds!

Banded 18:
1 Least Flycatcher
2 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
2 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 White-crowned Sparrow
5 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 55 species

Fern Hill School Oakville:

Two Wood Thrushes. -KAP

We were faced with the same conditions and the same question. We decided to open and it proved to be a good decision as the drizzle tapered off fairly early in Oakville (although the chill remained until the afternoon). As I have been at Ruthven the past couple of days, so I was struck at Oakville by the lack of warbler/bird activity along the edges – so much unused habitat! Not sure what’s going on.

Banded 35:
1 Black-capped Chickadee

Ella with one of the two Red-breasted Nuthatches we banded today. -KAP

2 Red-breasted Nuthatches
1 Wood Thrush
3 American Robins
1 Gray Catbird

Beautiful ASY male Black-throated Blue Warbler. -KAP

1 Black-throated Blue Warbler

Western Palm Warbler. -KAP

1 Western Palm Warbler
1 Black & White Warbler
1 Ovenbird
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Northern Cardinal

Sam with a Lincoln’s Sparrow. -KAP

2 Lincoln’s Sparrows

One of 11 White-crowned Sparrows banded today at Fern Hill. -KAP

11 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
4 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Common Grackle
3 Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles have just arrived in the vicinity of the school. -KAP

ET’s: 41 spp.


Banding report – Munro Academy, Balls Creek, NS – Update from Jeff MacLeod

Ten years ago I moved away from Ontario, and unfortunately my opportunities for bird banding have been more limited since my move. I did some banding of Hermit Thrush for a research project and have travelled back to Ontario regularly to visit Ruthven, but nothing quite as consistent as when I lived near Ruthven. Recently, I’ve moved to Cape Breton and my daughter has been attending a small private school, Munro Academy, since our move. It turns out the school is near some reasonable habitat for setting up mist nets, so this spring I’m trying to see whether banding at the school with the elementary children (the only age on this campus) could be a realistic endeavour. I’ve been out a few days this month, never arriving all that early, and the days have been productive despite my sloth. Today’s (May 14) effort was somewhat impromptu, as I opened the net planning on a few minutes and didn’t get to close it for 1.5 hours, capturing nearly 30 birds in that time. I even ended up doing an unplanned banding demo with the kids at recess, as I was still banding at that time. So, it seems that banding at this location will be viable, and the plan is to start weekly before-school banding and occasional banding with classes.

Spring in Cape Breton arrives behind spring in Southwestern Ontario. While Ruthven is capturing a variety of warblers, many of our warblers are just beginning to arrive. Our nights have still been cold, below zero last night, and it has often been rainy and windy. On May 5 I heard a Yellow-rumped Warbler around the banding area, but that is the only warbler of the year so far for me. As you’ll see below, we’re catching a lot of birds attracted to feeders.

I currently have one net setup at the school, but am planning to cut another net lane for a second. I have feeders setup around this single net, and they draw in many birds (mostly finches). The current net and the planned net are around a baseball field that is behind the school. I’ve included a few pictures of the area around the net and a map that shows the school and ball field from google maps. The net is close to the green ballfield pin on the map. Wish us luck!

May 4, 2019 – 33 banded, 2 retraps – Net open 2.5 hours starting at about 7am
5 Black-capped Chickadee
3 Dark-eyed Junco
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
2 Pine Siskin
1 Savannah Sparrow
17 American Goldfinch
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Song Sparrow
2 Hairy Woodpecker

May 5, 2019 – 20 banded, 6 retraps – Net open 2.5 hours starting at about 7:30am
10 American Goldfinch
3 Purple Finch
1 Dark-eyed Junco
6 Pine Siskin

May 14, 2019 – 27 banded, 1 retrap – Net open 1.5 hours starting at about 8:50am
2 Black-capped Chickadee
7 Pine Siskin
2 Dark-eyed Junco
1 Purple Finch
12 American Goldfinch
3 White-throated Sparrow

My daughter with a Pine Siskin

Pine Siskins will set up shop and breed when they have a good food source, even if it is still too cold/early for many birds to breed. This female Pine Siskin had a brood patch, and I watched a fledgling siskin begging for food beside a feeder the a few days ago. Yes, that is bird poop on my finger.

We don’t have bands or pliers for the big birds, like Jays, so this guy got away without a souvenir.

The net lane. There are feeders on either side.

My daughter with a White-throated Sparrow

The area around the net

The area around the net


Jeff MacLeod

May 13th – Swingin’ With The Swallowtail Sisters!

The Swallowtail Sisters!! -DOL

It was a pretty dreary start to the morning: misty drizzle and cold NE winds. But Eila and Nola – the Swallowtail Sisters (their actual stage name) – took a chance on the elements and joined us for some banding. When the drizzle tapered we opened a number of nets and started catching. When I did the census I was struck by how few birds there were in the woods; so much habitat but so little used. Where are all the birds!? During census I saw only 4 warblers. But we were catching other things, especially orioles. The 7 Baltimore Orioles we banded raises our total now to 61, 10 above the previous record. And the 3 Orchard Orioles puts us up to 12 for the season, just 4 shy of our record. How come there’s so many orioles around!?

Eila with her violin. -DOL

Nola is all concentration. -DOL

But I think the highlight was the impromptu concert put on by Eila and Nola, two young but very accomplished violinists/fiddlers. We have witnessed some pretty good musical acts in the banding lab (Alessandra’s and Ezra’s renditions of popular muiscals come to mind) and this one ranks right up there with the best of them. And in return we were able to give the girls direct access to most of the birds we handled. It was a good trade.

And with one of 7 Baltimore Orioles she helped band this morning. -DOL

Nola with a White-crowned Sparrow she’s just processed. -DOL

Banded 33:
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
4 Gray Catbirds
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Northern Parula
2 Yellow Warblers
1 Common Yellowthroat
7 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
7 Baltimore Orioles
3 Orchard Orioles
4 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 50 spp.
Pictures from today:

One of the 7 Baltimore Orioles we banded today bringing our total to 61 – a new record! -ELO[/caption[caption id="attachment_16977" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Male Black & White Warbler. -ELO

Blue-headed Vireo. -ELO

Yellow-throated Vireo with yellow “spectacles”. -ELO

The Jason “style” of banding aggressive birds: give them something to latch onto besides your finger. -ELO

Geezer and Nola with a pair of Baltimore Orioles (female on the left, male on the right). -ELO

Lovely ASY male Orchard Oriole. -ELO

A pair of Tree Swallows looking for Spring. -ELO

For comparison: female (left) and male Yellow Warblers. -ELO

Photos from May 11th – International Migratory Bird Day (thanks to Irene Turjansky):

Caleb helping a visitor to experience a bird. -IT

White-crowned Sparrows are still hanging around. -IT

The feeders have been seeing a lot of action as birds maintain body condition through these unseasonably cold days. Red-bellied Woodpecker (top); American Goldfinch (middle); and Rose-breasted Grosbeak (bottom). -IT

Kim watching as Laura enjoys a beautiful male Baltimore Oriole. -IT

Madison with an Indigo Bunting and female Yellow Warbler. -IT

Myrtle Warbler. -IT

Nancy put on a display banding this male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. -IT

Young (SY) male Orchard Oriole: has the lime green colouring of a female but with a black bib. -IT

May 12th – Between Rains

What an ugly day! Raw NE wind, 8 degrees, and rain. Slept for an extra hour before heading over to the banding lab. We did a census in the rain and then, when the showers eased off, opened most of the nets. We were able to keep them open for 2 hours before the “rain” – now a penetrating drizzle – started up again. Aerial insectivores will be hard put to find sustenance on a day like today.

The census was unremarkable at best. Warblers were few and far between; must be hunkered down, conserving energy; and there was little action over/along the river. We did turn up the first Tennessee Warbler of the year though.

Banded 24:
1 Least Flycatcher
1 Blue Jay
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Veery
1 Swainson’s Thrush (1st of the year)
1 Gray Catbird
1 Yellow-throated Vireo
4 Yellow Warblers
5 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Field Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
2 Baltimore Orioles (bringing our total to 54 – 3 over the previous record of 51 banded last year)
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 55 spp.

May 11th – Warbler Time

Eastern White-crowned Sparrow. -DW

It’s that almost magical time of the year when the long-distance migrant warblers work their way through southern Ontario. Twenty-five percent of the birds we banded today were warblers and we saw 13 species in the course of the morning. A great way to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day.

Retrapped male Orchard Oriole. It was banded by Jeff MacLeod in May 2014. As it was in at least its third year at that time, it would be 7 years old….or more…at the time of the retrap. -NRF

Banded 55:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Least Flycatcher
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 House Wren
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Wood Thrush
1 American Robin
3 Gray Catbirds
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Nashville Warbler
5 Yellow Warblers
1 Myrtle Warbler
2 Black & White Warblers
2 Ovenbirds
2 Common Yellowthroats
7 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

ASY male Indigo Bunting. -MAS

1 Indigo Bunting
1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
10 Baltimore Oriole
3 Orchard Oriole
3 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 70 spp.

Liam releasing one of 10 Baltimore Orioles we banded today. -AT

Chestnut-sided Warbler. -DW

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird -AT

Nashville Warbler -DW


[Ben Oldfield has set up a small banding station in Lowville which he runs when he’s not working. As you can see, he can be pretty effective.]
Yesterday I was able to band for an hour with just a few nets. The weather kept birds low and in numbers. Below are some of the warblers I banded:

ASY male American Redstart. -BGO

Male Black & White Warbler -BGO

Male Bay-breasted Warbler -BGO

ASY male Black-throated Blue Warbler -BGO

Male Black-throated Green Warbler -BGO

Nashville Warbler -BGO

Ovenbird. -BGO

Western Palm Warbler. -BGO

Ben Oldfield