May 2nd – Bursting The Floodgates

An unusual early arrival – a male Bay-breasted Warbler. Checking our records back to 2009 this bird has arrived between May 7th and 25th and in most years around the middle of May. This is one bird at least that has not been held up by the aberrant weather. -NRF

“Floodgate :a last restraint holding back an outpouring of something powerful or substantial.”

Migration monitoring for April felt like a slow trickle, with the weather being so cold and wet for most of the month. With the change in weather and the start of May, the floodgates for migration were opened today! It felt powerful and it was an exciting day with new migrants observed throughout the morning. Eleven new species for the season were noted either by site or call and a few of them were banded, as well. New for the season included: Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Least Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, and Bobolink. Also, we observed seven Common Loons on migration, winging their way north in the early morning.

Banded 29:

Least Flycatcher; next to the Eastern Phoebe, it is usually the first flycatcher to arrive at Ruthven. -NRF

1 Least Flycatcher
1 House Wren
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 American Robin
2 Brown Thrasher

Two brilliant male Yellow Warblers. There is a substantial breeding population at Ruthven. -NRF

2 Yellow Warbler
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Field Sparrow
5 White-throated Sparrow
3 Red-winged Blackbird
6 American Goldfinch

White Trout Lilies – a rarity…except at Ruthven where they are as common as the yellow version. -NRF

Info on the White Trout Lily…..I’ll provide the reference tomorrow.. -NRF

I love the smell of tick in the morning. -KMP

ET’s: 58 species

At Fern Hill – Oakville:

Western Palm Warbler – our first banded warbler of the migration. -KAP

We also witnessed a movement of migrants, although not as dramatic as at Ruthven or at Lowville (see following report). It was busy in another sort of way: a small but visible movement of Blue Jays; a grouping of Northern Rough-winged Swallows (which at Ruthven we see in pairs over the river); the first Eastern White-crowned Sparrows of the year and our first Green Heron, Brown Thrasher and Western Palm Warbler. However, our banding total was quite respectable…

Banded 36:
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets

Two species of kinglet: Ruby-crowned (left) and Golden-crowned. -KAP

8 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 American Robins

Our first Brown Thrasher. -KAP

1 Brown Thrasher
1 Western Palm Warbler
1 Field Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
7 Red-winged Blackbirds
5 Common Grackles
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 41 spp.

At Lowville Banding Station:
[Ben Oldfield received his banding subpermit in March. Since that time he has been running a small banding operation near Lowville, usually for a couple of hours before school or work. It’s good habitat for birds dropping down after crossing Lake Ontario.]

Today started off silent, but as the sun rose new migrants were evident. Warblers were actively dropping out of the sky after a night of migration. By the end of the morning it was evident new arrivals landed. FOY (First of Year)birds include Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Wood Thrush, Swainsons Thrush Eastern Towhee, Common yellowthroat, Nashville warbler, Black and White Warbler, Yellow warbler, Black Throated Green Warbler and Blue Headed Vireo.

Banded 16:
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Winter Wren
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Hermit Thrush
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Nashville Warbler
1 Black & White Warbler
1 White-throated Sparrow
3 Song Sparrows
3 American Goldfinches

May 1st – Little Gems

Ruddy Ducks! A rarity in the Grand River and only the 2nd sighting of the species here n 25 years. -KMP

We didn’t get a BIG influx of birds (like we’re always hoping for) but there were a number of little gems that made the day really worthwhile. It started early: opening nets in the quiet of the predawn under the light from an almost full moon I heard the first American Woodcock of the year and numerous White-throated Sparrows calling or chipping along the margins.

“Perky” male Ruddy Duck. -MMG

Female Ruddy Duck. -KMP

And then on census, in front of the Mansion, I saw the first Chimney Swift of the year – a real long-distance migrant. But t didn’t end there. Close into shore along the River we came upon 3 Ruddy Ducks! A female with 2 males. This is a duck of open bodies of water, not rivers and certainly not around Ruthven. So…a real treat.

Banded 26:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Northern Flicker
1 House Wren
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Hermit Thrushes
2 American Robins
1 Myrtle Warbler
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 Field Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
5 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 53 spp.
Photo Gallery:

Immature Bald Eagle flying up the river. -MMG

All the Canada Geese are in pairs now. -MMG

Two frogs seeking solace in each other…… KMP

Adult male Purple Martin. There were 4 martins at the nesting site today. Keep your fingers crossed. -KMP

A pair of Ruddy Ducks – highly unusual at Ruthven. -KMP

Immolation of the first tick of the year. -KMP

Singing toad. -KMP

Tree Swallow pair with nesting material. -MMG


And from Fern Hill Burlington:

Kate and Tavleen with an American Goldfinch that Nancy banded. -KAP

We knew right from the start of the day it would be a great day for migration, and really the highlight of the day was spotting new species passing through. We started the day off with a bang watching an exciting chase that included a Cooper’s Hawk, and American Crow, and a chorus of Icteridae all in hot pursuit of two Common Ravens. We counted a total of 47 species (today, including some great seasonal firsts including: Belted Kingfisher, Barn Swallows, Western Palm Warbler, and a Northern Harrier.

We handled 24 birds-14 banded of 7 species including:
1 BRTH (our first banded of the season)

White-breasted Nuthatch originally banded in 2013 by Joanne Fleet. -KAP

The Thrasher was a nice surprise-it flew into the net just as we were teaching our students to identify it’s unique repetitive call heard from the shrubs. Two interesting recaptures were a White Breasted Nuthatch originally banded in 2013 as a SY by Joanne Fleet, and an American Goldfinch banded by Nancy in September 2015.

Feather detail on the nuthatch. -KAP


April 30th – Halfway Done!

Western Palm Warbler. -KMp

It’s hard to believe….but our migration monitoring is half done. And what a lousy month it’s been weatherwise. Cold and wet. Still, we managed to band 667 birds. Of course 187 (28%) were American Goldfinches but these still count last time I looked. Goldfinches have been pouring through over the past week and today was no exception (we banded 22). However, it would be nice to be doing warblers, orioles and that sort of thing…..

Male Tree Swallow. -KMP

Female Tree Swallow -KMP

Banded 43:
2 Tree Swallows
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Western Palm Warbler
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
2 Song Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
22 American Goldfinches
1 House Sparrow (which was then moved to Stony Creek)

ET’s: 40 spp.
Photo Gallery:

Olivia with her first banded bird – American Goldfinch.

Very light Red-tailed Hawk. -KMP

Dog-toothed Violets. -KMP

Spring Beauties (amidst Dog-toothed Violet leaves). -KMP

Bloodroot. -KMP


And From Fern Hill Burlington:
Wow! What a great day!
We banded 21 birds of 7 species (no recaptures today).

White-throated Sparrow. -KAP


Janice rocked the census (as usual!) and by the end of the day we had an ET of 42 species!
Our seasonal firsts included a Spotted Sandpiper whipping past overhead, a Brown Thrasher, an Eastern Towhee, a House Wren, a Savannah Sparrow, a Myrtle Warbler, and our White throated sparrows. Most of the older students were absent today due to a track and field meet, but that provided an opportunity for some of our quieter and younger birders to have the time and space to immerse themselves in banding both at recess and during Field Studies classes. Not bad for a Monday!

Logan banding the White-throated Sparrow. -KAP

Logan releasing “his” sparrow. -KAP


April 28th & 29th – Catching Up

David Brewer will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the reception of his banding permit this year. Here he imparts his knowledge and enthusiasm to an enthralled bander-to-be. -S. Merritt

We dodged some light rain to run some nets Saturday morning and then we had Haldimand Bird Observatory’s AGM on Saturday afternoon. This made for a rewarding but pretty hectic day. It actually got off to a pretty auspicious start when, at exactly 5:58 AM, just as I started to open, I heard a tremendous crack followed by the crash of a tree falling…and then a bevy of chortling Wild Turkeys. Interestingly, on entering the park this morning, Kim heard another big tree crash down and found it across from a section of the Carolinian Traill (below Net 10). In both cases there was almost NO wind blowing to push these giants over. So what’s going on?

This tree came down on the Fox Den Trail at precisely 5:58 Saturday morning – I heard the mighty crack and ensuing crash. It’s passing was marked only by myself and a chortling flock of Wild Turkeys. -IT

The answer was hinted to me by the chortling turkeys. As most of you know, Wild Turkeys roost high up in the treetops over night. In the Spring they get pretty frisky and the young males (you know what dumb things frisky young males can get up to) all crowd onto a single big branch to see how many of them it takes to cause it to keel over. It’s sort of like “cow tipping” in certain parts of the world.

And another (much larger) tree came down this morning along the Carolinian Trail. -KAR

Although we’re still not getting much diversity, some bird species are on the move. At Ruthven it appears to be American Goldfinches; we banded 41 in two days. And we banded our first warblers: a Myrtle Warbler on the 28th and a Western Palm Warbler today. The dam is about to break!

Tessa with a lovely male Myrtle Warbler. -IT

Finding this Western Palm Warbler in the net was heart-lifting.

April 28th; Banded 37:
1 Mourning Dove
5 Ruby-crowned kinglets
2 American Robins
1 Myrtle Warbler
4 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrows
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
18 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 49 spp.

April 29th; Banded 42:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Downy Woodpecker
3 Tree Swallows
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Western Palm Warbler
1 Chipping Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow. -IT

2 Swamp Sparrows
2 White-throated Sparrows
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Brown-headed Cowbird

An irregular Spring and Fall visitor – a Pine Siskin. A few seem to move with American Goldfinches – which are pouring through right now.

1 Pine Siskin
23 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 49 spp.

Photo Gallery:
From the AGM:

Addressing the crowd. -JDF

Ontario Bluebird president, Bill Read, and David Brewer, featured speaker, sharing a moment. -JDF

Nancy, Marilynn and Marg – 3 people who make things happen. -JDF

Due to the prolonged cold wet weather we’ve had some “bogs” develop around some of the net lanes. The worst is at Net 7. Anna found a solution:

Anna working on the canal to drain the bog around Net 7. -LEO

Anna showing me her handiwork. -LEO

Male Eastern Bluebird. -E. Oneil

Eastern Phoebe, oblivious to the little kid sneaking up behind it. -E. Oneil

The pink at the base of the bill marks this European Starling as a female (if it had been blue….male). -LEO

Banded last year, this feisty House Wren has returned. -E. Oneil

The lab was a busy place on Saturday – 3 separate “stations” on the go. -LEO

Marnie showing off an American Robin for Priestly and Ann. -LEO

Sadie releasing a Myrtle Warbler. -IT

A Tree Swallow toughs out the rain. -IT