September 15th & 16 – Standing At The Crossroads

Two generations of Cedar Waxwings -B. Fotheringham

It’s been a busy weekend for me – I banded (of course) both Saturday and Sunday mornings but I also was the Ruthven “presence” at a wedding in the Coach House; Ruthven has someone on site to make sure everything runs smoothly and….appropriately. And Saturday night it was me (just think of me as “Mad Dawg Security”). So…I didn’t get Saturday’s blog done. Instead I sat outside and watched the stars ease their way across the sky, thought deep thoughts and mused on the state of the world and my place in it. Occasionally I could hear the call notes of migrants high overhead. I wonder what they thought (assuming they were thinking) when they saw the bright lights blazing in the parking lot in an otherwise pretty dark landscape, and heard the thumping of the bass emanating from the building. Beautiful conditions and birds were taking full advantage of them. The cold temperatures with its associated drop in insect prevalence would add some urgency to the flight for many species.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1st of the season. -B. Fotheringham

But we’re at an interesting junction: the long-distance migrants are starting to dwindle and the short-distance ones are just starting to arrive. I was going to announce that one of these latter, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, made its first appearance today, when I noticed that Bob Fotheringham had caught one on film yesterday (is ‘film’ the right word now in this digital age?). But I saw my first one today. These will soon be joined over the next several weeks by thousands more which we’ll tap into in good numbers. As well, although we’ve caught single White-throated Sparrows over the last couple of days, today we banded 5 and there were quite a few more calling along the edges this morning as I was opening the nets – we will also catch a lot of these – but they are starting to arrive en masse.

One of 5 White-throated Sparrows banded this morning.

And with the coming of these two species will come Northern Saw-whet Owls. It is my belief that these tiny owls prey on them (especially the sparrows) to fuel their migration. And we will be ready to catch and band them as well. So, birdwise, we’re at the crossroads. More and more the long-distance birds will be an anomaly and a new genre will be taking over the nets.

Detail of the wing of a young (HY) Black-throated Blue Warbler.

That being said, I’m more than a little concerned about the absolute lack of wild grapes on the property this year – they were wiped out by late frosts in the Spring. I say ‘concerned’ because this fruit, which has been so plentiful in the past two years, drew very large numbers of Cedar Waxwings (700+ banded last Fall), Rusty Blackbirds, and….well, just birds in search of a good meal generally. It will be interesting to see what their absence will do to some of our banding figures (my sense is that the numbers of Cedar Waxwings around Ruthven are down considerably already).

Eastern Wood Pewee -B. Fotheringham

Today was interesting in that, just after sunrise, we had a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers fly right over the banding lab picnic table and forage for 10+ minutes in the front of the Mansion. (It’s extremely interesting that this species always shows up when Dorothy Smith is around – although she was too late to see them today.) And then later, when the wind got up and the sun was raising thermals, we had a good movement of raptors including 35 Turkey Vultures and 5 Bald Eagles.

Stunning male Black and White Warbler -B. Fortheringham

September 15, Banded 36:
2 Eastern Wood Pewees
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
3 Swainson’s Thrushes
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Philadelphia Virep
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Nashville Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warblers
8 Magnolia Warblers
2 Black-throated Blue Warblers
2 Blackpoll Warblers
1 Black and White Warbler
1 Ovenbird
1 Northern Cardinal
1 White-throated Sparrow
7 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 53 spp.

Nashville Warbler - B. Fotheringham

September 16; Banded 40:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 House Wren
4 Swainson’s Thrushes
3 Gray Catbirds
5 Red-eyed Vireos
1 Nashville Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warblers
2 Magnolia Warblers
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
3 Blackpoll Warblers
1 American Redstart
1 Ovenbird
6 Common Yellowthroats
2 Scarlet Tanagers
2 Song Sparrows
5 White-throated Sparrows

The diagnostic lime green backside of a Chestnut-sided Warbler -B. Fotheringham

ET’s: 52 spp.
Fall Banding Total: 741
Year-to-date Banding Total: 3,329

Photo Gallery:

Greater Yellowlegs checking out the gravel bar by Slink Island -B. Fotheringham

Young Red-tailed Hawk -B. Fotheringham

Northern Flicker -B. Fotheringham

McKenna, with the help of Simon and Elliot, releases a Gray Catbird.

The deadly beauty of a spider web - early morning dew shows them off. -S. Oldfield

Woodland Sundflowers enhance the census route. -C. Jones

Bill and Sue McCreadie looking for a hummingbird.


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