September 25th-27th – Orion Chortled

Three woodpeckers that nest at Ruthven: Red-bellied (left); Hairy (middle); Downy (right). -NRF

As usual I was opening the nets early, in the dark. Orion, the mighty hunter, was high overhead. The reason for the early start is to have the nets open and ready to catch at very first light when migrants are dropping down from their night flight (and most small birds fly at night) or, having already descended at some time during the night, are starting to move around searching for food. Later in the morning, when the sun is well up, these birds usually hunker down in a safe place to get some rest and digest their breakfast – so we’re less and less likely to catch anything as the day goes on.

Anyway…..Orion, who is almost overhead at this time, projects the image of a fierce warrior (according to legend) but don’t be fooled. He’s a bit of a card and the fierce façade is mostly for show. From his high vantage point he likes to look down and ruminate on the foibles of Man. This morning what set him off was my fumbling with the net ties that hold the furled nets shut. Remember, it’s dark. So you have to feel around for the long end of the net tie so that you can pull on it to release the knot and the furl. And it works well….if it is tied correctly. But every now and again people get sloppy or new volunteers have tied them; then it is the short end you have to find – not an easy task in the dark and one that usually is accompanied by a string of unpleasant epithets. The latter cause the big guy overhead to chortle away…..bless him.

This morning I got an unusually early start as I knew I would be on my own for the opening as I hadn’t heard anyone was coming to help. Although there’s always the offchance that a volunteer will show up unexpectedly, any experienced volunteer will time it so their arrival coincides with my having just finished opening them all. This is when you get the “I meant to get here early to help but…..” excuses. Some – just some- are plausible; some just sound plausible. For example, here’s a plausible/acceptable one. “I had to wait for this fresh peach pie [in hand] to finish baking because, as you know, peach pie is best when it’s served warm.” I can live with this one. Here’s one that just doesn’t cut it: “The drive-thru at Tim Horton’s was backed up and the highway from Caledonia to Ruthven was gridlocked! So to keep up my strength I ate all the pastries….”

I guess my point is this: someone will have to open the nets you close. If your knots are iffy then make a point of arriving early so that you can open them. Don’t give Orion the satisfaction.

All that being said…..the last 3 days have been interesting, if nothing else. We haven’t been catching birds hand over fist but we’ve been getting a good number and a nice variety.

September 25th; Ruthven Park:
Missing the cool, crisp fall weather today with the heat/humidity and strong winds blowing from the southwest. The first two to three net rounds were good with a variety of birds but by mid-morning the wind gusts were strong with numerous leafs falling into the nets. I started closing an hour earlier due to the heat/wind but mainly because of the time to clear nets of all the leaves!! Handled 40 birds but estimated totals were low as no one was available to do a census.
Banded 35:

Carol’s prize-winning dahlias continue to attract hummingbirds. -CAJ

1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Hairy Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpecker
1 Eastern Phoebe

(Aggressive) Tufted Titmouse. -RL

1 Tufted Titmouse
1 Gray-checked Thrush
1 Swainson’s Thrush
4 Gray Catbird
1 Philadelphia Vireo
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Tennessee Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler. -RL

1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
4 Magnolia Warbler
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 American Redstart
1 Ovenbird
6 Common Yellowthroat
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Song Sparrow

Note the buffy chest and fine black spotting – Lincoln’s Sparrow. -RL

1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow

Some “confusing fall…..sparrows”: Swamp Sparrow (left) and Lincoln’s Sparrow (right). -NRF

ET’s: 44 spp.

September 25th – Fern Hill School Oakville:
Banding was slow…..but Monarch tagging was busy. We banded 8 birds but tagged 35 Monarchs, bringing our Monarch Butterfly total to 76!! It’s a Monarch highway through that area.

Banded 8:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Hermit Thrush (1st of the season)
2 American Robins
1 Nashville Warbler
2 Song Sparrows

ET’s: 25 spp.

September 26th; Ruthven Park:
The day started off with light winds and intermittent showers which delayed things and caused us to reduce the number of nets we opened. The showers were over by 8 but the wind picked up and proceeded to blow leaves into any unsheltered nets we had on the go – always a frustrating thing to deal with. There was a nice variety of birds around the site – we counted 50 species on the day.

Banded 27:
1 Yellow-bellied flycatcher
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 House Wren

Gray-cheeked Thrush. -NRF

1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
1 Philadelphia Vireo
3 Red-eyed Vireos
1 Tennessee Warbler
2 Nashville Warblers
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler

Magnolia Warbler. -RL

5 Magnolia Warblers
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
4 Black-throated Green Warblers
1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Scarlet Tanager
1 Song Sparrow

ET’s: 50 spp.

September 27; Ruthven Park:
Kind of an odd morning as it was clear early, then clouded up (with a few “ominous” clouds even) and then cleared as it got windy…..and hot. And there was a good variety of birds around which made it interesting. Most of the banding was down in the first half of the morning as birds caught dropped off quickly when it heated up. In cooler temperatures we will often catch right up to closing time – one of the nice things about Fall banding.

Banded 34:
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 House Wren
4 Gray-cheeked Thrushes
3 Swainson’s Thrushes
4 Gray Catbirds
1 Cedar Waxwing
1 Red-eyed Vireo
3 Nashville Warblers

Male Magnolia Warbler. -NRF

6 Magnolia Warblers
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 American Redstart
1 Ovenbird
1 Common Yellowthroat

A young male Scarlet Tanager. The fault bar (blue arrow – a sign of nutritional stress when the young bird was growing these tail feathers) all in a row indicates the young age of the bird. The red arrow pointing to the black secondary coverts tells us it’s a male. -NRF

2 Scarlet Tanagers
2 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow

ET’s: 54 spp. (including 5+ Broad-winged Hawks and the first Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers of the season)

And this just in from our East Coast correspondent Jeff MacLeod:

A real “fallout” – in the east end of the Bay of Fundy. from JML

This vessel was in the inner part of the Bay of Fundy and reported good conditions. But my wife is currently on Grand Manan Island at the mouth of the Bay and she said there was rain most of the night. These birds were likely in the air when they ran into the storm and decided to turn around landing then on anything that could shelter them.

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