April 23rd – Starting To Move

Very handsome male Myrtle Warbler. -NRF

Arriving at first light to open nets is challenging when the sunrise time is earlier and earlier, but so rewarding. It can be a peaceful time surrounded by bird song, possibly seeing the beauty of a sunrise and anticipating a new day of banding.

Today was a good day, with new migrants for the year that included House Wren and a Black-and-White Warbler. New for the spring season was a small flock of Cedar Waxwings. It was busy with a school group visiting the banding lab that needed two rotations to accommodate the number and age span of the group. A few sprinkles of rain but not enough to worry about. The net lanes are so wet/muddy and hopefully will dry up soon! We handled a total of 43 birds.

Banded 36
1 Eastern Phoebe
3 Tree Swallow
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 House Wren
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler

Male Black & White Warbler. -NRF

1 Black-and-white Warbler
1 Chipping Sparrow
5 Field Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
4 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
14 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 40 spp.
Some photos from yesterday:

This cowbird with the coloured leg bands is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario – behavioural studies from several years ago. -HG/IT

Chipping Sparrow. -HG/IT

One of the pair of Eastern Phoebes that is nesting in the front of the Mansion. -IT/HG

Myrtle Warbler. -IT

Female (no moustache) Northern Flicker. -HG/IT

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch. -HG/IT

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker. -IT/HG

Song Sparrow really belting it out. -HG/IT

A picture from last year but so that you can get an idea of how big a Golden Eagle is……in the capable hands of Janet Snaith. -JS

Fern Hill Oakville:
We never reached the forecast high this morning – the SE wind was blowing off Lake Ontario and keeping the temperature down. There were a few really light and short-lived showers in the morning but when the heavier rain came around noon we closed up shop. On the whole, there wasn’t a lot going on although we did see the first Common Loons of the year and an American Woodcock jumped up at my feet when I was opening one of the nets in the woods. Still waiting for that first good surge of migrants….

Banded 10:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Blue Jay
3 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Song Sparrow
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 American Goldfinch

ET’s: 35 spp.

April 22nd – Earth Day

Happy faces and a bag of new bird bags – thanks Irene!! -DO

As I was walking around “the circuit” – the one-kilometer trail leading to the net lanes – I toyed with the idea of what percentage of the World’s population was aware that this was Earth Day and what it means. Sadly, I don’t think the number is very high; in fact, I would suggest that it is abysmally small. Most people really don’t give a damn. Very concerning! But I can say that the group of folks at the banding lab these days is of a different ilk – interested in and concerned about the natural world around them. And although not in the majority, they are refreshing – especially the young folks that come out to learn and to make a difference. They help temper my cynicism…and pessimism.

Liam, Eila, and Nola – the next generation of Baggers. -JET

Today’s crew of young people – skilled, knowledgeable and a lot of fun. -DOL

It was sooo nice not to have to deal with rain today! Parts of the trails and many net lanes are quagmires and will take many days of sunshine to dry out. Greg and Faye (and some of the young baggers) spent a good part of their morning (and the last of our wood chips) fixing Net Lane 8 which was both a challenge and a danger being on a slope. The good news, however, was that Joshua Thorne set a new World record score on #8 with his full-blown wipeout with a half twist. The fact that he stuck the landing brought him an almost perfect score of 9.9. The laying down of wood chips means that his record is now unassailable. Congratulations Josh!

Greg oversees a work crew – getting the last of the wood chips ready to put on Net lane 8. -FAS

Net lane 8 – safe again. -FAS

Birding-wise it was another slow day. I was hoping to see the first Common Loons of the year (it’s that time!) but none went by. And other than a Myrtle Warbler back along the Fox Den Trail and a couple of White-throated Sparrows in the tangles there were few migrants evident.

Banded 29:

The “moustache” tells you this flicker is a male. -FAS

1 Northern Flicker
3 Tree Swallows
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

2nd Brown Thrasher of the migration. -FAS

1 Brown Thrasher
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
4 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
11 American Goldfionches

ET’s: 48 spp.

The trails and net lanes are VERY muddy. We need some dry weather and sunshine. -DO

Stumpy!! This Blue Jay was originally banded in the Fall of 2015 as an adult bird. Despite having only 1 leg it has done very well. -CB

Stumpy and friend. -CB

Tufted Titmice are making themselves known right now – setting out territories. -ABC

You can see why it used to be called “yellow-shafted”. -FAS


April 21st – Drying Up?

A first for Ruthven’s records: Horned Grebe in striking breeding plumage. -MMG

It was nice to have a day with almost no precipitation – just a little patchy light drizzle every now and again. Things picked up at Ruthven with more birds around, not huge numbers but certainly more, including 2 new species for the year: Purple Finch and Horned Grebe (this latter species was the first one recorded at Ruthven since we started).

As well as birds we had lots of really good baked goods and Irene Fotheringham, bless her heart, dropped off not just sweets but a large new set of home-made bird bags!

Banded 31:

One of several Tufted Titmice encountered around the grounds. -ELO

1 Tufted Titmouse
1 Black-capped Chickadee

Feisty little Winter Wren. -JET

1 Winter Wren
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets

Female Eastern Bluebird. -ELO

1 Eastern Bluebird

Chipping Sparrow -ELO

1 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Brown-headed Cowbird

First Purple Finch of the year – an adult male. -ELO

1 Purple Finch
14 American Goldfinches

An American Goldfinch about to take flight. -ELO

ET’s: 46 spp.

Alyssa with her first banded bird – an American Goldfinch. -ABC

There’s a beaver around! Hopefully it will clear some of the walnuts out of the flats. -ELO

A somewhat nice day and the dragonflies come out. -ELO

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker. -JET

Horned Grebe -MMG

Horned Grebe -MMG

Swamp Sparrow. -JET


April 20th – Ruthven Ringers 2019

Bird Observatories are NOT government funded (this is confusing to some visitors to Ruthven as the title “National Historic Site” conjures up this funding notion). We are dependent on the financial generosity of others as well as the donation of their time and energy (and baked goods). Here’s one figure to keep in mind and gives you the picture: one 12-meter mist net costs about $125; we run 19 nets in the Spring and 21 in the Fall. We are lucky if a mist net survives one full year due to UV damage, errant deer, damage by predators. And then there are specialized pieces of equipment; for instance, a sound system that we use for owling costs around $400; the MOTUS tower for radio-tracking marked birds was a shared project between ourselves (HBO) and Ruthven Park and cost $6,000 ($3,000 apiece).

There are a number of ways for us to generate support funding: memberships in HBO – they are cheap but provide a level of base funding; donations in the donation box inside the banding lab (many people have contributed in this way and we’re very thankful as ALL our bird seed purchases, for example, are bought through these funds); and by supporting our team in the Great Canadian Birdathon – the Ruthven Ringers!

The birdathon raises money country-wide to support research about birds. Funds raised by the ‘Ringers’ is split 75/25: 75% of the funds raised go directly to HBO; the other 25% goes to Bird Studies Canada to further their array of projects.

Below is our team. You will notice our emphasis on youth. This is probably one of the premier groups of young birders in the country and they deserve your support for that alone.

Hello everyone, my name is Ben Oldfield. I attend the University of Guelph studying criminology, I have interests in Football, Hockey, fishing and of course birds! Since the age of 11 I have been volunteering at Ruthven, and I participated in my first birdathon at the age of 12. This is my 7th birdathon and I look forward to leading a skilled crew of individuals that we have on the team this year. Our goal is to see 155 species of bird in one 24 hour period! The birdathon is a key funding factor into the conservation of birds across Canada and 75% of the funds will go towards Haldimand bird observatory ! I can’t wait for May 20th to arrive!! Shortly after I will write a summary of our day for the blog. Thank you in advance for donations, the birds will appreciate it!

Hi, I’m Alessandra Wilcox. I’ve been volunteering at Ruthven since I was 15, and this park and the people have been a huge part of my life ever since. I always had an interest in birds and knew I wanted to continue developing this passion. When I first started banding in October of 2015 I was just discovering hermit thrushes, and now I am participating in my fourth Canadian Birdathon with this team. I am now just finishing up my first year at the University of Guelph studying wildlife biology and conservation. My passions also include art, and Rick was kind enough to allow me and Ezra Campanelli (but mostly me ;D) to design the the logo for the banding station. For this Birdathon our goal is to raise money so that the education at Ruthven can continue and improve so that other kids can learn about the wonder of birds and experience the same personal growth as I did. Please consider donating!

Hi, my name is Ethan Gosnell, and I’m a grade 11 student from Kitchener. I’ve been interested in birds for a long time, but Ruthven is where my interest was turned into an obsession, and every time I come and do census or help out with banding, I get a little bit better and more interested in birds. This is only my second birdathon on the Ruthven Ringers team, but I think we’ll do great, and will aim to see upwards of 150 species, the previous record being 155 I believe. This fundraiser is a big part of bird conservation in Canada, and all of the funds you donate will help birds in some way or another, with majority of it going to the Haldimand Bird Observatory and Ruthven itself! I look forward to our day, it’s coming up quick.
Thank you for your donations in advance!

Hi! My name is Ezra Campanelli. Though you probably could not tell from birding with me in the field, I have been birdwatching since I was around five. Fast forward fourteen years, and I have around eleven years of Ruthven volunteering under my belt, both in the capacity of a banding assistant and photographer. I helped design the current logo for the Haldimand Bird Observatory with another member of our team, Alessandra Wilcox. I am a recipient of the Ross Thompson Trophy (now called the Robert Curry Trophy) for most species seen in the HSA in a year by a person under the age of eighteen. Most notably, you can see my horrifying visage adorning the wall of the Ruthven banding lab in the volunteer photo gallery, complete with stuffed Scarlet Tanager toy. This will be my third Ruthven Ringers Great Canadian Birdathon. Ambitious birding excursions like this are, in my experience, even more rewarding than they are challenging. They teach me so much and enhance my affinity for birds and nature in general. These species need our help, so please consider donating!

My name is Nathan Hood, and I’m an 18-year old avid birder that has been birding for around seven years. Ever since my dad took me to Point Pelee one day in May when I was 12, I was instantly hooked, and this passion has only grown over the years. I’m currently in my first year of Geological Engineering at the University of Waterloo, but still try to get out birding as much as I can. Each year I’ve tried taking birding to the next level. This year I’m attempting a Waterloo County big year, which so far has been a fun, exciting way to explore the bird life of the county I grew up in.

To donate:
[Remember, you can support the team as a whole or individuals within that team.]
You can drop your support off at the banding lab – I will be sure to see it gets in and that you get a tax receipt.


Click here to go to the Bird Studies Canada Birdathon 2019 website donate.