Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Summary

It's been a while since the last update, so I thought I would close out 2010 by providing a brief summary of the missing weeks after the last news, way back in September. I became lazy with the updates, then busy with the task of inputting a whole year's records each night. Not much fun after a hard day's work.....perhaps next year, I will follow Grace's advice and complete the data entry after each banding session. It sounds like a good plan right now, but of course, that's in the future. We'll see if I am smart enough to follow that sound advice!

Late September saw the arrival of long time friend from Jersey (he may deny it!!!), Ian Buxton. Ian and his brother David still ring birds in Jersey, and are responsible for setting me on the path to banding when I was much slimmer, and much younger too! It was excellent to be able to spend a couple of mornings catching North Amercian birds with Ian, prior to delivering him to Long Point Bird Observatory, where he was very busy indeed! Hopefully it won't be too long before he, and perhaps David, pay us another visit.

On a negative note, two of the nets were destroyed by vandals. Presumably the person responsible thought they were foiling the attempts of hunters to catch deer. If they had bothered to spend time at the banding station, they would have known that White-tailed Deer are in no way impeded, and certainly not entagled, by mist nets. I know, because I've seen it with my own eyes! No matter....hopefully, whoever it was will suffer a horrible misfortune sooner rather than later.

The season ended on October 31st, with a final Autumn total of 1,482 to add to Spring's modest 101. Sixty seven species were banded, with 7 new species for the site. Highlights were 5 Northern Saw-Whet Owls, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 57 Tennessee Warblers, 102 Gray Catbirds and 7 Orange-crowned Warblers.

The final total for the station is 1,583, with 71 species banded. The Autumn of 2010 was very productive at the site, no doubt reflective of a good breeding season further north.

As always, I thank the staff at "rare" Charitable Research Reserve for their support during the year, and for the use of their property. Thanks too to local naturalist Bill Wilson and his incredible energy and enthusiasm not only for the banding project, but wildlife studies in general in the Waterloo region, and beyond. Further thanks to all of the trail monitors who spent hours in the field, monitoring migrants passing through the area. Finally, special thanks to my right hand man Georg Hentsch, and trainee banders Brett Fried and Erika Hentsch. In fact, congratulations to Brett on obtaining his banding permit. I'm sure he will be very busy in 2011....why, even today, he's catching Snow Buntings, while I'm stuck in the office, composing this!

Have a happy and prosperous 2011, and if you are short of things to do, a visit to my good friend Peter "Growler" Fearon's blog site is well worth the time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 18th/19th, 2010

Another quick update, time once again being at a premium!

Under partly cloudy skies and light northerly winds, Saturday produced 111 birds of 26 species, including the first Orange-crowned Warbler of the Autumn, along with the first White-crowned Sparrow. Other notable numbers were 12 Nashville Warblers, 5 Tennessee Warblers, 5 Red-eyed Vireos and 22 American Goldfinches. Passing overhead were six Broad-winged Hawks and a dozen or so Sharp-shinned Hawks. Half an hour before dawn, an Eastern Screech Owl was....well....screeching, I suppose.

Sunday was sunny and warmer, with a light westerly wind. A bit too sunny for the lower station, but of little impact up on the hill at the farm location, where the flocks of Goldfinches and Sparrows are beggining to assemble. In fact, only 23 birds were caught at the lower station, whereas 85 were banded at the farm, including Swamp Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, 5 Savannah Sparrows and 20 Song Sparrows. Also there is numbers were American Goldfinches, with 42 banded! On the river flats, it was very quiet, although there was a large roost of White-throated Sparrows in the shrubs on the river bank. 7 of these were trapped, as were a late Warbling Vireo, and the first movement of Common Yellowthroats. A young Bald Eagle spent a brief amount of time in a tree by the river, before heading upstream....perhaps the first of the winter residents returning?

So slow was it at the lower station, that Georg and I had time to watch some Father Ted excerpts on Georg's honour of that, I attempted to upload a picture of our favourite character, Father Jack Hackett. regrettably, something prevented that happening.....not sure why!

Final total for the weekend was 220 birds, of 31 species. We need one more Gray Catbird for an Autumn century, and 2 more Tennessee Warblers for an even 50!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Update as of 12th September, 2010

It's been a while since the last report, so now it's time to bring things up to date, albeit just a brief summary.

Three weekends have passed us by, and during that time, much migration has taken place, with a high diversity of species being banded during the period. As of last weekend (11th/12th September), a total of 515 birds of 44 species have been banded. This is a great improvement over 2009, and it seems pretty clear that many species have enjoyed a far more productive breeding season in 2010.

Highlights include a total (so far) of 38 Tennessee Warblers (previous highest total 15), 21 Warbling Vireos (15) and 91 Gray Catbirds (70). Daily totals are generally higher too, and I am left wondering how we woukld have fared had we had daily coverage, rather than being restricted to weekends.

A couple of new birds have been added to the list, namely Ovenbird, a common Ontario Summer visitor, but because of the habitat in which the nets are placed, scarcer than rocking horse crap around the study area.....and last weekend, a cracking Clay-coloured Sparrow. The most unusual bird though, was trapped on Sunday, and perhaps presented the most unusual sight in over thirty years of banding. Although by no means uncommon to catch Cedar Waxwings, this particular individual had no beak, either as a result of some genetic defect, or possibly damage shortly after hatching. There's no real way for us to know, but in spite of the supposed handicap, the bird was healthy and of average weight for the species.

This weekend looks promising from a weather perspective, but as always, you never really know until the nets are opened and the day unfolds.

Two images this week, courtesy of Georg Hentsch. The Clay-coloured Sparrow, and of course, the beakless Cedar Waxwing. I will leave it to you to decide which is which......

Thursday, August 26, 2010

21st/22nd August 2010

The second weekend of the new season kicked off under cloudy skies, light winds, and little humidity. Some heavy showers passed through the area on Saturday afternoon, and well into the evening, but didn't disrupt the banding effort. The mosquitoes positively enjoyed the refreshing rain and were ready and waiting for us by Sunday morning.

Saturday proved to be the busiest day of the year so far, with a respectable total of seventy-two birds banded, of nineteen species. The first push of neotropical warblers are now in the area, although in small numbers so far. Thanks to sound luring, a good number of Baltimore Orioles responded, including a retrap AHY male, originally banded here as a HY on August 23rd 2008.

Sunday was not surprisingly, a little quieter, with the overnight rain halting migration. However, the Orioles, attracted by the tape, ensured a reasonable total for the session. In all, the weekend produced 114 individuals of twenty-two species, broken down as follows:

Tennessee Warbler 4
"Traill's" Flycatcher 4
American Redstart 5
Magnolia Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 2
Wilson's Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 2
Black-capped Chickadee 11
Mourning Warbler 2
Warbling Vireo 7
American Goldfinch 1
Red-eyed Vireo 5
Song Sparrow 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Gray Catbird 16
Northern Cardinal 5
Baltimore Oriole 33
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3
American Robin 3
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Great-crested Flycatcher 1
Cedar Waxwing 1

This week's image is of a Chestnut-sided Warbler, in winter (basic) plumage.....very different than the Spring edition!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Autumn Banding Season begins.

After a long, hot, humid Summer, the Autumn banding season got underway on Saturday August 14th. It's still quite sunny and very humid, so I ask myself, "self, is it really Autumn?" The birds say yes. In spite of the conditions, there was plenty of activity, and the weekend produced a total of 64 birds banded, representing 20 species. Caught but not banded was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The Ospreys appear to have raised one chick to fledging, in this, their second year at the nesting platform. Here's the list.

American Goldfinch 3
American Redstart 4
American Robin 4
Baltimore Oriole 1
Black-capped Chickadee 10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Cedar Waxwing 2
Gray Catbird 20
Great-crested Flycatcher 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Mourning Warbler 1
Norther Cardinal 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Song Sparrow 2
"Traill's" Flycatcher 3
Warbling Vireo 3
Willow Flycatcher 1
Yellow-shafted Flicker 2

The image is of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, as always, courtesy of Georg Hentsch. I will try to update this site weekly as the season progresses.

Spring 2010 Summary

Having finally received the banding log sheets from Brett, it's time to summarize the Spring effort......which at best was disappointing! There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the weather was not conducive to depositing migrants onto the property, it was far too warm and clear, and they just "kept on trucking." The other reason is that I was on holiday from mid May, and Brett was busy padding out his 2010 species list in an attempt to gain an insurmountable lead in our "Big Year" race. I'm lagging at least 100 species behind him, and a good fifty behind Georg and Erika.....but that's o.k. because there's plenty of time left to close the gap.....assuming I can be arsed to do so! Following is the banding totals list, which I'm sure you will agree is not especially impressive, and not in any particular order!

Black-capped Chickadee 4

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher 1

Magnolia Warbler 1

Wilson's Warbler 1

Blackburnian Warbler 1

Yellow Warbler 20

American Goldfinch 11

Warbling Vireo 1

American Redstart 3

Northern Waterthrush 1

Red-eyed Vireo 2

Song Sparrow 1

Cedar Waxwing 7

Orchard Oriole 2

Grey Catbird 4

Baltimore Oriole 1

Brown-headed Cowbird 5

Red-winged Blackbird 15

American Robin 6

Least Flycatcher 1

Myrtle Warbler 2

Swamp Sparrow 1

Hermit Thrush 1

White-throated Sparrow 3

American Tree Sparrow 2

House Wren 1

Northern Cardinal 2

The not so grand total is 101, of 28 species.

Finally, news of some recoveries. Firstly, an American Robin, banded here on October 5th 2008, was found dead in December 2008 in Trenton, Georgia, USA. This Spring, an American Redstart banded as a hatch year bird just east of Port Rowan, Ontario on August 31st 2009, was controlled here on May 23rd, 2010, presumably on its way back to its natal location. A Brown-headed Cowbird banded by my good friend Peter Fearon at a banding demonstration at McGreggor Point Park on June 3rd 2007, was found dead in Columbia City, Indiana, USA on April 21st 2008. Finally, a Pine Siskin we banded at Bannister lake Bird Observatory (a.k.a. Georg's backyard) on February 1st 2009, made its way to Mansfield, Ontario where it presumably lost interest in living and was found dead on May 13th.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 1st, 2nd

In spite of a dire weather forecast, Saturday proved to be ideal for banding, with overcast skies and light southerly least until a thunderstorm struck mid-morning. There was lots of birdsong, and a number of new species were added to my year list. I'm still lagging behind Brett, who is at 180 species for 2010, but I have at least crossed the 100 mark at last. By Sunday, I'd reached a meagre 115. On the other hand, I have a job, so "twitching" for the list is not much of an option!

The first Yellow Warblers of the season made their appearance, with seven new ones banded, and three retraps from prior years, two from May 24th 2008, and one fom May 30th 2009. The weather again caused early closing on Sunday, with the arrival of rain showers around 9:30am, just as things looked like they could get interesting. All in all, a little disappointing numbers wise, but clearly, migration is now underway in this area, with both numbers and species diversity increasing. The final weekend total was 27 birds of 12 species:

American Goldfinch 2
American Robin 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Hermit Thrush 1
House Wren 1
Myrtle Warbler 2
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 3
Yellow Warbler 7

This week's picture is in honour of my good friend Peter Fearon. Between us, we came up with many corrupted bird names, just for the fun of it. Many, wellactually most, cannot be repeated here, but Peter, here's a "Helmet Thrush" just for old time's sake. Thanks once more to Georg Hentsch for photographs (and post banding beer!!).

There will be one more update after this weekend, before Grace and I disappear on our holidays, visting Poland, Spain and England.....volcano permitting!

Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Spring banding season.

The 2010 edition of Spring banding began on a cold and windy April 17th. Frankly, I should have stayed at home and watched the football matches on the Setanta sports channel. Sunday saw a slight improvement in the weather, but the migrants were not impressed and chose to stay well south of here! The final total for the weekend was four, comprising American Robin (2), American Goldfinch (1) and in keeping with the American theme, American Tree Sparrow (1).

The weekend of 24th/25th April saw an improvement on the Saturday, and a toal washout on Sunday, when banding was not possible, owing to high winds and lots and lots of rain. A total of tweleve birds were caught, as follows:

American Tree Sparrow 1
American Goldfinch 2
American Robin 1
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 2

The coming weekend would normally be expected to be the real start of migration, but the forecast is for windy conditions, with rain on Sunday. A bit of a bugger really, but we'll see what happens......

The picture is another one of last Autumn's Connecticut Warbler. Nothing of interest has been caught yet in 20110, so I'm resorting to last year's stock of pictures to entertain you!

Autumn 2009 Summary

Having run out of steam by October of 2009, it seems appropriate to summarize our final results for the Autumn season.

The last day of banding was Sunday November 1st. All of the nets and poles were removed from the Springbank Farm location on a sunny, but frosty morning, and began the long winter hibernation at Bannister Lake Bird Observatory, a.k.a. Georg's place!

The final total was 1,239 of 70 species and sub-species. Number one on the list was the Song Sparrow, with 234 individuals banded, closely followed by American Goldfinch at 233. Other highlights (for me, which is what counts most, as I'm the one writing this!) were Myrtle Warbler 90, Savannah Sparrow 58, and Red-eyed Vireo 35. New for the location were American Pipit, Blue-headed Vireo, Chipping Sparrow, Connecticut Warbler,Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood Peewee, Grasshopper Sparrow, Great-crested Flycatcher, Pine Warbler and Vesper Sparrow.
There are reports, although I've yet to see the actual details, of recoveries of an American Robin in northern Georgia (that's the good ole U S of A, not the strife torn home of Stalin and former Soviet republic), and a Brown-headed Cowbird in Indiana. If I ever get the details from he who shall remain nameless, I'll post them here.
Once again, I'd like to thank Georg and Erika Hentsch, and Brett Fried for all of their time and effort banding birds. Thanks also to the "rare" organization for the use of their land and financial support with banding equipment needs, and to Bill Wilson and Josh Shea for organizing the daily trail monitoring and record keeping. Thanks too to all of the volunteers and monitors for your dedication and participation in the project.
Let's hope that 2010 is even more successful.....