Wednesday, October 3, 2012


So the question is, where are the birds? Certainly not in the nets last weekend! A stunning total of nine birds were banded on Saturday, with a massive improvement on Sunday, when twelve bothered to show up. Spot the sarcasm here?

Georg left on his hiking expedition to Superior Provincial Park early on Sunday, leaving me to cope with the rush of migrants all by myself......Brett was over at Hawk Cliff on Saturday, banding Red-tailed Hawks, so it was a quiet weekend both bird and human wise. Even "The Ripper" was conspicuous by his absence.

Brett caught 35 birds at the farm location on Sunday, but he's been too busy chasing Le Conte's Sparrows in Guelph to get me the exact numbers, so I will only report my catch....and that won't take long!

Obviously the lack of migration allowed me to spend more time observing birds flying overhead, or feeding amongst the shrubberies. That was less than rewarding too, with a Double-crested Cormorant on the river, along with the customary collected of grotty looking eclipse Mallards, a few Ring-billed Gulls, and back to the vegetation again, the first Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets of the Autumn. The Osprey family have finally bogged off elsewhere, presumably southward, and will not return before late March next year.

Here is the weekend tally, in totally random and confusing order:-

Blue Jay 1
Myrtle Warbler (Spring plumage)
 Philadelphia Vireo 1 (pretty late!)                       
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 4
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Gray Catbird 1
Western Palm Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Myrtle Warbler 1 (a.k.a. Yellow-rumped Warbler)
Tennessee Warbler 1
Swainson's Thrush 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1

The Red-eyed Vireo was the 50th of the season, and the Philadelphia the 14th. Philadelphia Vireo is not a species that is caught much on the reserve, the previous high being 4, so it would seem that they had a good breeding year and/or I was there at the right time and/or the vegetation is becoming better suited to their feeding requirements as it regenerates, or none of the aforementioned, I was just lucky.........

Next weekend isn't looking too good from the weather standpoint, with showers and a maximum temperature of 10 degrees celsius, so I may just decide to stay at home and watch some Premier League football on the t.v. There again, as a sucker for punishment, I may go and open the nets for a short while and see what happens....

Cape May Warbler (why the heck not....)

Finally, my thanks to my good friend and former co-conspiritor at the now defunct Ausable Bird Observatory, Peter Fearon, for plugging this blog! In return, I thoroughly recommend you visit his blog, which is highly entertaining, and very informative, and contains many links to other blog sites all over the U.K., and further afield. Well worth the visit! You will find the link on this site....look for Scouseringer!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not Much About.....except for "The Ripper."

The weekend of September 23rd/24th was the poorest so far this Autumn. Not only was Brett missing, presumed twitching, but so too were the birds. A not at all grand total of 35 birds were banded over two mornings, representing twelve species. Meagre reward for the effort, I'm sure you'll agree. Here are the totals:-

"Traill's" Flycatcher 2
Magnolia Warbler 1
Wilson's Warbler 2
Wilson's Warbler
Philadelphia Vireo 3                                         
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Common Yellowthroat 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Gray Catbird 1
American Robin 13
Nashville Warbler 3
Blackpoll Warbler 1

On Saturday we were confronted by a gentleman holding a "Traill's" Flyctacher, that he claimed his dog had found at the foot of the net pole. The bird was still covered in some netting, which was carefully removed, the bird processed and released safely, apparently none the worse for wear. On inspecting the net, it was pretty clear that the bird had been torn out of the net, presumably by the aforementioned gentleman, who was then unable to safely remove the netting. At least he came looking for help! Although his story was not especially believable, we used the opportunity to explain what we were doing, and demonstrated the banding process for him. Hopefully we have educated another member of the public. After he left, Georg and I mulled over a suitable nickname, including The Flycatcher Ripper, The Robin Ripper, and The Blue Jay Ripper, but finally settled on plain old "The Ripper." Henceforth he will be known as The Ripper, and future sightings recorded and reported here!

Interestingly, the same Flycatcher was retrapped on Sunday, and had increased its weight from an impressive 16.0 gm, to a rotund 17.1 gm in just 24 hours. The second Flycatcher was even heavier, weighing in at 20 gm.....normal early Autumn weight is around 13 gm.

Next weekend sees the annual fund raising walk (Sunday) for "rare" Charitable Research Reserve, so I don't expect to catch very many birds, given the amount of people expected to be on the property. If anyone reading this is in a position to join in, contact the office to register!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Weekend of Diversity

The weekend of 15th/16th of September brought with it a pleasing diversity of species, 28 to be exact. 174 birds were banded, bringing the Fall total to 1,167 individuals, of 66 species. The year total now stands at 72 species and 1,337 birds. This is very pleasing, considering our inland location, and the fact that the area is not a known migrant trap such as Long Point, Point Pelee or Prince Edward Point.

Additions to the Fall list were Gray-cheeked Thrush (1), Starling (1), Palm Warbler (3), and Orange-crowned Warbler (1). The Vireo numbers have reduced considerably, with just one Warbling and one Red-eyed being processed. Brett caught ten Nashville Warblers on Saturday, but with a clear evening and night, Sunday's catch, not to mention species diversity, was predictably much lower.

The first wave of White-throated Sparrows appeared on Sunday, and the American Robin roost is growing, clear evidence that Winter is not that far off now. If this thought depresses you, perhaps I can suggest a visit to YouTube, and a look at Mr. Methane in action on late night Norwegian television? Thank goodness for Georg's Blackberry and data plan, which helps things along in the quieter times......

Here, in totally random order, is the official weekend list:

Tennessee Warbler 1
American Redstart 2
Black-capped Chickadee 3
American Redstart (male)
Warbling Vireo 1
Swamp Sparrow 4
Purple Finch 2
Swainson's Thrush 3
Gray Catbird 8
European Starling 1
American Robin 13
Yellow-shafted Flicker 5
Nashville Warbler 10
Magnolia Warbler 1
Western Palm Warbler 3
House Wren 3
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 6
American Goldfinch 79
White-throated Sparrow 7
Song Sparrow 12
Wilson's Warbler 3
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Indigo Bunting 1

Gray-cheeked Thrush

Eastern Phoebe

This weekend may be a bit dicey, weatherwise, with a cold front and rain showers due on Saturday, and a blustery Nor' Wester on Sunday. Perhaps Mr. Methane will be the order of the day.......

Mr. Methane

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nasty Weather, and Dickheads steal nets.....

Some periods of heavy rain and strong winds on Saturday meant we could not operate at all. By Sunday, the wind had died down and after an overcast start to the day, the sun came out and dried everything up. As we stumbled through the woods to get to the furthest net lanes, we were shocked to discover that two nets had been stolen. The net poles were laying on the ground, but even the guy pegs and chord were missing. A thorough search of the area was made, to ensure that they hadn't been tossed into the river, or left draped over the plants. Finding nothing, I can only assume that a Do-Gooder must have discovered the furled nets and decided to remove them once and for all, believing they may have been used for hunting purposes. If the person who did this is reading this post, then, sir or madam, you are a moron. I will take some of the blame too, for not having signs attached to the furled nets explaining why the equipment is there in the first place. That is being taken care of for the future, so perhaps it will make a difference.

                                                             Bay-breasted Warbler
                                                                                   Blackburnian Warbler

 Philadelphia Vireo

                                                               Net thief suspect???

Operating with just four nets, we still managed to band 31 birds of 16 species. Brett and Erika added a further 54 birds up at Springbank Farm, for a respectable 85 birds, and 20 species. New additions to the year list were Black-throated Green Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler. Here are the totals:

Nashville Warbler 3
Wilson's Warbler 7
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
American Goldfinch 40
Indigo Bunting 1
Field Sparrow 1
Common Yellowthroat 3
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 4
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Warbling Vireo 1
Philadelphia Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 5
Song Sparrow 5
Swainson's Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 2
Northern Cardinal 1
American Robin 2

The total so far this Autumn stands at 881, with 61 species on the list.

The coming weekend's forecast is reasonable, so we are looking forward to another productive couple of sessions. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Labour Day Weekend

This year, I decided to take the Friday before the Labour Day weekend as a holiday, allowing for four consecutive days of banding. As always, we are entirely dependent on weather conditions, and once again, the weather was good....too good, really. Nevertheless, over the four days, a total of 229 birds were added to the total. As might be expected at this time of year, diversity was high, with 41 different species finding their way into the nets!

New for the year were Bay-breasted Warbler (1), Blackpoll Warbler (2), Black-throated Blue Warbler (1),
Blue-headed Vireo (1), Blue Jay (1), Carolina Wren (1), Least Flycatcher (1), Philadelphia Vireo (5), Scarlet Tanager (1), Swainson's Thrush (1), Veery (1) and Vesper Sparrow (1).

                                                        Blue-headed Vireo (minus tail.....)

Helping make up the numbers were 79 American Goldfinches, 29 Gray Catbirds, 11 Red-eyed Vireos, and 8 Tennessee Warblers. In spite of the mainly clear conditions, there was a lot of migrant movement through the reserve, and the catch reflected this.

Also in evidence were the local Ospreys, as well as a Broad-winged Hawk, found perching on a branch at the edge of the forest. Pretty soon these raptors will be seen in their tens of thousands at places such as Hawk Cliff and Holiday Beach, as they follow the north shore of Lake Erie to the Detroit River, where they then spread out and head towards their wintering grounds. Two Caspian Terns were fishing in the Grand River, and the first two Green-winged Teal of the Autumn were resting on a gravel island in the middle of the river.

As usual, the above image is courtesy of Georg Hentsch and probably shouldn't be copied, reproduced or in any way buggered about with.....although he probably wouldn't mind anyway......

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It aint half hot, mum....

to quote the British t.v. comedy series from the 1970's, when I was a lot younger, thinner, and had a lot more hair on my head, not to mention a lot less on my other words, both Saturday and Sunday were hot and sunny, with plenty of humidity and not very many birds.

In fact, Saturday was the better of the two, with Warbling Vireos and "Traill's" Flycatchers very much in evidence. A total of 67 birds were banded, of fifteen species, including six Warbling Vireos, twenty-one American Goldfinches and five "Traill's" Flycatchers. All of the Vireos and Flycatchers had plenty of fat deposited, a sign that with a clear night, they would likely continue their journies south.

Needless to say, the birds got their wish, and it was little surprise that Sunday was very quiet. A grand total of fifteen birds were caught at the river location, with Brett and Erika adding a further thirty-three at the farm site. All nets were furled by 9:45 a.m., when the lack of birds and high temperatures forced us to close up early.

Gratuitous picture of Blackburnian Warbler (basic plumage)!

Final weekend numbers were as follows, in the normal totally random order that I like best:

Gray Catbird 15
American Robin 3
Warbling Vireo 7
Song Sparrow 17                                             
"Traill's" Flycatcher 7                                        
American Redstart 3
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
American Goldfinch 41
Tennessee Warbler 2
House Wren 2
Barn Swallow 5
Common Yellowthroat 1
Northern Cardinal 3
Wilson's Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2
                                                                                                          Tennessee Warbler
As can be seen from these numbers, wood warblers are in short supply around the property, as the weather conditions are perfect for migration. Next weekend could be interesting, although possibly washed out if the remnants of Hurricane Isaac arrive here. We shall just have to wait and see.....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Week 2, August 18th and 19th, 2012

Week two of the Autumn 2012 banding season was conducted under largely warm and sunny conditions, which are pleasant for the banding team and the monitoring crew, but not really conducive to catching migrants. The calm, clear, starry nights permit migrants to fly right over our station and continue southwards. Ideal conditions are a cold front, northerly breeze, and pre-dawn showers. What we got was sunshine on the nets, making them rather too visible. Having said that, we still managed a total of 103 birds, of twenty-two species. Thanks to the efforts of Brett and Erika at the Springbank Farm location, another new bird was added to the ever expanding list, Northern Rough-winged Swallow. In fact, they caught a total of thirteen, along with a further nine Barn Swallows. We have now banded 337 birds of 41 species in two weekends. Not too shabby......

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Birds overhead included a good number of Swallow species, a few Chimney Swifts, and the family of Ospreys. Pretty soon they will be leaving our area and south into the southern United States. In the meantime, they will continue to provide entertainment for the visitors to the property, especially when they are observed carry quite large goldfish back to the nesting platform! Other birds in reasonable numbers inncluded Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, as well as the omnipresent Grey Catbirds, which seem to have enjoyed another good breeding season.

Here are the totals:

American Robin 5
Grey Catbird 13
Song Sparrow 15
Northern Cardinal 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
"Traill's" Flycatcher 8
Downy Woodpecker 2
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Warbling Vireo 5
Nashville Warbler 1
Wilson's Warbler 2
House Wren 2
Red-eyed Vireo 8
Magnolia Warbler 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 13
Tennessee Warbler 2
Cedar Waxwing 1
Barn Swallow 9
American Goldfinch 6
Chipping Sparrow 1
Baltimore Oriole 2
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher 1

The forecast for next weekend isn't especially encouraging, with sunshine and high humidity, potentially in the low 40's celsius. I suspect that if that is the case, the post-banding cold beer will be especially welcome!