Saturday, 21 October 2017

Back to Normal

21 October 2017

     Miriam and I have just returned from a fabulous trip to Slovenia and Croatia and we are still getting over our jet lag. We have thousands of pictures to sort through and edit, so it will be a while before a full report of our trip is up on the blog. In the meantime, I was back at our normal routine of bird banding at SpruceHaven this morning.
     It was good to see everyone, with our regular crew of Kevin Grundy, Heather Polan, Daina Anderson, Judy Wyatt and Debbie Hernandez out to help. Heather and Daina were both kept busy banding, while Kevin exercised his usual professional level of supervision, and shared his expertise gained over many years with the young up and comers.

Daina banding a Dark-eyed Junco
    Our first capture of the day was a Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata). My camera (or more than likely, me) was unable to get a decent shot in the relatively poor light of early morning, but Debbie produced this image on her smart phone.



     She was equally successful with a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis).


     It is amazing the quality that can be produced on these state-of-the-art mobile devices.

     Both Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) and Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) were moving through in substantial numbers and we trapped several of each.




     It looks as though Heather is adding to her wrist adornments!

     The most common species of the morning was Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) of the slate-coloured form, recently arrived to take up residence here for the winter.


     Heather had to depart early today to attend a significant family event, and Daina left off banding for a while to take over as scribe.


     Judy handled the clerical duties for a while too, as far as I can recall the first time she has done so, but I neglected to take a picture of her busy at work.
     It was a great morning to be banding, with slowly warming temperatures, although we never did have bright sunshine. What a pleasure to see everyone out, filled with enthusiasm for the task at hand. It reminded me that however agreeable the travels, it's always good to be back home.

All species banded: Blue Jay (1), Black-capped Chickadee (1), Golden-crowned Kinglet (7), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (5), Song Sparrow (5), White-crowned Sparrow (1), White-throated Sparrow (2), Dark-eyed Junco (9).  Total: 31 individuals representing 8 species.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Another Weekend of Bird Banding

23 and 24 September 2017

23 September

     The weather is unbelievably warm for the time of year, downright hot in fact, and we wondered what kind of results we might have, given the lack of wind from the north and cold fronts to push the birds south. 
     As it turned out it was not a bad day at all.
     Two new species for the fall were banded, including this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) caught in our first round of the nets.


     I am sure that by now many of you are starting to recognize Heather's wrist from the bracelets that she wears!
     A Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) was the first representative of this species that we have trapped at SpruceHaven, rather surprising really
since it is a common species.


     We had a few visitors this morning, including Rebecca Seiling who was coming back for the second week in a row, having been quite captivated by the activity last week. I am quite sure that Rebecca is going to be a regular (and much appreciated) visitor to Sprucehaven bird banding activities.


     We were very happy to welcome Debbie Hernandez, a fourth year biology student at Wilfrid Laurier University, for her first visit. Debbie is anxious to expand her knowledge of birds and is keen, attentive and ready to get involved.



     Debbie has already said that she will be back again next weekend and we look forward to seeing her then.

All species banded 23 September: Swainson's Thrush (1), House Wren (1), American Goldfinch (3), Nashville Warbler (4), Common Yellowthroat (2), Magnolia Warbler (1), Song Sparrow (6), White-throated Sparrow (3), Chipping Sparrow (1).  Total: 22 birds representing 9 species.

24 September

    It was hot, still and muggy already, early in the morning when Kevin arrived to unfurl the nets, and we sat for a while swatting mosquitoes before making our first circuit. 
    We expected that there would not be a great deal of activity and true to expectations retrieved only one Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) from the nets, a species which has moved through this area with some regularity this year.
    It was very agreeable, later,  to capture a Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus), heavily advanced into moult.



     Rebecca Seiling was back for a visit with her daughter, Eden, who was captivated by this bird and thrilled to be able to hold it before it was released.




     Eden is only eleven years old but is already passionate about natural history and we need to do all we can to foster her interest further. Teaching her how to hold a bird in the prescribed grip is merely the start of this. Who knows what the future holds? Kevin started to band at thirteen years of age so there is hope for Eden!
     She was eagerly watching the proceedings with her mother at the picnic table that serves as our banding station. Perhaps they were agog at the Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata) that weighed in at 18.4 grams; a "normal" bird weighs around 11 grams, so you can appreciate the huge difference.




     In the picture below Rebecca looks to be saying, "Give me the damn bird!" but I am sure it was something much more benign!



    Kevin is about to depart on vacation and our good friend and colleague, Ross Dickson, has agreed to take charge of matters while Kevin is away, and joined us for a while this morning. What an illustrious (feel free to substitute your own adjective) pair they look!



     Eden was more than happy to learn from everyone.



     Bird activity was light, but there was much more to engage our attention, including this caterpillar of Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) - a ferocious looking creature!





    We will look forward to next weekend, when perhaps the weather will be a little more conducive to a productive session at our mist nets.
     In the meantime we wish Kevin and Grace "Bon Voyage." Come back to us refreshed with many stories to tell.

All species banded 24 September: Black-billed Cuckoo (1), House Wren (1),
Swainson's Thrush (1), Common Yellowthroat (1), Blackpoll Warbler (1), Song Sparrow (3).  Total: 8 birds representing 6 species.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Bird Banding and a Visit by Waterloo Region Nature

16 & 17 September 2017


16 September

     In addition to our normal banding operations at SpruceHaven this past weekend, we were delighted to welcome about twenty-five members of Waterloo Region Nature and several other interested members of the community. The weather cooperated and the visit was a great success.
     A few eager participants arrived early and got to witness the banding of the first birds from our nets. Any time a child can release a bird is a cause for great delight.



     I am inclined to believe that based on the sheer expression of pleasure on this young girl's face we are stimulating a love for nature that will last her a lifetime.
     Heather demonstrated her banding proficiency and impressed everyone with her skill, knowledge and dexterity.


     The small contingent of early arrivals looked happy enough to wait for the main onslaught to arrive.


     And they didn't have to wait long as more and more people started to arrive, anxious to enjoy their morning at SpruceHaven.



     The bird banding component of the tour is one of the most popular aspects, enabling people to see birds up close, often representing species hitherto unknown to them. We are always happy to have so many questions to answer, and  to help people understand a little more of avian populations and their movements.



     Sometimes there is a detailed discussion of some of the finer points of a species and we are able to talk about plumage, moult, age and sex, in addition to remarks about the bird's general distribution and relationship to other species.



     This Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina) was the first representative of this species we had ever caught in our nets and was in fact an addition to our species list for SpruceHaven, now standing at 120 by the way.



     Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) is not uncommon at this time of the year as it moves through in migration, but the capture of this individual provided a great opportunity to engage in a little discourse on Catharus thrushes.



     Children of all ages were engaged!







     Heather, as always, was magnificent with the young children, and derived a good deal of pleasure helping them to experience a brief moment of intimate contact with a wild creature.









     I began the tour by giving everyone an overview of our Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) operation, and there was no shortage of interested observers inside and out.



     Once that was completed we set out to regather at the Motus tracking tower.



     It was an attentive group that assembled to hear how we came to get the tower installed at Sprucehaven and to learn of the valuable information we hope to gather by radio tracking Barn Swallows, a member of the guild of birds collectively known as aerial insectivores, all of which are in serious jeopardy.



     Miriam discovered this caterpillar feeding on Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) and we learned that it morphs into an aptly named moth, Carrot Seed Moth (Sitochroa palealis), an invasive species from Europe. Given the proliferation of the plant, itself a well-established invasive, one might well expect this moth to become very common indeed.



     We were not as successful in identifying this bug, so if anyone can help please leave a comment below.



     Our next stop was at the woodlot.



     Here we have developed a very successful salamander monitoring operation, and have now turned over the entire project to the ecology lab at the University of Waterloo. The boards are monitored weekly at the appropriate time of the year, and all data is contributed to the ongoing herpetology atlas under the auspices of Ontario Nature. The activity also provides a valuable opportunity for the students to hone their field study skills.



     The interested observers above were treated to a show of three Eastern Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) when we turned over one of the boards.



     For some this was their first experience with this taxon. Their interest was admirable!



     Along the way back from the woodlot, Miriam espied a Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). I was far ahead leading the group to the next stop and unfortunately I missed seeing it. This is a species one hears in the spring in a deafening chorus as thousands of frogs vocalize in courtship frenzy. I have never, however, seen one of these diminutive frogs.



     Here we are, strung out along the perimeter of the field, currently with a crop of alfalfa - but we have other plans for this habitat!



     Our final stop was near several of our nest boxes where we had an excellent breeding season, attracting both Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) and Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor); both are species that need help from their human friends.



     A Seven-spotted Ladybug (Coccinella septapunctata) was a pleasant surprise.



     The formal part of our tour was at an end and we headed across the alfalfa field back to the house.



     As always, in their kind and gracious fashion, Dave, Sandy and Jamie welcomed us all into their lovely home to enjoy coffee and refreshments. It was an opportunity for everyone to chat about nature and enjoy the spirited company of like-minded people.







All species banded 16 September: Swainson's Thrush (1), Nashville Warbler (7), American Redstart (1), Cape May Warbler (1), Magnolia Warbler (2), Blackpoll Warbler (5), Song Sparrow (2), American Goldfinch (1).  Total: 20 birds representing 8 species.

17 September 

     After the hubbub of yesterday, Sunday was a quiet day, with just our regular crew busily banding birds.
     I have featured a Black-and white Warbler (Mniotilta varia) before, but it never hurts to look at another picture of this gorgeous little bird.



     Daina was taking her turn banding this morning and here she carefully attends to a Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla), one of six we trapped in our nets.



     A Lincoln's Sparrow (Melopsiza lincolnii), a very delicately marked little sparrow, was our first indication that fall migration was underway for this species.




     Many of you will have read Miriam's excellent post about the Monarchs ( Danaus plexippus) and we were very interested to find the chrysalis of this species hanging from the outside of the barn. 



     Perhaps by the time we all get together again on Saturday the butterfly will have hatched and embarked on its long journey to Mexico.

All species banded 17 September: Blue-headed Vireo (1), House Wren (2), Swainson's Thrush (1), American Goldfinch (1), Black-and-white Warbler (1), Tennessee Warbler (3), Nashville Warbler (6), Magnolia Warbler (2), Blackpoll Warbler (2), Wilson's Warbler (2), Song Sparrow (5), Lincoln's Sparrow (1).  Total: 27 birds representing 12 species.