Sunday, 2 October 2016

Banding Episode No. 7

02 October 2016
SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON

     Our regularly scheduled banding stint was to take place yesterday, but there was a constant drizzle in the morning, and we had to call it off.
     I had many other things to do at SpruceHaven, viz cleaning out all the nest boxes, installing a new box for American Kestrel, two new chickadee boxes and four new bluebird houses. So, ably assisted by John Lichty, I stayed there until mid afternoon. We were also joined by a group of students from the environmental studies programme at the University of Waterloo who, under the capable leadership of Josh Pickering, came out to help Sandy with planting a whole new bunch of native trees and shrubs (in total they planted one hundred and twenty-five) as well as about ten native perennials. 
     This also gave me the chance to involve some of them in the avian aspects of SpruceHaven and we all enjoyed a fine time together. These students worked hard, and willingly, and are a credit to young people everywhere. 
     Sandy served homemade, fresh off the barbecue hamburgers for lunch, and they were absolutely delicious. 
     When I got home mid afternoon, Miriam told me that Kevin had called to say that if the weather looked more promising the following day he would go out to SpruceHaven and open up the nets. I was obviously keen to join him, so I was up this morning dark and early, but it was raining, and I quickly put out of my mind any possibility that we would be banding birds. I was just stepping out of the shower when Miriam came to tell me that Dave had called to say that Kevin was raring to go, the weather had changed for the better, and he was about to open the nets. I quickly dressed and left for SpruceHaven.
     Thank goodness I did and kudos to Kevin for his dogged determination. Even though we started banding later than usual we wound up having our best day ever.
     It is becoming very interesting to observe the flight paths of various migrants at SpruceHaven and I am sure that over time we will be able to correlate it with vegetational structure and other factors. We caught and banded our first two Lincoln's Sparrows Melospiza lincolnii of the fall, single captures each time, but both in the same net.

     The six nets we have in operation (it will be seven next week) are situated in different sections of the property and it is quite remarkable that many individuals of the same species have been ensnared in the same net, obviously indicating a preference for the specific conditions found there and probably reflecting the fact that they are travelling in flocks.
     We were delighted to capture our first Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadelphicus of the fall, resplendent with its yellow breast.

     One of the interesting characters of this species is that the P10 primary feather is shorter than the adjacent greater coverts. Here are the two pages from "Pyle" contrasting the wings structure of Philadelphia Vireo and Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus.

     By verifying this feature alone one can separate the two species one from the other.
     We were able to net our first two Field Sparrows Spizella pusilla with their bubblegum pink bill and legs, and unstreaked breast.

     Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum is quite variable in plumage, with the so-called Yellow Palm Warbler being considerably brighter than the standard variant caught in our nets today. This morph is sometimes referred to as Western Palm Warbler. We trapped three individuals of this species, all in the same net.

     In the fall Blue Jays Cyanocitta cristata migrate in huge concentrations, with some flocks numbering several thousand. Populations from father north leapfrog over our resident birds and it will be interesting to see whether this bird extracted from our nets is migratory or sedentary.

     Myrtle Warblers Setophaga coronata seemed to be everywhere we looked this morning and it was surprising that we caught only two.

     I have only seen one Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis while birding at Sprucehaven, since we do not yet have ideal habitat for this species, so it was satisfying to trap this individual migrating through. This perhaps reinforces the fact that if we create the right conditions we can encourage this grassland species to breed with us.

     Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens is a common resident bird; perhaps we will see this male at our feeders during the winter.

     A Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa is a tiny little gem, barely bigger than a hummingbird. It is incredible that these diminutive creatures weighing just a few grams can survive our northern winters. I would recommend to anyone Winter by that consummate biologist and author, Bernd Heinrich, where he studies a population of Golden-crowned Kinglets in Maine, where winter temperatures sometimes dip below minus forty, but these birds survive through it all to breed the following spring.

     As always, to spend the morning with Kevin, and to be joined by Sandy and Dave at the banding station, is an exercise in sheer delight. Next Saturday can't come soon enough for me.

All species banded 02 October: Downy Woodpecker (1), Blue Jay (1), Philadelphia Vireo (1), Black-capped Chickadee (6), Golden-crowned Kinglet (1), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2), American Goldfinch (3), Tennessee Warbler (1), Nashville Warbler (1), Palm Warbler (3) Myrtle Warbler (2), Black-throated Green Warbler (1), Song Sparrow (12), Lincoln's Sparrow (2), Swamp Sparrow (1), Savannah Sparrow (1), Field Sparrow (2).
Total individuals: 41


  1. Well ringed birds, keep up the good work.

  2. Always love to read your blog. Thanks for being so diligent about it.

  3. Hello. Thank you for your lovely photos. This information is valuable for what you have given us the readers.

  4. The Blue Jay looks very cross but I love the Philadelphia Vireo and the Golden-crowned Kinglet. Hope all is well Diane

  5. Fantastic post !! It's exciting to watch bird life !!

  6. Hi David, looks as if you had a couple of busy days, mind it looks again that you were fed very well to keep up your strength. Some super images from day two, what a stunning little bird the Golden-crowned Kinglet is and so small to survive such harsh weather. Regards to you both John.

  7. Hi david. As you describe,the weather is so critical to the birds but also to the people who want to catch them for banding purposes. I'm wondering if the rain you describe actually helped your catch that day in dropping migrants into the area. We find that rain can be sometimes be beneficial to our efforts depending upon wne it starts and when it stops etc.

    Enjoyed your selection of birds today. Keep up the good work.

  8. Hi David! Your delightful post reminds me of that old saying "it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good". I'm more conscious these days that most weather conditions are suitable for doing something interesting in, particularly with regard to birding.

    I'd not realised that the Downy Woodpecker was so small! What a little beauty!

    Love to you both - - Richard

    1. It is quite tiny, Richard. In many countries it would be called a Pygmy Woodpecker.

  9. Hello my friend,
    I see your into bird banding big time!!!
    Like Richard, I find the Downy Woodpecker quite small but so cute and so is the A Golden-crowned Kinglet.
    Keep well and share warm hugs with Miriam :)

  10. I love that blue jay you got, they're such pretty birds! - Tasha

  11. It's always a pleasure to visit your blog, David.
    Lots of beautiful pictures and interesting explanations.
    Gr Jan W

  12. Pity you that morning moeste let off because of the drizzle. The birds that shows you are really very nice. The lesser spotted woodpecker I myself have never seen so I was very happy to see him with you. I wish you a very nice weekend alvst David.

    We were on vacation last week so I'm really behind with read up.

    1. Your Lesser-spotted Woodpecker is a different species, Helma. Hope you had a great vacation. Maybe we'll be seeing pictures of it soon?

  13. Great bunch of "in the hand" birds....