Sunday, 28 May 2017

Final Day of Spring Banding

St. Agatha, ON
28 May 2017

     Today marked the end of our bird banding activities for this spring - and a fine day it was too, warm, little wind and a variety of species.
     The first significant capture was a Black-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus erythropthalmus. I was especially happy with this prize since I had seen it recently for the first time since I have been "working" at SpruceHaven, and based on the vociferous and persistent calls from a second cuckoo, we concluded that we are dealing with at least one pair. In fact, a second Black-billed Cuckoo flew into one of the nets but escaped before we could get to the net to extract it. Perfect habitat exists for the species to breed at SpruceHaven and we will be vigilant to see if we can confirm nesting.

     Heather is away this weekend, hard at work in Banff, where they apparently had snow recently, but Daina came along to help as she does every weekend, and here she is paying careful attention to Kevin as he instructs her in the finer points of extracting a bird from the net quickly and efficiently.

     With the bird securely contained in a cloth bag, and clutching Kevin's stick (a kind of staff of office!) she leaves to go to the next net.

     Back at the picnic table which serves as our banding station, Kevin bands while Daina scribes, flashing her million dollar smile to indicate her joy at doing what she loves to do.

     Here Daina and Kevin are discussing some finer point of the species being banded.

     Her concentration is evident.

     The second species we were very happy to capture was a Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum, a first at SpruceHaven even though we know the species has bred there.

     Our bird banding operation presents a wonderful opportunity for Dave to be able to see the birds up close and he wastes no time in getting into position to observe.

     A female Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas was one of the last birds we trapped before closing down the nets until fall.

     It was with a good deal of satisfaction that we captured a Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia that we banded at SpruceHaven last year, viz. No. 258187820 banded as an adult on 20 August 2016. This was our very first recovery of one of "our" birds - we can only speculate where it might have spent the winter before coming home.
     Today also presented us with a chance to trap some of the adult Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica from the colony in the barn to see which birds have returned from their winter sojourn in South America

   . We did this but briefly, but nevertheless were delighted to note the following returnees.

Band No. 259188110, banded as an adult male on 22 June 2016
Band No. 259188128 banded as an adult male on 28 June 2016
Band No. 259188136 banded as an adult male on 13 August 2016
Band No. 259188111 banded as an adult female on 22 June 2016

     We really felt as though members of our family had come back home.
     We are very excited to be embarking on other scientific studies to try to help this species which is facing declining numbers. Our latest field of study will be to assess relative parasite loads between nests in old barns as compared with newer artificial structures, and the rate of brood success between the two types of nesting sites. Other potential studies are being contemplated also.
     Our old friend, Ross Dickson, dropped by this morning and we were all mightily delighted to see him. Ross is a licensed bander in his own right and a dedicated professional. He helped us to quickly process the Barn Swallows. Franc Gorenc also came to see us, camera in hand, looking as always for the perfect shot.
     Daina and I checked all our nest boxes and I am happy to report that we have three boxes occupied by Tree Swallows Tachycineta bicolor, two with eggs and one with young. The Eastern Bluebirds Sialia sialis appear to have fledged their young from another nest box and from what we can judge are preparing for a second brood.
      As we close down for a few weeks, I would be remiss if I did not express my thanks to Dave, Sandy and Jamie for the kindness they show us every day in giving us free range on this Shangri-La called SpruceHaven.
      Kevin Grundy, ever the consummate professional, not only elicits awe every time I see him in operation, but makes the morning entertaining in so many ways with his wry sense of humour and twisted wit!
      To Heather Polan and Daina Anderson I say welcome, welcome and welcome again to our team. You are stellar young women in every way, dedicated biologists, and an incredible asset to our group.
      You may wonder what I do - and it's not very much really. I have been fortunate to be able to assemble this team who do everything for me. How fortunate is that!
     We are looking forward to ever greater success in the future and to making a contribution to the welfare of the birds we love so much.

All species banded: Black-billed Cuckoo (1), Black-capped Chickadee (1), Barn Swallow (13), Brown Thrasher(1), American Robin (2), American Goldfinch(4), Common Yellowthroat (1), Red-winged Blackbird (1), Common Grackle (1), Song Sparrow (3).  Total: 28 individuals.


  1. How wonderful that on your last day of spring banding you caught such beautiful specimens as the Black-billed Cuckoo and the Brown Thrasher! I am only sorry I wasn't there to see them! Beautiful birds! Thrilling indeed!

  2. Well done on all the banding.
    What a fantastic smile Daina has.

    My good wishes for the week ahead.

    All the best Jan

  3. Sounds like you've got a good operation going there.

  4. Well that's all done till next time - a job certainly worth doing.

  5. You got me with the Cuckoo, fantastic.

  6. As you know, David, I have mixed feelings about bird banding. I can't help but have admiration for the care and dedication exhibited by your SpruceHaven team. However, I found my feelings on banding heading off in the other direction when on Osprey Project duty this past Saturday. Following recent comments on my blog when I mentioned banded Sedge Warblers, I started keeping my eyes open for banded birds (of any species) seen from the hide. This very quickly turned into a quest to try and find unbanded birds! I found the lack of these a little worrying!

    My love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  7. Hi David. Black-billed Cuckoo - very nice. Smaller than I recall. You say you have finished banding for now. I wonder if you ring the nestling Tree and Barn Swallows? The species is easily done at the right circa 10 day age and the adults always return to the nest. It might be a useful addition to your data.

    You are correct about the Avocet. It is now a widespread species, breeding south of here on the River Ribble, north at Leighton Moss and of course a few miles from here at Conder Green. I saw my first Lancashire one on 1st April 1983 on Pilling Marsh, a lone observer record. At the time because of its then rarity and also because of the date of April 1st, a number of people doubted the record. “Was it a Shelduck? asked one.

    1. Hi Phil: I should have been a little more precise. We have closed down the mist nets until fall, but we will be banding both Barn and Tree Swallows.

  8. That was a really interesting and entertaining post David, the only bird I am familiar with out of the bunch, is the Brown Thrasher which I was lucky enough to photograph when in Florida.
    All the best Gordon.

  9. Hello David, great post on your banding work and the team. The Black-billed Cuckoo is an awesome bird. I also love the Thrasher. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

  10. Such handsome tails today! :)
    Thank you for the interesting and informative post!

  11. Good work; nice on the returnees. The cuckoo is wonderful; there have been reports on a mangrove cuckoo around here. But we are busy with non-birding stuff here, getting ready for our own migration (however, my post is all birds all the time again this week!).

  12. Maybe you'll retrap (is that a word?) some of them in autumn.............

  13. Yes David.You are correct.

  14. Nice to see David.
    You do good work.
    Greetings Tinie

  15. Great photos of interesting birds! Brown Trusher and Black - billed Cuckoo are amazing. Greetings!

  16. You do good work.
    To answer your comment on my blog, our outdoors cats don't tend to catch birds. The birds fly away. The cats are more concerned with the coyotes and the fox, both of which treed the cat last month. I was watching. If the cats catch anything, they bring it into the house.
    Even the barred owl keeps an eye on the cat. They are pretty smart.
    We have to put our bird feeders away in summer, as the bear comes up on the porch, otherwise. It's pretty simple.

  17. Wonderful imporessions of these friends and the birds. Great !
    Best, Synnöve