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.


  1. Excelente reportaje amigo mío. Mi más sincera enhorabuena por la gran labor que hacéis en educación medioambiental, hay que seguir por este precioso camino. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  2. I always enjoy your photos and narrative of the bird banding. It is something I would like, given it would be in my area. Looks like you have some great people to commune with.

  3. The innocence and delight of children is a great reminder for us to remember how wonderful our world really is. Sadly, I think we lose a little piece of this over time.

  4. Hi Both what a wonderful time the youngsters and adults appeared to have getting so close to the birds, it's so important we introduce young to nature. A sterling job carried out by you and your group, well done to you all. All the best, John

  5. Great photos David. Lots of people.

  6. So much joy in everyone's faces. Such a wonderful day out for your visitors and one that will be remembered for many years to come by those lucky youngsters.
    The Monarchs chrysalis looks like something from outer space!! It must have been amazing to hear all of those frogs.
    Wishing you and Miriam a brilliant weekend.

  7. What kind of beauty you are doing with the many researches and taking pictures together. Beautiful to see David.
    Happy weekend, greetings Tinie

  8. We need more people like you, David, in this world to help salvage the future of the planet, and I am convinced that your activities will significantly increase that base. From little acorns - etc.

    With love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

    1. Richard, that's about the kindest thing you could say to me. And it's very appropriate as it turns out. As a result of this tour and a presentation I gave last Wednesday night, I have been contacted by a couple who are going to convert 20 acres of their farm to native grassland to aid in the recovery of grassland species. You will excuse me if I indulge myself in a few moments of satisfaction!

  9. Hello, it is great to see the young birders and all the happy smiling people releasing the birds. Great photos, the B&W warbler is a favorite. Enjoy your day!

  10. I agree with Richard David. Marvelous post and does the heart good to see the young ones introduced to birding and nature.

  11. Hello David,
    There are many more people who do this amazing job what you and all those people do.
    I see all happy faces, you are doing good work.
    The pictures are also beautiful.
    Best regards, Irma

  12. Some how I missed this post. The work you are doing is incredible and it is so good to see youngsters joining in and learning from your knowledge and skills. Keep up the good work. Bravo.
    Have a great weekend Diane

  13. Great news about the 20 acres..... too many of the birds need all the help they can get from us. (And if they're in trouble, it's usually due to human activity, anyway)

  14. A bird in the hand is worth many, many hours on the Net!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. I must congratulate you David on your hard work,it's always a pleasure to drop by your Blog from time to time,I'm never disappointed with its content,and it's always an education.
    Brilliant post,thank you.

  16. Such a lovely post, I enjoyed the read and the accompanying photographs.

    All the best Jan

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