Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bird Banding at SpruceHaven

12 September 2018

     I met Ross dark and early, having driven through dense fog, but the conditions at SpruceHaven looked favourable for a good day at the nets. It was not long before we were joined by Judy and Merri-Lee and right from the get-go it was a productive session.
     One of our first captures was a Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus), an occasion to delve into the finer points of sexing and aging - an educational opportunity for all present.

     The picture below shows the tips of the greater coverts typical of a hatch year bird. The retained coverts often contain a cinnamon tip such as this example, sometimes more than one on each side of the bird. The tips in the first set of feathers wear rapidly so that it is very uncommon to find this feature in spring in a second year bird.

     This character is valid for all Catharus and other brown(ish) thrushes in North America, as well as for American Robin (Turdus migratorius). I wonder whether it is true for European species such as Turdus merula. Maybe Phil Slade might like to comment on this.
     A Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) presents quite a difference in appearance once it has shed breeding attire for its definitive basic plumage.

     Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum) and Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) are basically indistinguishable morphologically from each other, except at the extreme end of measurements, and are usually recorded as Traill's Flycatcher.

     Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) retains enough of its breeding plumage into the fall, as to be quite easily recognized.

     Hints of morphology, but measurements primarily, enabled us to identify this bird as a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventri).

     The rusty crissum of this Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is clearly visible on the bird below being held by Ross.

     I had to leave early, having other chores that had to be done, but after I left a hatch year Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) was captured, our first ever in the nets at SpruceHaven and I am indebted to Merri-Lee for the photograph below.

     Tomorrow will mark the annual visit of Waterloo Region Nature to our banding operation. We hope that we will have a range of interesting species to show the people coming out to enjoy a morning at SpruceHaven.

All species banded 12 September: Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (1), Traill's Flycatcher (1), House Wren (1), Grey Catbird (1), Swainson's Thrush (2), American Goldfinch (16), Nashville Warbler (3), Common Yellowthroat (2), Magnolia Warbler(2), Chestnut-sided Warbler (1), Black-throated Green Warbler (1), Song Sparrow (3), Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1), Indigo Bunting (1).  Total: 36 birds of 14 species.
Retraps: House Wren (1), Swainson's Thrush (1), American Goldfinch (1), Common Yellowthroat (1), Song Sparrow (1).

David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. Preciosa entrada como siempre David, muy muy interesante, os deseo una buen día y que encontréis muchas aves. Un abrazo.

  2. Such a varied selection of birds here, very nice to see.

    All the best Jan

  3. Your detail in these shots is exceptional and I really enjoyed seeing the detail on the feathers.

  4. Hello David!
    Great captures of those beautiful birds and great close up of the feathers!
    Like especially the Grey Catbird that i have never seen before!
    I’m sure you had a lovely time with your friends and with bird banding!
    Have a happy week!

  5. David,
    your photos show well the difference of the birds. I liked Green Warbler, it's so pretty bird. I've read about this bird, in Russia it'a called Swamp warbler. You can read (translate into English by Google!) http://природа.рф/birds/kamyshevka-bolotnaya.php
    Happy Sunday!

  6. Beautiful closeup shots, David. The feathers are very detailed. I have never hold a bird before, and it looks very nice.

  7. A joy to visit and see the different species, I love to visit and learn a little more.

  8. Hello David,
    Beautiful pictures of birds, which I have never seen!
    Very nice to see these birds now in this way.
    Beautiful colors and details.
    Thanks for sharing!
    regards and happy Sunday!

  9. Precioso post como siempre maestro, que gran entrada y que bellas fotos de primeros planos apreciando sus bellos plumajes y principales características. Es un placer el leerte David.
    Un fuerte abrazo amigo

  10. Hello, lovely closeups and details on these birds. I am not sure if I have ever seen the Alder Flycatcher. The Swainson's Thrush is one of my favorites. Great post and photos. Happy Birding. Enjoy your day and new week!

  11. I love seeing all these birds you banded. You must be at warbler heaven!

  12. Your photography is such that I nesrly said 'look out Franc!', David, but then you did have the advantage that these birds were close, captive, and relatively static. Great images, nonetheless, and beautifully illustrating your ID points and your account of the session. With my love to you both - - - Richard

  13. Beautiful shots of the birds. They looks so calm when they are being held.

  14. The detail of the feathers in that tight shot is spectacular and all the bird photos, just terrific. I love this series.


Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.