Sunday, 5 May 2019

Bird Banding and Annual Visit of Waterloo Region Nature Kids and Teens to SpruceHaven

04/05 May 2019

04 May 2019

     It was a little cloudy, and a tad cool, but our first weekend of banding for the spring of 2019 occurred, along with the annual visit of WRN Kids (and this year for the first time WRN Teens) to view the goings on and, in the case of the teens, provide some practical help with tree planting.
     Earlier in the year the barn was repainted and refurbished in several important ways, and looked quite splendid.

     Daina and Heather, reliable as always, were there early and between the two of them handled all the banding and recording.

     Ross Dickson and Kevin Grundy are the sages in our crew, both veteran licenced banders with more years of experience between them than I can count!

     Before the main group of WRN people arrived we had already started to trap Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and were very excited indeed to handle birds that had been banded and/or radio tagged over the past two years and have returned to the same barn. Before the morning was over we re-caught other species too.

     Complete details of the re-traps are as follows:

Band No.                  Species              Date Banded   Status when banded
272176107                Barn Swallow      31 July 2018     Adult         
263197017                Barn Swallow      06 May 2018     Adult male
272176102                Barn Swallow      31 July 2018     Adult     
259188169                Barn Swallow      28 May 2017     Adult female
76235390                  American Robin   13 May 2017     Adult male
137277410                American Robin   05 May 2018     Adult male
86112871                  Northern Cardinal 26 Aug 2017    After hatch year male

     Bird enthusiasts young and old arrived, all fascinated by what was going on.

     Marg Paré, the stalwart organizer of all things related to WRN Kids and Teens was there to help out in every way possible.

       It is always a great pleasure for me to work with Marg and I will look forward to many other occasions.  
     A Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoniceus) is extremely common at this time of year and I am always a little surprised we don't trap more of them. Everyone enjoyed seeing this male up close.

     A House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) is a very small bird, but feisty nonetheless.

     Do you get the feeling that there is keen interest in what we are doing?

     The capture of a Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza gerogiana) was, I believe, the first sighting of this species for the year, for all of us.

     There is always a bit of a discussion about what is the "bird of the day" and this is entirely subjective, of course, unless some rarity that clearly outranks all others is captured. For me, this position was occupied today by an Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapila), an enchanting little warbler.

     Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is exceedingly common and no doubt this capture represents the first of many for the year. In fact we trapped three today.

     Heather and I had been hearing the repeated couplets that mark a Brown Thrasher's (Toxostoma rufum) song, so we were not entirely surprised when a bird found its way into our nets.

     This Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) had been trapped in 2017, and was perhaps wondering how he fell for it a second time. Given half a chance he would have sliced a little flesh from a finger as pay back!

     Sandy came to visit and was interested to hear what we had banded and was elated to hear of the swallows returning to their natal barn.

     She was in time to see this American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) fitted with its band.

     Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is a common summer resident at SpruceHaven and we were not surprised to catch the first of what will probably be many captures of this species before the season is out.

     Over the past few weeks Franc Gorenc and Jim Huffman have been hard at work building a blind to be used for concealed observation of the birds on the pond, and for photography. I think they have done a fine job.

     I will look forward to summer, when lily pads cover the surface of the water, and Green Herons (Butorides virescens) daintily pick their way across them. 
     When the nets were furled and there were no more birds to be banded it was a good time to explain our Barn Swallow operation to all present. As you may see, everyone was keenly interested.

     Well, perhaps some would prefer to play in the mud!

     One Barn Swallow was content to watch from on high, but no doubt this mud will be become an important component of Barn Swallow nests still to be constructed.

     I earnestly hope that this message on the back of the shirt of one of the kids is a prophecy. Our generation has certainly screwed it up and we are leaving them a daunting task.

     Kevin, Ross and I reviewed the day's activity and created our summaries.

     Not only do Dave, Sandy and Jamie permit us to use their property to band birds and do Barn Swallow research (among many, many other things), Sandy provides potted native plants for all the children to take home. 

     How does one measure kindness like this? How does one pay adequate tribute to this generosity of spirit? I only know that the gratitude that I feel is boundless, and I suspect that many others feel the same way.
     Following the bird banding segment of the morning the Waterloo Region Nature Teens assisted Sandy in the planting of native trees, principally Northern (Eastern) White Cedar (Thuja ocidentalis), a great experience for them, and material help for Sandy. They also removed winter tree wraps.

     In fact, by the time they finished, they had planted thirty-one trees, and with a little time to spare went along the highway adjacent to the south field and picked up garbage. Bravo for these kids!
     In the first picture above, at the right is Jenn McPhee, a member of Waterloo Region Nature, and a seasoned botanist, who took the young kids on a botanical expedition in the woodlot. We were very happy to have Jenn take part in our activities today.

All birds banded 04 May: House Wren (1), Grey Catbird (1), Brown Thrasher (1), Barn Swallow (3), Song Sparrow (3), Swamp Sparrow (1), Ovenbird (1), American Goldfinch (2), Red-winged Blackbird (2).  Total: 15 individual of nine species.

05 May 2019

     The fog was as thick as pea soup when I left home before 06h:00 and it was a slow drive to SpruceHaven. Visibility was a little better when I arrived and Kevin had already unfurled all the nets.
     Following on our retraps from yesterday, the following birds banded in prior years at SpruceHaven were captured.

Band No.                  Species              Date Banded   Status when banded
258187936                Song Sparrow     20 Aug 2016     Adult
258187820                Song Sparrow     28 Aug 2016     Adult
137277427                Red-winged        27 May 2018     Adult male

     Rebecca Seiling and her daughter, Eden, have been faithful and regular visitors to observe our banding operation. Eden, twelve years old, is passionate about nature, and would like to get involved with some hands-on activity. I will be sure to take her along with me when we start to monitor our Barn Swallows and provide an outlet for her enthusiasm and get her started in a meaningful way. She is very keen, and I have little doubt that we have a naturalist in the making.

         There seemed to be a bit of a movement of kinglets this morning, and we banded three Ruby-crowned Kinglets ( Regulus calendula), all females, leading us to speculate that the males have perhaps already moved north to stake out territories.

     No sooner did we start to muse about Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) not being far behind when a male of this species appeared in our net.

        A male American Yellow Warbler ( Setophaga aestiva) was our first capture of the spring for this species.

     The only other new capture for this season was a male Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula); quite a contrast between this species and a kinglet!

    We have made a great start to our spring banding and it was good for the crew to all be back together again. Same time next week folks!

All species banded 05 May: Golden-crowned Kinglet (1), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (3), Yellow Warbler (1), Red-winged Blackbird (7), Common Grackle (1).
Total: 13 individuals of 5 species.


  1. Excellent work by all - and it looks like everyone enjoyed themselves too.
    A big YES to the back of that shirt. I hope so, I really hope so.

  2. Hola David, precioso vuestro trabajo, sois personas maravillosas y me encanta. Las aves preciosas y las fotos espectaculares. Siento no poder visitarte a menudo, mi madre tiene está enferma y ocupa todo mi tiempo. Un fuerte abrazo y enhorabuena a todos/as.

    1. Hola Lola: It is good to hear from you. I hope your mother gets well soon. I am sure it is hard on you too and you must be exhausted. Besitos.

  3. Buenas noches querido amigo David, que gran y preciosa labor la que realizáis todos los años. A juzgar por las imágenes veo mucha gente joven interesada, ¡eso está muy bien! El futuro está garantizado. Ha sido un bello y gratificante reportaje con muy buenas explicaciones como siempre lo sueles hacer.
    Gracias por mostrarnos esa belleza, recibe un caluroso y fuerte abrazo de tu amigo Juan.

  4. How interesting! I'm fascinated that you trap those birds beautiful and handle them.

  5. The is a spectacular barn. And I think it's great to be able to band so many species. Nice to see so many visitors are back.

  6. När jag ser på dina bilder så kan jag konstatera att naturen ser väldigt likadan ut som där jag bor, kunde lika gärna vara bilder från Sverige. Den enda skillnaden är att våren kommit längre här men det har att göra med den onormala värme vi drabbades av i april.
    En annan skillnad är förstås den stora variationen av fågelarter, vi kommer inte ens i närheten av den artrikedom som bilderna visar.

    Underbart att ni engagerar ungdomar i denna viktiga verksamhet, hoppas att dagens ungdomar kommer att förstå naturens villkor bättre än vad vi har gjort.
    Jag blir så glad av att läsa att svalor återkommer till samma ställe. Vet förstås att man aldrig kan veta men jag vill gärna behålla illusionen om att tornseglarna som jag nu väntar på är mina gamla vänner och bekanta.

  7. Nice big shed, well kept.
    Good to see a good gathering of people with young ones, the future.
    Amused at the lad in the mud :)

  8. Such an interesting post. It reminded me of the excitement when the swallows returned each year to nest in our pigsties and outbuildings when I was a boy. I also recall that we sometimes made some mud for the nest-building birds to utilise. Once they had found this source of building material, a small boy could crouch quite close to the mud puddle to watch their visits.

    1. We do the same thing. If we get a dry spell and the ground gets hard we wet it down to create mud for the swallows.

  9. It's so nice that the teens are interested in what you are doing. Maybe they will do this in the future, David? I'm always impressed how the birds are reacting. They seems very pleased.

  10. Sounds like a good day, and an educating one was had by all. That little Ovenbird is very pretty, a new one on me that I have never heard of before. Have a great week Diane

  11. Also in your seroundings it is that time of year again. Ringing birds. Good to see that many children are interested in birds. I also loved to read they planted a lot of trees.
    Keep up the good work.

  12. That slogan on a jacket: “Our generation will change the world.” I hope that’s true but really it’s the previous generation’s responsibility to do what’s needed so that there IS a world to change. There’s always something odd about little birds held tight in a human hand. I imagine their tiny hearts pumping.

  13. A very successful day on many fronts it would seem, David. Wonderful birds, wonderful people, wonderful locations, and the photography's not that bad either ;-}

    That shirt is inspirational - it got me thinking of appropriate designs for us oldies, on the basis that we screwed it up for the youngsters and we can't leave it to them to sort it out. Not come up with the right slogan yet.

    I still find myself drooling over your current header image!

    My love to you both - - - Richard

    1. If you design a tee shirt, let me know and I will order one.

  14. Hi Both,
    What a resplendent barn and what a wonderful number of young and old turned up for this banding session. Its so good to see so many children taking an interest in this operation and get up close to the birds.
    A heart warming post.
    All the best, John

  15. It's nice to see the younger generation's enthusiasm. Great work by all and the photos are beautiful!

  16. You wonder what the birds think of it all.

  17. Hello David, fantastic to see how interested the children are in the work that you are doing. It's so important to teach the children the beauty that nature brings.
    Beautiful photo's of the birds.
    Have a wonderful day

  18. Wonderful post - banding always seems to bring in the people. I am often surprised just how splendid even the most common of birds look in the hand. Once I can do less (paid) work, I look forward to doing more of this kind of thing!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. I can easily imagine Hamish and Pippa wearing those tee shirts, Stewart.

  19. Hola David.

    Que interesante labor de divulgación, enseñanza y cuidado de la Madre Naturaleza que estáis haciendo ante las nuevas generaciones, os felicito por ello, en cuanto a las capturas hay dos tipos que producen mucha emoción: las de especies raras o inclusive poco frecuentes y las recapturadas que te confirman que regresan a sus territorios de cría/paso.

    Un fuerte abrazo desde Galicia,


  20. Always good to see children involved you never know what interests will be sparked. The sentiment on the top - fingers crossed!!

  21. LOVE the barn!! this sounds like a wonderful banding program. i see most of these birds at my house. i enjoyed seeing the red winged black bird!! it's nice to see people of all ages involved!!

  22. The grackle is quite the handful compared with the others. You had a lot of visitors. Wow! Great header shot. Glad you visited my blog.

  23. Que bueno mes concienciar a los jovenes David, ellos son el futuro y tienen que aprender a defender la naturaleza, es la herencia que nos dejaron y les dejaremos.
    Gran reportaje.
    Un abrazo.

  24. I love to see bird banding because there is nothing like holding that tiny feathered miracle of life in your own hand and then setting it free. It will be a nice opportunity for Eden for you to mentor her and encourage her interest in nature.

  25. David, your team and you do the important work and I was pleased to see kids that are interested in. I liked Ovenbird and American Yellow Warbler, they are colorful and pretty birds for me. I agree it was a day of kindness, planting trees and picking up garbage.
    Happy week!

  26. Hello David, first I wanted to mention I love your header photo. Beautiful bird! Looks like you had a great banding session. The Barn Swallows are so cute, one of my favorites. The barn is beautiful, I like the smiley face on the side of the barn. Great photos and post. Enjoy your day and week ahead!


  28. Las nuevas generaciones de naturalistas y ornitólogos vienen pisando fuerte, el futuro está en sus manos. Buen reportaje David, me ha gustado mucho. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  29. David - so encouraging to see the interest in this event, especially from the kids. There may be hope for us yet! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Our tree swallows are keeping us quite entertained with their flying antics these days, and I was very excited to see a ruby-crowned kinglet near our stream last week!

  30. So nice to be able to hold the little birds in your hands and to learn banding from a young age. Fun to learn and enjoy as a group especially in planting trees and picking up garbage.

  31. What a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved! Fabulous photos as usual.

  32. Of all the posts you do each time, David -- travel and walks, anything -- these banding posts are my absolute favorites. I cannot imagine the joy and awe to be able to hold these precious creatures in your hand, even as an adult, much less someone younger. To do something so valuable is indeed a gift to our world. Thanks to you for sharing it, to all the volunteers, to your gracious hosts. You are all, indeed, wonderful.

  33. Las golondrinas siempre fueron mis aves favoritas, siempre volvían a casa ( ya cada vez quedan menos ) Tu reportaje es precioso. Besitos.

  34. What a lovely post David, being togheter like this.
    Have a wonderful weekend,


  35. Wonderful birds, the fresh green of spring, good company, fresh air, and an important activity. In this post, there's everything. :)
    Your header photo is fabulous as well.

  36. So many pretty birds! It is nice to see those young people enjoying the birds too.
    I like Song Sparrow and Yellow Warbler.
    Your new header is beauytiful!David.

  37. That is a very comprehensive account David. You must be extra keen to start the spring banding following the winter down tools. It's so encouraging to see so many youngsters coming along to your sessions. Even better that you have already identified the keenest prospects to nurture. I hope you can keep them away from the infernal machines that so many kids seem to love to the exclusion of the real world.

  38. The 4th of May is the anniversary of the Second World War.
    The large barn is beautifully painted and renovated. The shed looks really beautiful. Ringed birds have already returned and that is also instructive because that is how you learn about the birds.
    It is really beautiful that there are these days because the children learn a lot more about nature and its flora and fauna :-)
    I see the most beautiful birds passing by again and I am happy with that :-) You had another valuable day with these children :-)

    Dear greetings, Helma xx

  39. I enjoyed your post and so nice to see the younger generation enjoying and learning.
    Wonderful selection of birds and I also liked the look of the barn which has been repainted and refurbished...

    All the best Jan

  40. I find this 'day' quite amazing, especially with the involvement of young and old.
    I've not heard of anything similar here.

  41. It has been interesting to see the ringing work of the birds, I also liked that "seiurus" as bird of the day, it is beautiful.
    This initiative and the participation of young people, even in the Thujas plant, are very good, I am very happy to know that you give this message of the care of fauna and flora to future generations.
    A hug.

  42. Another successful banding happy to see some young people interested and active in preserving our natural world.

  43. Hi David,
    Somehow my reaction has disappeared, so here you get another one. It is a great idea to show interested people how banding is done, accompanied by a clear explanation why banding is so important. Besides that, it gives people a chance to see the birds from very nearby.
    Especially for children it is a very useful event because they have to be aware of the fast changing climate and its consequences and of ways to preserve as much as possible.
    Greetings, Kees

  44. Hi David - how brilliant to see so many active participants, even if only viewing, some got stuck in with necessary jobs towards the end of the day. I'm so pleased for you and for the barn owners, the handlers, et al - wonderful to read ...

    ... and oh yes that slogan - brilliant - cheers Hilary

  45. Fantastic blog post David! I wish I had been able to come. Next year for sure. It looks like everyone had an absolutely wonderful day. What a fabulous variety of birds. Wow!