September 23rd – Banding In A Rice Paddy

A week ago this net lane was just about dry….. -DOL

To give you some perspective: this is the main pond at the Farm last September – completely dry. -MMG

The huge amount of rain we’ve had over the last few days has inundated the countryside: our pond is higher than it was in the Spring; our trails are under water in many spots; a couple of the net lanes are inaccessible unless you have hip waders; and the river is approaching bank full and is still rising. And the rain is forecast to keep coming. Almost everywhere you walk, water squelches underfoot. Along with the rain is the wind – strong and blustery and out of the south. Lousy conditions for migration. So we opened late – after the rain slacked off – and limited our netting, closing when the wind got stronger. So the 6 birds we banded were a plus!

Two Mute Swans grace the river. Probably the two that have spent the Summer between York and Caledonia; taking a little cruise on the high, fast-flowing river. Note how high the water level is. -DOL

We came across 6 tiny snapping turtles which were trying to make their way to the pond. We gave them a helping hand; hopefully we’ll see a slightly larger version of them next Spring/Summer. -JDF

Banded 6:
1 Carolina Wren

The latest vireo migrant: Blue-headed Vireo. -MMG

1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Gray Catbird
1 Magnolia Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats

ET’s: 31 spp.

The first picnic christening of the picnic table. [Catered by Joanne] -JDF

And this news note from northern Ontario – Hilliardton Marsh, near New Liskeard:
Hi folks,
We are experiencing an above average black capped chickadee irruption this fall. We have had net checks of plus 20 and have banded close to 100 this fall. You may want to consider this when planning your volunteer schedules. Hope this finds everyone well. Orange crowns [warblers] have just showed up here which is usually the last warbler to go through and white-crowned sparrows are now here, so our diversity is starting to ebb away.
All the best,
Bruce murphy

September 19th – Great Weather Lull

A Tree Frog shares a leaf with Jiminy Cricket. -MMG

I’m conflicted: on the one hand I love the sort of fine weather we’ve experienced over the last couple of days; on the other, I detest it because it makes for lousy banding. During last week’s rainy, puddle-filling weather birds were halted in their migration and came down to seek shelter and food….and we had good luck catching them. But with these cool, clear nights and light winds they’ve either been flying over or deciding to stay put further north, putting on fat for the long flights to come….and we don’t catch nearly as many. Still, it’s great to be outside enjoying the warm September sun, listening to the crickets and Tree Frogs, and enjoying the company of like-minded nature enthusiasts. For the past 2 days, Marnie has banded at the Farm while I’ve been at Ben’s site at Lowville. Here’s our results:

Saturday, September 18th:
Farm – banded 18:
2 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 Philadelphia Vireo
3 Magnolia Warblers
4 Blackpoll Warblers

Mourning Warbler – always a treat. -MMG

1 Mourning Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 White-throated Sparrow
3 American Goldfinches

The new picnic table that Rob made is proving to be a nice banding platform. -DOL

Lowville – banded 15:
1 Black-billed Cuckoo

Young Black-billed Cuckoo. DO

Very tattered rectrices of the cuckoo. -DO

1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Veery
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
2 Swainson’s Thrushes
1 Gray Catbird
3 Magnolia Warblers

Taking the wing measurement of an Ovenbird. -DO

2 Ovenbirds
3 Northern Cardinals

Saturday’s Lowville crew: Liam, Renessa, and Aliya. -DOL

September 19th:
Farm – banded 6:
1 House Wren
1 Tennessee Warbler
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Gray Catbird

Lowville – banded 12:
1 Swainson’s Thrush
3 Gray Catbirds

A young Northern Mockingbird – a very nice surprise! – RG

1 Northern Mockingbird
2 Nashville Warblers
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Northern Waterthrush
3 White-throated Sparrows

ET’s: 34 spp.

One of several hummingbirds caught in the last few days. -AG

The mild weather has kept Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in place (we’ve caught several over these two days) and Monarch Butterflies moving – keep an eye out for “tagged” Monarchs.

Take a close look at passing Monarchs – some might be carrying tags. -RV

And in closing, a fashion note. Check out Aliya’s sweatshirt for the purple camouflage donated by a friendly Swainson’s Thrush – the “natural look”.

Aliya’s “natural look” sweatshirt. -RG


September 15th – We’re Well Into It!

We’re about 25% through the Fall migration – it seems to be roaring by. I wonder how many people are actually even aware of this enormous biomass passing them by every night….We had quite a good day at both the Lowville site and the Farm site.

Hello All,
Today was a productive day at the Lowville station, last night we received some strong thunderstorms that peaked around 2300hrs, weaning off around 0200hrs. Migration was certainly in full swing after the storms dissipated. While opening, many thrushes and warblers were still making Night Flight Calls (NFC) as they descended back to earth. Warblers put on a great show with 15 Sp recorded, including 12 in the nets. The highlight was a Connecticut Warbler that flew into a net just as we walked by. Overall a great day. A big thanks to Rob Gill for building a picnic table for the site, a big improvement on the small plastic table currently used!

Banded 29:

Philadelphia Vireo – smaller than its larger cousin (Red-eyed Vireo) but just as feisty. -REVI

Philadelphia Vireo – 1
Yellow Bellied Flycatcher – 2
Veery – 1
Swainson’s Thrush – 2
American Robin – 1
Gray Catbird – 4
Magnolia Warbler – 1
Chestnut sided warbler – 1
Tennessee Warbler – 1
Nashville Warbler – 3
Blackpoll Warbler – 3

Male Black and White Warbler. -BGO

Black and White Warbler – 3

Female black-throated Blue Warbler. Note the white “handkerchief” on the wing – a defining characteristic that can be seen at a distance. (Although the one we caught this morning at the Farm was lacking this white patch indicating that it was a young one.) -BGO

Black throated Blue warbler – 1
Bay Breasted Warbler – 1

An adult male American Redstart. A juvenile male would be gray where this one is black. -BGO

American Redstart – 1

Note the complete white eye ring – Connecticut Warbler. -BGO

Connecticut Warbler – 1
Northern Waterthrush – 2

Wilson’s Warbler. -BGO

Total – 29

Ebird list –
Benjamin Oldfield

Resident handyperson, Rob Gill, with a picnic table he just built for the Lowville site. (He’ll be putting one in at the Farm tomorrow – so we can sit and eat baked goods in a civilized manner). -BGO

These picnic tables that Rob has so kindly (and proficiently!) constructed will be a wonderful addition to the two sites. They provide a good work counter that allows people to socially distance while they’re banding. And when the banding is done they will provide a platform for camaraderie and the snacking that goes with it. THANKS ROB!!

With all the rain of late, the Swamp (aka the Farm) makes for tough walking when doing rounds. But on a day like today you don’t seem to mind. There were small pockets of birds on the move all morning through the willows. Most of them were up high but enough came down to make it interesting.
Banded 30:
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
1 Traill’s flycatcher
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Swainson’s Thrush
3 Gray Catbird
1 Philadelphia Vireo
4 Red-eyed Vireos
2 Magnolia Warblers
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
5 Blackpoll Warblers
2 American Redstarts
1 Ovenbird
3 Common Yellowthroats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
2 Song Sparrows

ET’s: 45 spp.

Bergs, Part 2

Icebergs are beautiful to observe. But they’re also a great place to look for seabirds. The ice carries land-based nutrients and trace elements (e.g., iron) and as it melts these nutrients are released into the surrounding water fueling the growth of phytoplankton, the primary producer of the ocean’s food chain. Phytoplankton attracts zooplankton (e.g., krill) and fish (like polar cod) which in turn feed a wide array of birds and marine mammals. [And if you want to talk about the top of the food chain…Icebergs provide the basis for Qidi Vidi Iceberg Beer, an excellent brew made by a small brewery just outside St. John’s.]
Sometimes we were close enough to see seabirds feasting in the waters around a berg – around one I saw had a group of >50 Northern Fulmars in the water just downwind from the ice feasting on the organisms the ice cold, nutrient-rich waters were fostering and another 40 sitting on it. I used to think that birds sitting on a berg were just catching a lift but all too often the big ones are grounded and the birds are going nowhere, just getting a rest

With time and warmer air and water temperatures and wave action, icebergs begin to melt and break down. Often you can see a long trail of smaller pieces of ice trailing away from a large berg, moving downwind or with the current. There are two classifications of smaller icebergs, which are usually spawned from larger bergs: “bergy bits” and “growlers”. The former are less than 5 meters in size while the latter are less than 2 meters and extend less than 1 meter above the surface – they can be very hard to see, especially if there is any wave action. I’m sure they got their name from the sound made as they slid along the side of a wooden ship.

Note the band of ice pieces streaming between the 2 bergs in the foreground – one of them is breaking up.

So as I was watching these giant ice blocks, I began to wonder if they were becoming a thing of the past. Was I seeing the last of their kind? Would there be any left for future generations to see? Warming in the Arctic is going on at twice the rate as in the rest of the world. On many Arctic islands you can see where glaciers have retreated up slopes, sometimes hundreds of meters from the sea. Ice would not be breaking off these glaciers and tumbling into the ocean; they would simply fall onto land and melt there. And Arctic glaciers are melting at a prodigious rate, so not only are they receding, they’re also getting thinner.

One of the wonderful things about being on a vessel dedicated to research is that you get to meet and discuss issues with a wide array of experts: geologists, oceanographers, biologists studying everything from the bottom sediment interface to plankton and fish. Last Fall I had the good fortune of meeting Cameron Roy who works for the Canadian Ice Service. I learned a lot about how oceans freeze over (and got to see it happening around the Boothia Peninusala), the extent (and recession) of the Arctic ice field, how to read the ice maps generated by the Canadian Ice Service (on this trip we used one to avoid a large icefield that was blocking our transit to Scott Inlet).

Anchored in an icefield

Cameron is on the current “leg” of the Amundsen’s cruise, so, via the magic of internet I asked him the question: are we seeing the end of icebergs in the north Atlantic? To start he noted that around 90% come from the West Greenland Ice Sheet (Disko Bay, Melville Bay, and the Humboldt Glacier in Kane Basin) and about 10% come from Canada (Devon Island and Ellesmere Island – a couple of years ago a huge piece, ~40%, of the Milne Ice Sheet on Ellesmere Island made the news when it collapsed into the ocean). And then he passed the question over to his cabin mate, Dr. Luke Copland from the University of Ottawa, who, as luck would have it, just happens to be a leading world expert on icebergs.

Note the tunnel–it will soon break in two.

Dr. Copland does not foresee a diminution this century, going into the next one. He notes that the recession of glaciers often reported in the news refers to mountain glaciers, which are most responsive to climate warming, but that these are not significant sources of icebergs (although their melting contributes to sea level rise). The major source of bergs is the massive Greenland Ice Sheet and there is still an awful lot of it. Still, it is melting and this has resulted in an increase in the velocity of the iceflow transporting more ice to the terminal where it subsequently “calves” into the sea. He notes that, if there were to be a massive collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet, it would result in a significant sea level rise – so the glaciers would continue to touch the ocean.

His conclusion: icebergs (and thus Quidi Vidi Iceberg Beer) will continue undiminished into the next century.