May 23rd – Winding Down

A treat for a treat; This Mourning Warbler quickly gobbled down the proffered fly. -NCO

As we near the end of the season, we start to get fewer and fewer species of birds. As Sam would say, “When the Backpoll comes, it’s all over.” And that’s exactly what happened. Much to our discomfort, instead of warming up with the arrival of late May, a cool morning met our bare fingers with an icy greeting.

To start the day off on a terrible note, we all noticed that Liam had forgotten to bring his usual baked goods from Amy. While we were bickering about cookies and muffins, a Loon call sounded above, and we were treated to a view of two Common Loons in their beautiful breeding plumage.

A few gems came our way today, including two stunning unbanded Mourning warblers and both a Black-throated blue & green warbler. (at times it came to a random draw to decide who got to band them) Finding a small inchworm on Rick’s pants gave us an idea: why not try and feed it to a bird? So when a Chestnut-sided warbler ended up in our nets, it was served a juicy inch worm on a platter, and to our shock, gobbled it up. Liam and I then continued to catch no less than 5 flies with Liam’s butterfly net, and fed one to one of our Mourning Warblers as a little thank-you gift. (see picture above)

The hottest new fashion was tried on today; Vireo earrings. Liam tried on two different earrings, but none of them managed to hold on long enough. If you’re interested in seeing the final look, take a peek at the picture below. [I’ve actually seen this done – at a banding station in Alabama – two vireos got a firm hold and wound NOT let go! -the Editor]

Red-eyed Vireos have been known to grip and hang on providing one with “different” ear-rings. NCO

We found many activities to keep us busy in between net rounds. These included everything from Garlic Mustard weeding competitions, to bean tossing games. The football Ben keeps at the station kept him, Sam, Liam and I busy for a while too.

One of our oldest, and most loyal members here at the Lowville banding station, unfortunately suffered a terrible accident today. The old, but steady white plastic lawn chair suffered from three major broken bones, and less than appropriate health care didn’t suffice to save them. If anyone would like to pay their respects by replacing our fellow guardian of the tired body, feel free to bring along a (functioning & weather-proof) chair of any kind.

Banded 28:
1 Rose-Breasted grosbeak

A young (in its 2nd year) male Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Note the brown juvenile flight feathers – in older birds these would be black. -NC)

4 Chestnuts-sided warbler
1 Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler. -NCO

1 Black-throated blue Warbler
1 American Redstart
2 Yellow bellied Flycatcher
1 Blackburnian
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Eastern Wood Pewee
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Mourning warbler

Female Mourning Warbler. -SGS

1 Song Sparrow
1 Black capped chickadee
3 Indigo Bunting

Stunning male Indigo Bunting. -SGS

2 Red eyed vireo
1 Gray catbird
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 American Goldfinch

1 Rose Breasted Grosbeak
1 Indigo Bunting
2 Common Yellowthroat
1 Gray Catbird
3 Song Sparrow
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 Black capped chickadee
1 Magnolia Warbler

It was a nice day for just sitting in the sun…..and learning about plumage characteristics. -NCO

We’re collecting central tail feathers for a study out of the University of Saskatchewan. -NCO

That young male grosbeak preparing to take off. -NCO

Nola O’Neil

May 21st – “Lips That Have Touched Liquor…..”

Today’s Motley Crew. -NCO

“Chuck Norris’s tears can cure cancer, too bad he doesn’t cry.” Such began our education today to become “cultured” students of Rick, before moving on to the futility of school, blackflies, and alcohol (as Rick’s grandmother once told him, “lips that have touched liquor will never touch mine”).

As you might be able to assume by our many conversations, it was slim picking’s today. As attributed to the southerly winds last night (causing migrants to be on the move), the birds were long gone before net opening, though the few that remained were truly gems – from striking warblers to the usual catbird and yellowthroat gang (local birds). There were several “wow” moments, such as an adult bald eagle that swooped down low, and two Common Nighthawks with their flashy white wing bars.

We had quite a group of young banders, both long time trainees and new faces. Our newest claim to fame is that we all arrived before Rick; something that has been merely a dream since the olden days at Ruthven! Claire and Desmond got to band their first birds, and the rest of us tested our knowledge on how to age birds; every species provided us with a new challenge.

Thanks to Amy’s incredible and plentiful baking, Rick treated the young banders by sharing his newly aquired goods. Sam was lucky enough to get TWO cranberry muffins (totally no hard feelings, I swear).

Our extraction skills (and patience) were truly tested when it came to hummers – no less than 3 found their way into our nets. One striking male treated us with its preening process not long after being released. We told Liam that there was a surprise waiting for him down in net 17, and the instant enthusiasm (and anticipation of a grosbeak) meant he missed the “it may or may not sting” warning. I will leave the rest up to your imagination :).

One of three hummers caught today: 2 males and a female. -ELO

I must mention that Liam and his birding friend Desmond are engaged in a legendary competition. Though they both have impressive Ontario lists, birds are not the feature of this long standing battle, as you may think. They are racing to see who can find the most species of….butterflies. Don’t get me wrong, it IS intense, and their discussion quickly moved on to include snake and salamander life lists. Without a doubt, it was truly a pleasure having a group of keen young banders, sharing the joys of the natural world.

In between the later net rounds, we tracked the flight path of “Gas Hawks” (aka planes) and had fun learning about their destinations with the use of an app. We fantasized about travelling the world, to bird band in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, and beyond. If only life could permit us to do so (I might get in trouble for saying that…as Rick has imprinted in our minds, “why go to school when you could be banding?”)

Banded 20:
TEWA 1 Tennessee Warbler
CSWA 2 Chestnut-sided Warblers

Chestnut-sided Warbler. -ELO

2 Wilson’s Warblers
2 American Redstart

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher; a bird you look for later in the month of May. -SGS

2 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers
2 Magnolia Warblers
2 Common Yellowthroats

Female Canada Warbler -SGS

1 Canada Warbler
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Scarlet Tanager
2 Gray Catbirds

Retraps – 9:
1 American Robin
2 Gray Catbirds
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler

Cheers, and thanks for a great day! Eila

Eastern Kingbird -KAP

An interesting recovery!
I just received word from the Banding Office that an Eastern Kingbird that we banded May 20th, 2018 was recovered at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto on May 18th – 3 days ago. The bird would be at least 5 years old.

A Colorful Day, May 12 – Lowville

May 12, 2022 – Lowville

Today felt like a day filled with color.. not only are the plants all suddenly bursting with flowers and new leaf growth, but we also had many colorful birds today. For starters, the site seemed like it was overflowing with Baltimore Orioles. They were everywhere; calling, singing, and of course fighting with each other. I think perhaps a lot of orioles must be migrating through our area right now, and we ended up catching 10 orioles for the day which makes them the second most numerous bird we caught, the first being American Goldfinches. I also had an amazing surprise on my first net check… this was the first morning of the season that I finally heard the songs and calls of Scarlet Tanagers. I thought, ‘that’s awesome that they’re back’, but didn’t really expect to catch them since they typically hang out in the forest canopy. Was I ever thrilled to see two glowing red dots as I approached the first net: two male tanagers in the net! I think they probably got caught because they swooped low while chasing each other. In addition to tanagers and orioles, the Indigo Buntings have also arrived back!


1 Blue Jay
1 American Robin
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Gray Catbird
10 American Goldfinch
1 Least Flycatcher
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
1 Black-and-white Warbler
2 White-throated Sparrow
7 Baltimore Oriole
3 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

1 Downy Woodpecker
1 American Robin
2 Gray Catbird
2 American Goldfinch
1 Common Yellowthroat
3 Baltimore Oriole
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

TOTAL: 46 (33 banded, 13 recaps)

Scarlet Tanager (male)

Scarlet Tanager

Male Indigo Bunting

Baltimore Oriole

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks not only have a beautiful rose colored breast but they also have rose colored underwing coverts that you can see in flight.

May 19th Glancaster

Banding in your own backyard (literally) has some great advantages, but one of the things I seem to be missing is all the baked goods arriving at the other banding sites!

Last week was a great week for my site, lots of birds passing through until Sunday May 15th and then everything kind of stopped until it picked back up a bit this morning.  In conversation with Rick, we’ve been reflecting on the importance of even small patches of hedgerows to migrating birds.  We have rows of cedar hedges lining our property and they shelter a wide variety of birds, including a Canada Warbler that flew into it on Sunday.  Not bad for a backyard bird!  Add to that the Lincoln’s Sparrow in the same net from earlier this week and that’s pretty impressive for a backyard.  My other nets down the road are in pretty open areas, one in front of a hedgerow and the other slipped in between 2 hedgerows.  All three nets have caught an impressive 30 species in 9 days!  With development coming at this area from both Mount Hope and Caledonia, these small spaces become even more important for both migrating and nesting species. The family who own the property I use are looking at building a house in this area next year, but have been so impressed with the diversity of birds in the hedgerows they have decided to leave up the one set of hedgerows in order to hopefully continue providing habitat for the birds.

Net between 2 hedgerows to the right of the blackberry patch.

Net to the left in front of the hedgerows. The box has a Tree Swallow nest and they enjoy sitting sentry on the pole closest to their nest.

In preparation for the Global Big Day, I read a book with my class called, “Is this Panama?”. It tells the story of a hatch year Wilson’s Warbler and his first journey south.  It was a great story, full of information about other birds as well.  At the back of the book it shows a map of the route “Sammy”, the Wilson’s Warbler, took from Alaska. Instead of going straight down the Pacific Coast to Panama, he headed across northern Canada, down through the Great Lakes area and south through the States. We discussed how he had taken the “long way” and students thought he would do better to head back in the spring taking the shorter route.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, but I opened my net the next morning and in one of the nets was a Wilson’s Warbler!  The students were delighted to see photos of him and one even realized “He took the long way back!”

“Sammy” the Wilson’s Warbler.

Banded 93 (May 10th – May 19th)

I open for about 2 hours each morning 5:30am-7:30am) except for Saturdays when I open for the full morning.

2 Canada’s Warbler
1 House Finch
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
13 Gray Catbirds
11 Baltimore Oriole’s
1 Red-Winged Blackbird
2 Downy Woodpeckers
3 Orchard Orioles
1 Song Sparrow
3 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Northern Flicker
1 Tennesse Warbler
21 American Goldfinches
2 Least Flycatchers
8 Common Yellow Throats
1 Wilson’s Warbler
2 Traill’s Flycatcher
4 Yellow Warblers
5 Chipping Sparrows
6 House Wrens
1 Myrtle Warbler
1 Mourning Warbler

And an extracted Ruby-throated Hummingbird (too bad Nancy didn’t live closer!)

Recaps: 22

3 Tree Swallows
3 Song Sparrows
5 American Goldfinches
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Eastern Bluebird
1 Northern Cardinal
3 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Common Yellow Throat
1 Downy Woodpecker

Tennessee Warbler – I have been hearing them around both properties for a couple of days, so was delighted to finally get one in a net!

Canada Warbler – I had one in my feeder net in the backyard and another down the road at my other nets.

Mourning Warbler – I think this is the first one I’ve ever had in hand! What a surprise to get it in my net, although when I looked up their habitat, they prefer thickets of blackberries and wet woodlands, which is the habitat my net is in. I’ll have to keep an ear out for it singing for the Atlas this summer.

Swainson’s Thrush – Another bird I’ve not had in hand, at least not in recent years and the first thrush, other than robins, I’ve banded this spring.

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Dave and I should be keeping track of the variety of sparrows on our road. Too bad the Clay-Coloured didn’t make it down this way…