April 22nd – Getting it Done

The unflappable Loretta Mousseau.

One of the major changes in Ruthven’s banding program since its inception in the Fall of 1995 is the number and quality of people that are now involved. So on morningings like this – cold, NE wind, heavy threatening overcast – you can look forward to going out to the banding lab because, if nothing else, there will be interesting people to shoot the breeze with (and bitch about the weather). Loretta has been a big part in helping the station get on track. She’s come out for over 10 years now; volunteers for a regular ‘shift’ in the banding schedule; ALWAYS brings coffee or tea; is very good at extracting and banding; and, when we have a technical problem (like the wind gauge isn’t working), has no compunction about dragging husband Pat (who can fix anything!) out to make it right.

And when you have good people you have a good program and this attracts other good people in a snowballing effect. Peter Thoem, who has also volunteered for a regular spot in the schedule, was out early to do a thorough census and help extract.

Trent University student Danielle Gough touching up her banding skills.

And then, this morning, there was Danielle Gough, who is a Master’s student at Trent. She visited Ruthven during last year’s Bird Festival. She contacted me earlier in the week to see if it was OK to drop in a brush up on her banding skills. Sure…..but the best time is earlier in the morning. Coming from Peterborough I thought if she got here by 9:00 or 10:00 she’d be doing well…..So I was more than a little surprised when she pulled in shortly after 7:00 having left the north at 4:00 AM (meaning she got up even earlier!). I like that kind of dedication. [As it turns out she’s leaving shortly for Pacific Rim National Park to further her research, studying Pacific Wrens. Hmmm….Pacific Rim…..it’s tough being a student.] She wanted to get some practice in before leaving for the West and we were more than happy to accomodate her.

Older (ASY) male American Goldfinch at top; younger (SY) at bottom. -Gail MacLellan

Photographer Gail MacLellan arrived somewhat later to take some shots and see some birds up close. So we prevailed upon her to get a shot of two male American Goldfinches – an older (After Second Year) one and a younger (Second Year) one – that we caught at the same time. The difference in wing plumage makes the discrimination of the age in these birds quite simple.

And now for the real action: we were actually quite busy, handling 100 birds. But nearly two thirds of them (64) were retraps. The juncos and sparrows are hanging tough, loading on fat/weight, and waiting for the conditions to change. Many of these birds have got the traps figured out – there’s food in them and they let you go -so we’re getting some of them multiple times in a morning. There was a minor influx of White-throated Sparrows during the night and it was wonderful to hear at least 5 different birds singing at first light. Most of the 9 that we caught were striking ‘white morphs’ with bold black and white streaking to their heads and a brilliant yellow malar patch.

[I don’t want to belabour this lousy weather thing…but my neighbour just had to tell me this afternoon that he was talking to some friends in Holland and it was 25 degrees there…..thanks for that….]

A somewhat bedraggled young Fox Sparrow. - P. Thoem

And the back view..... - P. Thoem

Banded 36:
4 Mourning Doves
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Hermit Thrush
1 European Starling
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
5 White-throated Sparrows
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Red-winged Blackbird
10 Brown-headed Cowbirds
3 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 64:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Tree Swallow
1 Black-capped Chickadee
9 American Tree Sparrows
4 Chipping Sparrows
1 Field Sparrow
5 Song Sparrows
4 White-throated Sparrows
16 Dark-eyed Juncos
8 Brown-headed Cowbirds
13 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 48 spp.


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