April 8th – Getting Into Gear

This pair of Blue-winged Teal seem to be checking out the pond for a nesting site. They have been around for two days now. -ECK

The temperature dropped to -4 C. during the night producing a skim of ice in places but didn’t freeze the nets. The pond and accompanying wetland is attracting a variety of ducks: Blue-winged Teal, Mallards, Wood Ducks, and a pair of American black Ducks. The water level at the moment is quite high (reflecting the near-flood on the Grand River) but is receding, having dropped a few centimeters since yesterday. Thank goodness! Liam was able to find a way through it to get a count done on the river without overflowing his boots. Still, the water in the wetland is quite high, preventing us from putting up a couple of nets.

The first muffins of the 2023 Spring Banding Season. Thanks Amy!!! -=DOL

Interestingly, there was a considerable mixed flock of sparrows along the edge of the field. The birds would fly out into it to feed then head back into the scrub piles and dogwood edges that we’ve created. We are going to try to take advantage of this seeming bonanza – we put up two nets along the edge which we hope will tap into them. We would especially like to get the Vesper Sparrow that is hanging out there (and was there yesterday too). I think the cutting of the dense buckthorn that ran along the edge is making a difference already in how birds use the site. American Tree Sparrows, which we’re seeing in large numbers, are getting ready to head back north but most have not put on much fat so they may be around for a few more days at least. Most of the juncos we caught were females and many of those observed were probably females as well as they looked pretty brown. I think they might be like Snow Buntings with flocks of males departing before the females in order to establish territories for when the latter arrive. Some Song Sparrows nest here while others head farther north. We retrapped two that we banded last year – one in April, the other in September. These are likely local breeders returning home. Swamp Sparrows, which thrive in this habitat, are just returning.

Female Red-winged blackbirds are often passed over as drab. but check out the subtle colouring of the “epaulettes”. -SHL

It was interesting to listen to the travels of two of the helpers today: Sam Lewis just got back from a month-long exchange program in Germany where he expanded his life list considerably chalking up 70+ European species – quite a feat at this time of year in northern Europe. And Liam Thorne recently returned from a birding expedition with his father to Texas where he chalked up 225 species including 80 “lifers”. Wow! And we had a new volunteer today – Emma Kunert, who travelled all the way from Guelph and got to band her first birds.

Emma with her first banded bird – American Tree Sparrow. -SHL

Banded 28:
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker showing why he has that name. We don’t often get to see the red belly. -SHL

2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Eastern Bluebird

Two pairs of Eastern Bluebirds have been checking out the nest boxes surrounding the field. -ECK

3 American Robins
8 American Tree Sparrows
6 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Song Sparrows
2 Swamp Sparrows
2 Red-winged Blackbirds

Species Count: 45

The first Garter Snake of the year. It was caught heading for the pond from which a deafening cacophony of Chorus Frogs was emanating. -LET


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