June 1st – Rejuvenation

Yesterday (May 31st) the 6-acre field adjacent to the banding hut was planted with prairie grass. -DOL


As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m listening to peals thunder overhead and the smack of large rain drops as they pelt the roof. I like thunderstorms generally but this one is bringing a big smile. Yesterday the 6-acre field adjacent to the banding area at the Hurkmans’ Farm was planted with native prairie grasses as part of an effort to rehabilitate both the field and the area around it. When we made the move to the Farm we talked about this possibility with owners Bill and Elaine Hurkmans and…they jumped on it! Elaine made a great move by inviting Cathy Blott, who is with the Haldimand Stewardship Council, to join in. Cathy, right from the start, looked into how we could make this happen…and it is happening. This rain couldn’t have come at a better time.

Cathy Blott, a biotechnician with Haldimand Stewardship Council, overseeing habitat design and stewardship, has been instrumental in spearheading this ecological rejuvenation project. -DOL


But this is just part of the project. The areas bordering the field had been taken over by Black Walnuts and, insidiously, buckthorn. Between their “poisoning” the soil around them, making it difficult for other trees and shrubs to grow and an excessive deer population that has further wiped out any understory, the habitat was a poor one for birds and other wildlife. Hopefully this is about to change!

During the Winter we worked fairly hard cutting down buckthorn. We made good inroads but still have a long way to go – but this rehabilitation will be a long-term project. As we continue to eradicate buckthorn we need to be planting the edges with a variety of native trees and shrubs. This got started in the Spring. But again….it’s a long-term project. If you want to help, you’re more than welcome to pitch in. Cathy has plans to obtain some trees and shrubs for the edges and I am on the lookout as well – along the sides of some old dirt roads in the area I’ve found a variety of young oaks and maples that I have started to replant. You could do the same. Cathy is also hoping to get funding to buy native perennial flower plugs to diversify the plants in the meadow: bergamot, coneflowers, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing this field and its surroundings in a couple of years’ time.

It will be interesting to see and document the impact of these measures on the birdlife associated with it. We’re in a great position to do so, banding right on the edge of the field. Improving the edge habitat will pay great dividends, especially if we can increase the amount of dogwood on the site. Our most productive net sits next to a dogwood thicket. I can see where that thicket had been much more extensive but has been greatly restricted by buckthorn.

We now have 2 Spring and 1 Fall Season’s worth of data to use as a baseline. Let’s see what happens.
Rick

End of season vibes & evidence of a long journey

May 24 – Lowville

The 24th definitely had an “end of season” feel… we weren’t catching many migrants, and there were lots of breeding birds around. It certainly feels more like summer every day. Although we only banded 10 new birds today, one of them was a species we hadn’t caught yet this spring: a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! Aliya joined me today, and because it was her birthday she got the pleasure of banding this awesome bird. A great way to spend a birthday in my opinion!

BANDED:
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 American Robin
1 Northern Waterthrush
2 Mourning Warbler
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RECAPS:
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Gray Catbird
1 American Goldfinch
1 Song Sparrow
3 Common Yellowthroat
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Mourning Warbler

TOTAL: 21 (10 banded, 11 recaps)

The birthday girl, banding her first ever cuckoo!

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Notice the long tail on this species. Not only is the long spotted tail very distinctive, but the size of the spots at the end of the tail can help in aging Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Mourning Warbler (female)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (female)

Northern Waterthrush – a unique warbler species that frequents the muddy banks of streams, bogs, and ponds

 

 

 

 

May 25 – Lowville

Today I was joined by Sarah, and we had the pleasure of welcoming Catherine back from her amazing adventure at Long Point Bird Observatory! We did catch a few more birds today than on the previous day but you can still definitely tell the season is coming to a close. One of the most interesting birds today was a Tennessee Warbler that was clearly in the midst of a long journey. His furculum (the wish bone area where birds store fat) was overflowing with fat and he weighed in at 14.2 grams (as much as an Indigo Bunting)! Birds put on excess fat in order to make long migratory flights, so this is potential evidence that this bird might still have a long flight ahead. Tennessee Warblers breed across the boreal forest all the way up to northern British Columbia and even into Nunavut! So as we released this bird we were wondering where he might be headed to!

BANDED:
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
2 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 American Goldfinch
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
2 American Redstart
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 Mourning Warbler
1 Canada Warbler
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RECAPS:

1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Gray Catbird
2 Song Sparrow
3 Common Yellowthroat
1 Yellow Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warbler

TOTAL: 25 (15 banded, 10 recaps)

Tennessee Warbler – this little guy has really packed on a lot of fat, which for birds is stored energy they will use to power long migratory flights. We wonder where he is headed, and hope he gets there safely!

Traill’s Flycatcher

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – When compared to the Traill’s Flycatcher above, you can see that the YBFL has a smaller bill and more yellowy olive color all over – particularly on the throat and eye ring

Magnolia Warbler

Head-on view of a Canada Warbler showing that lovely “necklace”

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Yellow Warbler – this species breeds at our site, but for whatever reason we don’t catch them particularly often

“Happiness comes the way the wind blows” – Part 2

~ Continued: Update for May 13-20 ~

May 19 – Lowville

This time of year, birding success can be quite dependent on the weather. You could say “happiness comes the way the wind blows”… I’m sure the author of that quote (Mikhail Lermontov) meant it in a different way, but I relate to that statement in regards to spring (or fall) birding. The night of May 18 was indeed another great night for migration, and we observed lots of migrants at the site in the morning. In addition to that, we caught a new species for the Lowville site – a Northern Parula!! The flowering trees near the aerial net are in bloom, so we have been successful in catching some of the birds visiting the flowers. The species you might see sipping nectar of course include orioles, but there are also some warbler species that you might typically think of as insectivores that will readily drink nectar during migration (and on the wintering grounds). Many species of warbler will take advantage of what the flowering plants have to offer, but some examples of those you will most commonly see drinking nectar are Tennessee, Nashville, Orange-crowned, and Cape May Warblers. Of the many warblers among the flowers today, Tennessee were definitely the most numerous. Ben did a census that included the site and the section of the Bruce Trail right around it, and tallied 39 Tennessee Warblers! We ended the day with 65 species including 15 species of warbler.

BANDED:
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Gray Catbird
1 American Goldfinch
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Red-eyed Vireo
4 Tennessee Warbler
1 Northern Parula
1 Canada Warbler
1 Mourning Warbler
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RECAPS:
1 American Robin
3 Gray Catbird
1 Carolina Wren
1 Indigo Bunting
1 Baltimore Oriole
3 Common Yellowthroat
2 Chestnut-sided Warbler

TOTAL: 25 (13 banded, 12 recaps)

The first Canada Warbler of the season.. this one is a female

 

Northern Parula (female) – this is the first of this species we’ve banded at the Lowville site!

Mourning Warbler – first of the season

The most numerous species around the site today, the Tennessee Warbler!

This Chestnut-sided Warbler was a re-capture from a previous year. So cool to think that we banded this bird last spring, he then migrated to Central or South America for the winter, and has now made his way all the way back here and is once again using the Lowville site as migration stopover. It’s just incredible to think about what these tiny birds do each year.

 

 

 

 

May 20 – Lowville

Today Ben and I were joined by Liam, and we had a fantastic day. It’s what I’d call a ‘late May kind of day’… it’s warm, breeding birds and insects are abundant, we’re getting late-season migrants, and the vegetation is starting to look very lush. The difference in how the site looks today compared to a week ago is quite drastic because of how quickly the trees have leafed out. You can see the comparison in the backgrounds of these photos.

It’s crazy to see how much the vegetation has changed in just one week.. you can compare the photo of the BLBW taken one week prior to the photo of the CAWA from today. I didn’t think to take before/after photos of the site but you can clearly see the change in the background of these bird photos 🙂

We were absolutely thrilled to catch a total of 4 Canada Warblers for the day! While we do typically catch at least a couple of these birds in a season, they are listed as a Species at Risk in Canada, so we are always very pleased to see/catch them. We banded a total of 20 species today and of those we had 9 warbler species. Apparently we also have a good diversity of dragonfly species at the site, and I snapped photos of couple of them. You can see them below (Liam confirmed the IDs on these for me as his insect ID skills are much better than mine).

BANDED:
1 Hairy Woodpecker
2 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Great-crested Flycatcher
3 Traill’s Flycatcher
1 House Wren
1 Swainson’s Thrush
3 Gray Catbird
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
3 American Redstart
4 Tennessee Warbler
3 Magnolia Warbler
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
4 Canada Warbler
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Indigo Bunting
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RECAPS:
1 Red-eyed Vireo
2 Gray Catbird
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Indigo Bunting

TOTAL: 49 (37 banded, 13 recaps)

Blackpoll Warbler – this species is well-known to be a late season migrant, so while it is wonderful to catch them, it is also a sign that migration will be coming to an end soon!

Feast your eyes on this stunning male Blue-winged Warbler!!

Male Canada Warbler showing their characteristic face pattern and distinctive black ‘necklace’

Young female Canada Warbler is noticeably more drab when compared to the male

The two flycatcher species, Alder and Willow, are lumped together as Traill’s Flycatcher when caught because they are almost identical and the only reliable way to tell them apart is by their song.

Magnolia Warbler

Harpoon Clubtail

Springtime Darner

Both dragonflies were successfully released from the nets no worse for wear 🙂

“Happiness comes the way the wind blows” – Part 1

Updates from the week of May 13-20:
Migration has progressed so quickly! I have unfortunately been rather busy lately, so I have not been able to get updates posted quite as quickly as I’d like. However, there have been some great highlights from the past week and half or so of banding that I’d like to share. So I have combined them into two posts where you can see the totals, and photos of beautiful and memorable birds.

 

May 13 – Lowville

We had an absolutely fantastic day on the 13th. The conditions made for a good night of migration the night before and we had a good diversity of migrants, both observed and in our nets. Ben and I were joined by young volunteers; Sarah and Sam. Sam recently endured a sports-related knee injury but still managed to make it out to the site on crutches. I find nothing motivates birders to get into the field like a potentially good migration day, injured or not! We had many lovely birds but a little flock of warblers in the nets including 3 Bay-breasted Warblers and a Blackburnian Warbler was definitely one of the highlights. Later in the morning, we started to hear the distinct buzzy song of the Blue-winged Warbler, and hoped we might catch one. By the end of the morning, we had managed to catch no less than 3 Blue-wings! The Lowville site typically catches approximately 1-2 Blue-winged Warblers per season (as per BGO), so 3 in one day was certainly an unexpected and unprecedented treat! We ended the day with 49 birds captured (35 banded), and a total of 79 species observed!!

BANDED:
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
3 Gray Catbird
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Veery
5 American Goldfinch
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
5 Common Yellowthroat
2 Yellow Warbler
4 Magnolia Warbler
2 Blackburnian Warbler
3 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
3 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 Northern Waterthrush
1 Indigo Bunting

RECAPS:
2 Downy Woodpecker
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2 Gray Catbird
1 American Goldfinch
1 Song Sparrow
2 Indigo Bunting
3 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

TOTAL: 49 (35 banded, 14 recaps)

 

Blackburnian Warbler

I had to include two photos of this little jewel of a warbler.. male Blackburnian Warblers sport fiery orange plumage on their chest/throat, and in person it is so bright it almost glows.

Blue-winged Warblers – male on left; female on right

Bay-breasted Warbler – Such a uniquely colored warbler.. I love seeing them in their breeding plumage. The females are not as striking but still beautiful (see below).

Female Bay-breasted Warbler

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Here’s a clue that we used to help determine the age of this Red-bellied Woodpecker – the feathers just below my thumb (called the primary coverts) show at least three distinct generations (or ages of) feathers which helped us figure out this bird is at least four years old! In banding lingo that’s After-third-year

 

 

 

May 16 – Lowville

Migration was fantastic the night of May15/16 and we had tons of birds foraging in the canopy at the site, but unfortunately it was a rainy wet day so we were only able to open our nets for a couple hours in the morning. We got them open again later in the afternoon once the rain let up, but by then the bird activity had slowed significantly. We did catch a pair of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers though, which was exciting because this is the first time this species has been caught at the Lowville site!

BANDED:
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Traill’s Flycatcher
2 Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
4 Gray Catbird
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Magnolia Warbler
1 Tennessee Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Ovenbird

RECAPS:
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Gray Catbird
1 American Goldfinch
1 Baltimore Oriole
1 Common Yellowthroat

TOTAL: 22 (16 banded, 6 recaps)

The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is a tiny bird.. about the size of kinglet but with a long tail. They are not particularly uncommon in our area but because of their habit of staying in the canopy, this is the first time we’ve been lucky enough to catch them. We suspect they are building a nest somewhere nearby!

Traill’s Flycatcher – we heard both Willow and Alder singing near our nets, but unfortunately this bird flew off silently upon release so we were not able to identify it down to species (which is usually the case).

Chestnut-sided Warbler (male)

Red-eyed Vireo – this was the first one of the season!

 

 

May 17 – Lowville

BANDED:
2 Tree Swallow
1 Red-eyed Vireo
4 Gray Catbird
1 Baltimore Oriole
5 Common Yellowthroat
1 American Redstart
2 Tennessee Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler
2 Ovenbird
2 Indigo Bunting
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RECAPS:
1 American Robin
3 Gray Catbird
4 Baltimore Oriole
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Indigo Bunting

TOTAL: 33 (23 banded, 10 recaps)

Tree Swallow! The first individual to be banded at the Lowville site! You might be able to notice in this photo, this bird actually has a mild beak deformation. It certainly doesn’t seem to be having a negative impact on the bird, s/he was in very healthy body condition.

These two Tree Swallows hit the net together (and were released together). Notice how long their wings are. These birds seem like they are “all wing” when you see them up close, which makes sense since swallows live the majority of their waking life flying.

Ovenbird

Baltimore Oriole – this after-second-year male oriole has such bright orange plumage that the area right on the front of his breast is approaching almost reddish orange! So incredibly vibrant.

 

 

~Update continued in Part 2~