November 11th & 12th – Finished!

Boxed solar panel on my head, banding gear tool box – heading to the car at the end of the season. Marg and I got the last 3 nets down and all the equipment packed up. -MAL

Well, it’s been a marvellous Fall migration at the Farm. And usually the finish ends with a whimper but not this weekend; we were busy over the weekend, banding good numbers (of sparrows) and then getting the nets down. There can be no question about the impact of planting the adjoining 7-acre field in prairie grasses: the sparrow numbers exploded. We banded a total of 1,791 birds; our second best Fall was last year when we did 852. We more than doubled that number. Below is the Top Ten for the Fall. The number in brackets is the total of that species for the last 2 years:
1/ Song Sparrow – 479 (98)
2/ Swamp Sparrow – 359 (108)
3/ American Tree Sparrow – 177 (6)
4/ White-throated Sparrow – 113 (162)
5/ Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 83 (119)
6/ Lincoln’s Sparrow – 64 (5)
7/ Dark-eyed Junco – 56 (5)
8/ American Goldfinch – 55 (31)
9/ Cedar Waxwing – 53 (2)
10/ Common Yellowthroat – 48 (54)

That impish smile belongs to Joanne Fleet – always a pleasure to work with. -DOL

As I mentioned, the weekend was busy.
November 11th; Banded 58:
4 American Goldfinches
40 American Tree Sparrows
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 White-throated Sparrows
4 Song Sparrows
2 Swamp Sparrows
1 Northern Cardinal
Several sets of hands – Joanne’s and Sam’s – made light work of extracting, banding and taking down 7 nets on the 12th.
November 12th; Banded 30:
2 American Goldfinches
24 American Tree Sparrows

Note the gray iris which indicates that this junco is a young one. -SHL

2 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Swamp Sparrows
THANKS TO EVERYONE THAT HELPED MAKE THIS SEASON SUCH A SUCCESS!! I’m already looking forward to the Spring, to see what impact this new field will have on Spring migrants. The Fall was magical.

November 10th – Winding Down

#1700! Ironically, an Eastern Phoebe – a bird that should be many kilometers to the South. -DOL

I banded at the Farm on the 7th, 8th, and today (10th). It’s obvious that the migration is winding down, certainly in terms of the number of species that can be observed. I’m still banding half decent numbers…but the mix has changed. Instead of Swamp and Song Sparrows I’m getting American Tree Sparrows and juncos. It’s a good trade off. The Farm is the Winter home for a number of Tree sparrows. On the 7th I retrapped 3 birds that I had originally banded on April 8th & 9th, 2023. In this instance, I caught them at the same time in 2 nets that are right side by side. Do you think they spent the intervening time in close proximity or was this just a coincidence? On the 8th I retrapped another 2 that had been banded on April 2nd and 12th. Wouldn’t it be great to know where they’ve gone and returned from?

The 7th was windy and an interesting “raptor day”. I observed: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, and Merlin. I closed early as the nets were billowing and the oaks were (finally) releasing their leaves for them to catch….
November 7th; Banded 11:
3 American Tree Sparrows
5 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Song Sparrows

November 8th; Banded 64:
1 Purple finch
3 House finches
4 American Goldfinches
33 American Tree Sparrows
19 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow

November 10th; Banded 34:
1 Eastern Phoebe
2 American Goldfinches
23 American Tree Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
7 Song Sparrow
This was an interesting day – I thought the end had come: when I opened the nets (and this was later than usual by half an hour), there were NO sparrows to be seen. Half an hour later I had a couple of nets full. Like me, I guess they had slept through the alarm and were reluctant to get moving before the sun started to warm things up….

November 5th – The Other Side Of The Doughnut Hole

Sam the Weatherman – the prognosticator of prognosticators. -DOL

(A theme inspired by the wit of Amy Thorne)
So there we were: a motley group of 9 huddled inside the tiny banding hut, listening to the drumming of the rain on the metal roof. Not a great night for catching Saw-whet Owls. But it was playing a long shot. The rain forecast for the morning of the 4th didn’t materialize other than a few brief sprinkles in the early morning. We opened nets fully prepared to close them down quickly if Mother Nature changed her mind…but She didn’t and we ended up handling 98 birds – 63 new bands and 35 retraps, almost all sparrows. Liam did a great job banding most of them while I scribed. So much for weather forecasts.

There was just a possibility of rain in the evening so we felt it was worth taking a chance. Besides we would have Sam, the “Weatherman”, with us who has his finger on the meteorological pulse and we knew we could count on him to guide our decisions….
We opened with great hopes, even expectations, despite Sam’s admonishments that rain was on the way. He sat in his portable weather chair, eyes glued to the screen of his phone’s weather radar app, telling us that not only was it on the way but indicating how many minutes it would be until it struck. Can you really believe everything you see on the internet? Not when your hopes want a different scenario. So we downplayed the weather map…and then had to hustle out to collapse the nets. This was after we had already done a couple of net rounds and found nothing.

Liam and Ben – only super-keen young birders would show up for night-time owling sporting binoculars…. there’s sooo much to see.

The rain picked up and all eyes were on the weatherman. And then the rain stopped, as fast as it had begun. We rejoiced and prepared to re-open. “Not so fast”, says Sam and he held up the map for everyone to see. A doughnut hole had descended around us – we were in the “eye” of the storm as it were. Sam’s prediction: 6 minutes before it rained again. And what lay on the other side of the doughnut hole? Rain and more rain. The stoppage was really just a “sucker hole”. There was nothing for it but to close up shop.

But there was a bright side to all this. The confinement in such close quarters of such a bright set of individuals produced some great ideas around how to make the banding hut better. Amy’s idea was picked up by the rest of the crew and firmly endorsed: we needed a small wood-burning stove in the back corner of the hut. It would take the edge off frosty mornings and freezing nights. It would promote conviviality amongst the participants. And then it got better: we could brew tea or, even better, pots of chili for owling nights or…or…bacon and eggs after the nets were opened in the early morning.
So, we didn’t get any owls but we did get some great ideas for future directions. There is something to be said for doughnut holes and bird aficionados in a confined space getting out of the rain.
November 4th; Banded 63:
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
8 House Finches
11 American Goldfinches
3 Field Sparrows
23 American Tree Sparrows

An anomaly: American Tree Sparrow with symmetrical white leucistic rectirces – R3. -DOL

11 Song Sparrows
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
5 Swamp Sparrows
This morning, the 5th, the only evidence of last night’s rain, was a few puddles in the net lanes and the squelch of mud underfoot along parts of the banding trail to the nets. It was quiet at first but as soon as the sun got up the meadow and edge became alive with movement and song. We opened for about 5 hours and handled another 72 birds: 43 banded, 29 retraps. Again, a large majority were sparrows.

November 5th; Banded 43:
6 American Goldfinches
1 Field Sparrow
10 American Tree Sparrows
3 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 White-throated Sparrows
14 Song Sparrows
6 Swamp Sparrows
Photo Album:

Karen tracked down that elusive Eastern Towhee that seems to be eluding everyone….well…me, anyway. -KMP

Immature White-crowned Sparrow; one of two along the eastern hedge row. -KMP

Some of the new bird bags crafter by Laurel and Kate. Thanks!! -LR

Meadowhawks were out today enjoying the late morning sun and warmth. -KMP

Adult Bald Eagle moving above the trees. -LR

There’s a few Purple Finches mixing in with House Finches attending the West feeder. -KMP

A scolding black-capped Chickadee. -LR


November 3rd – The Week In Review

It’s been a hectic week: 2 days at the Farm; 3 days at Fern Hill; 3 owling nights. It’s quite noticeable now that things are tailing off, especially at the school campuses. That being said, the Farm meadow is still quite busy with sparrows. The grass stems have all turned brown and brittle and today’s high winds caused them to rattle but sparrows were popping up in good numbers and either flying to the edge or dropping back into a spot. It’s astounding actually…..

Birding with JK’s. -KAP

The school experience is very different than running a banding station. Not nearly so intense. The object is to familiarize students with the birds around them and the best way to do that (I’ve found) is to give them an opportunity to experience the birds up close. There’s nothing like holding and a releasing a bird to spur one’s interest with the result that one pays more attention to them. [Interestingly, some of the most interesting sightings this Fall have been pointed out to me by young students; e.g., a kettle of 200+ Broad-winged Hawks way off in the distance.] But all this takes time so we’re running just 5 nets at each campus situated in a shrubby corridor that facilitates bird movement. We also have a number of feeders to draw residents…and then others.

Teacher Alex Webb with some of the members of the Young Ornithologists Club showing off the 300th banded bird of the Fall – a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. -DOL

As I’m at the Burlington campus twice a week during the migration, we (teacher Alex Webb and I) decided to pull together a Young Ornithologists Club. We’ve had a really good response and it continues to grow – both in terms of numbers and enthusiasm. We tried owling with the group last night but got skunked. I’m wondering if the traffic noise has something to do with it (as well as the night lights that illuminate the campus – they’re intense!).
Here are the banding totals for Fern Hill:
October 30, Burlington; Banded 20:
1 European Starling
1 Hermit Thrush
5 American Robins (gorging on Buckthorn berries….alas)
11 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow

November 1, Oakville; Banded 12:
3 Mourning Doves
1 Blue Jay
1 House Sparrow
1 American Goldfinch
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Northern Cardinals

Female and male Northern Cardinals. The female is quite young – note the “horn-coloured” bill. -KAP

November 2, Burlington; Banded 17:
1 Mourning Dove
2 Black-capped Chickadees
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
5 American Robins (gorging on Buckthorn)
6 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Red-winged blackbird

The Farm continues to be busy! Sparrows zipping in and out of the meadow grass and bouncing between that and the edge. Tuesday (31st) was particularly busy: I filled all the bird bags on the first round. It calmed down somewhat after that but the first hour was ring and fling. Even though the temperature had dropped to below freezing and the nets were frozen and the poles slick with frost, it was a busy morning. Today was milder but very windy to the point that I could only open two nets. There was still a lot of action along the edge-meadow interface though. The sparrows have started to figure out that they should be heading South but there was still lots of activity – I just couldn’t open the nets to sample them. American Tree Sparrows seemed to be around in good numbers.
October 31; Banded 55:
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 House Finch
3 American Goldfinches
2 Field Sparrows
3 American Tree Sparrows
1 Fox Sparrow
8 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Savannah Sparrow
4 White-throated Sparrows
23 Song Sparrows
7 Swamp Sparrows
1 Common Yellowthroat

A very young washed out Common Yellowthroat. -DOL

Braving the cold, we were successful catching Northern Saw-whet Owls: 2 on Tuesday night and 4 Wednesday night.

Renessa with the first owl of the night.

Jeremy with “his” owl. -RJV

Gabby with hers. -RJV

Looking at the above pics….Saw-whet Owls just seem to engender big smiles. They’s be a great mascot for….some cause that needed smiles.
Today I banded 16 birds out of two nets but gave up when even these began to fill with leaves.
1 Eastern Bluebird
2 American Goldfinches
1 Field Sparrow
9 American Tree Sparrows
2 Song Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow