March 28th: Jumping the Gun

We’re officially slated to start banding/migration monitoring on April 1st – no joke. But a field trip by the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club Junior Naturalists forced us to get into gear a little earlier. Probably a good thing, as we got to put up most of the nets (just the triple chain #4 left to go), sweep out the lab, dust off the traps, check out the band inventory and finish off the myriad little things that have to happen to get the season going smoothly.

I was joined by Brian, Andrea (education co-ordinator), Christine Madliger (Species at Risk Co-ordinator at Ruthven) and Michelle Kenny (ex-McMaster biodiversity student and currently a starving artist with her work displayed in the Oakville Art Gallery – who thought there was a market for stick figures!?). It was good there was a number of us as there were well over 40 visitors - kids and adults – taking part. Now, the one MAJOR requirement of a banding demo is……birds. No birds, no demo. March is a notoriously slow month at Ruthven for banding unless….you get lucky. And I guess we got lucky as we were able to handle a total of 23 birds: 13 banded and 10 retraps. This was just enough to keep everyone’s attention and, when we were done one batch, to keep them racing around the net lanes the next time. At one point I felt not unlike the Pied Piper with a line of children stretched out behind me going the rounds. I really like to have kids at the lab though. The look of wonder on seeing a bird up close, releasing it from the weighing tube and knowing that these will be the environmentalists of the future – in a cynical sense, the ones that will have to try to clean up the mess we’ve made of it.

There were some interesting sightings as well. An adult Bald Eagle is always nice. A very interesting mixed flock of waterfowl went over. It was made up of 9 Canada Geese and 9 tundra Swans all in a perfect ‘V’ with 2 Canada Geese leading and the Tundra Swans making up one arm of the V with geese making up the other. I’ve never seen that before. I’ve seen Snow Geese in with Canada’s but never swans with geese. There were at least 3 Tree Swallows about, interspresing checking out the nesting boxes on the river flats with forays over the river in search of insect food. We also had 3 firsts for the year: Wood Ducks, Northern Flicker and an Eastern Phoebe – the latter singing in front of the Mansion all morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a returnee from last year’s pair that successfully fledged young from a nest located above the front door.

Banded 13:

  • 1 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 1 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 2 American Robins
  • 5 Song Sparrows
  • 1 White-throated Sparrow
  • 1 Brown-headed Cowbird
  • 2 American Goldfinches 

Retrapped 10:

  • 3 Downy Woodpeckers
  • 2 Black-capped Chickadees
  • 2 Eastern Tufted Titmice
  • 3 Song Sparrows

ET’s:   35 species


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