March 30th – Marg vs The Boot-sucking Mud

This photo was not posed. This is a real life struggle between Marg and the Boot-sucking Mud. It’s important to carry a sturdy stick to deal with the rascal. -DOL

The excitement has been growing over the past couple of weeks but putting up nets pushes it to a fever pitch. Migration monitoring is about to begin! Marg and I started the onerous job of putting up the mist nets on the Hurkmans Farm site. The hardest part, of course, is navigating the wet patches and mud, which likes to grab at your boots in an attempt to steal them or, at least, throw you off balance. A big stick is a helpful tool.

We added onto Net 1, making it a double. Interestingly, about half an hour before this photo was taken a Wilson’s Snipe took off from almost exactly where Marg is standing. _DOL

We put up 7 nets and have a couple more to do (which I hope to complete tomorrow – the drier ones at least). Every time I’m here I find interesting things. Today, it was a Wilson’s Snipe that blasted away from the wet end of the lane at Net 1 – it’s the first one I’ve found at the site. And later, there was a pair of Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers on the pond, possibly checking out the nest boxes. (Last year there was a Hooded Merganser using one of the boxes over the course of a couple of weeks – prime breeding evidence.)

Fern Hill’s gifted art teacher transforms the foyer with students’ work, turning it into an aviary and butterfly garden….and a wonderful place to be. -DOL

Yesterday I was at Fern Hill Oakville to put up some nets and sample what was there. It was suggested that I take a peek at the front foyer and….it knocked me out. Tremendously colourful and…peaceful. Butterflies and birds flying all around.
I ended up banding 23 birds (but none from the foyer):
2 European Starlings
1 American Goldfinch
2 House Finches
2 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
7 Red-winged Blackbirds
4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
1 Common Grackle

But the most interesting thing was the retraps. We got 34. Twenty of these were Dark-eyed Juncos most of which were banded in late 2021 or in January 2022. So, first off, the Fern Hill habitat is obviously a good place for them to spend the Winter. But the intriguing thing is that almost every one had lost weight and fat, in some cases as much as 5 grams (although all were carrying fat). I’m not sure why this was the case. First of all, they were carrying big fat loads when they most needed it – in the coldest months of January and February. Perhaps as the weather warms excess weight is a liability or just not needed. Another possibility is that they were showing signs of going through a “pre-alternate” moult, replacing feathers on the head and nape; moults require a lot of eneregy.

We also had some retraps that were old:
Black-capped Chickadee – banded October 2020; it was an adult so would have been hatched in at least 2018
2 Black-capped Chickadees – banded October 2017; both had been hatched that year putting them in their 5th year.
Song Sparrow – banded April 2021
Red-winged Blackbird – banded May 2021
Red-winged Blackbird – banded May 2019
[both were ASY or After Second Year birds so detract at least 2 years from the banding year.]
Brown-headed Cowbird – banded April 2019.

It’s interesting to speculate whether the Icterids and sparrow were short-distance migrants that would be spending their nesting season here or were using this site (with its good food supply provided by a stocked array of feeders) as a refueling station, remembering that it was there from one year to the next.

One thought on “March 30th – Marg vs The Boot-sucking Mud

Leave a Reply