May 31st, 2009 – The end of the spring migration monitoring season

Today was the final day of spring migration monitoring at Ruthven Park. Although cold and relatively windy there were still a few tardy migrants around, in particular Empid flycatchers which thronged the Thompson Cemetery early in the morning. There were even a couple of surprises such as the banding of the first Carolina Wren and Eastern Phoebe of the season. Since the latter nests on the grounds of the mansion (with one nest being over the front door) and has been around seemingly the whole period we have been banding it is odd they have eluded capture until now. Carolina Wrens seem to be on the upswing in southern Ontario – they nest in my backyard – but are still an uncommon sight at Ruthven despite our abundant Carolinian forest.

Banded: 25
Wilson’s Warbler 3
Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher 1
American Goldfinch 5
American Redstart 1
Common Yellowthroat 2
Alder Flycatcher 2
Traill’s Flycatcher 1
Yellow Warbler 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
Carolina Wren 1 (female with brood patch)
Song Sparrow 2
Grey Catbird 3
Baltimore Oriole 1

Retrapped: 11
American Goldfinch 1 (banded as a SY in 2005)
Yellow Warbler 4 (one banded as an ASY in 2006)
Eastern Phoebe 1 (banded as an AHY in 2007)
Eastern Wood Pewee 1 (banded as a HY in 2005)
White-Breasted Nuthatch 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Grey Catbird 1
Baltimore Oriole 1

60 species recorded during the day.

Since Peter Thoem came and kindly did census and there were relatively few visitors I was able to crunch a few numbers and do a rough analysis of the Spring 2009 season. All figures are for the April 1st -May 31st period.

Number of species recorded at Ruthven: 155
Number of species banded: 89
Number of individuals banded: 1677 (our second best spring ever)
Number of species retrapped: 47
Number of individuals retrapped: 570 (many of these individuals multiple times)
Oldest retrap: Yellow Warbler banded in 2000
Most frequently retrapped on a daily basis: A male Chipping Sparrow (2580-27467) retrapped 7 times in one day.
Human visitors: 585
New species added to Ruthven’s bird list: 2
Prothonotary Warbler and Clay-Coloured Sparrow

The epic nature of bird migration is hard to over-emphasize. Many months and/or weeks ago these birds, some weighing only a handful of grams, left their winter havens to begin their long journey to the breeding grounds. At times traveling hundreds of kilometres a night these birds braved the vagaries of weather, eluded relentless predators, and risked stopping in ever shrinking habitat to rest and feed before continuing on their journey. With our continued destruction of their breeding grounds only the fortunate few find places to nest, for the rest, a fruitless journey.

Bird migration is truly amazing, but year by year there are declines. Unless something is done to curb human destruction of habitat, including breeding sites, over-wintering grounds, and stop-over places in between, someday the spectacle might end.

But what has become of the banders you ask? What does a bander do in the off season? Well, Rick continues to explore the Arctic as a tax haven for off-shore banking and my research into chronic sleep deprivation is ongoing. Cutbacks to the witness protection program have reduced Jeff to sleeping on the cold concrete floor of the banding lab and Loretta is learning that being generous with snacks and leaving them in the lab without hiding them with three unscrupulous male banding colleagues is a great way to have no snacks left for poor Loretta.

For future banding dates please keep an eye on the blog as we will be back periodically during the summer before starting daily operations on September 1st.

Thanks go out to all our visitors and supporters during the season. Your memberships and donations allow us to continue.

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