October 19th – Racing Winter

The persistent rains we’ve encountered over the last week has raised the water levels in the “wetland”. This picture — taken yesterday – shows a net that a week ago was almost dry.

Hoping against hope, my son Geoff and I headed up north to the Mississagi River NW of Sault Ste. Marie thinking that, if we were lucky, we might be able to get in some canoeing on one of the finest stretches of paddling in Ontario. But…we weren’t lucky. Instead we encountered high winds, persistent rain and cold – prime hypothermia conditions. So we settled for a motor tour of some little known highways to take in the colours and to think about future canoeing ventures at a more benign time of year. The Mississagi runs north-south for quite awhile along Highway 129. All along this route I encountered flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos working their way along the corridor, picking up grit on the shoulders. I’m sure by now that they’ve made their way into southern Ontario.

The weather we encountered up there also made its way into southern Ontario and it’s been fairly…uncomfortable for the past several days. Weather that you would think is more “normal” for this time of year. It’s also the kind of weather that signals to birds that, if you’re heading south, you had better get going because worse weather will soon follow. And the birds seem to have got the message. Monday and Tuesday at the Farm were busy, averaging about 26 birds banded per day. But today I witnessed an explosion.

Signs of a busy net round – a panoply of colour. -DOL

The field edge was alive with sparrows feeding in the goldenrod and the willows were home to Myrtle Warblers and kinglets busily searching for tidbits on leaves and bark. Initially I was by myself and it looked overwhelming. Fortunately, my wife Marg was only a phone call away. When the dust settled, just before the rain began, we had banded 122 birds – easily a new record for the Farm:

3 Downy Woodpeckers
1 Eastern Phoebe
5 Golden-crowned Kinglets
12 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 Hermit Thrush
9 Purple Finches
14 White-throated Sparrows
19 Song Sparrows
2 Lincoln’s Sparrows
11 Swamp Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
44 Myrtle Warblers


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