May 5th – Riches To Rags

Cape May Warbler, A touch of colour on an otherwise colourless day. -KDC

I drove through rain to get to the Farm. But I don’t have much faith in weather forecasts so I thought….maybe the opportunity will come. And it did….sort of. It stopped when I got there so I opened a few nets, nets that I could close easily should it start up again. And it did. So we collapsed them and then reopened a couple in a lull.

There were VERY few birds around. Yesterday, the trees were dripping with them; everywhere you looked you saw warblers flitting. Not today. There was the odd flit…here and there…but no major flitting. But some of the flits were worth chasing: Northern Parulas and Cape May Warblers.

Guelph student Keira with a benchmark bird: she just banded #600 for the season. -DOL

Riley with #601. -DOL

As I’ve said on a number of occasions, the Farm is work in progress. And as there weren’t a lot of birds to go after we (or at least two of us) decided to carry on building the wood chip trail. The Gosnells had delivered a number of large piles of wood chips a few days ago. The plan is to lay them out on the heavily used trail sections that, with use, have become muddy and worn. This will make walking easier and less messy (Haldimand mud is notorious) and will tend to keep travelers on a narrow path and let the verges grow back in. So, while Keira and Riley held down the birding end of things, Keira’s dad, Oreleo, and I (well, mostly Oreleo) worked on laying down the chips along the trail. The new trail, now known as the “Oreleo Highway” is quite extensive and will help maintain the trails and the habitat.

Oreleo, at the end of the “Elaine lean on your shovel” section, starting work on the highway. -DOL

Today’s crew. Check out the new highway as it runs into the distance. -DOL

Banded 5:
1 Gray Catbird
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
2 Myrtle Warblers
ET’s: 40 spp.

May 4th – Pouring Through!

Sam with some of the 4-H club. It was a great day for banding outside. -DOL

Good weather finally arrived and has spurred on the migration of millions of birds. For the past 5 days they’ve been pouring through the Farm site. The “dawn chorus” is loud and clear and the edge between the pond and the prairie comes alive with birds on the move. I’ll quickly bring you up to date on the numbers we’ve been banding and seeing.
April 30th, Banded 62:
Banders: Nancy, Joanne, Dave
1 Tree Swallow
1 Gray Catbird
1 Savannah Sparrow
1 White-crowned Sparrow
1 White-throated Sparrow
5 Swamp Sparrows
8 Red-winged Blackbirds
3 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Common Yellowthroats
4 Yellow Warblers
1 Pine Warbler
9 Western Palm Warblers
25 Myrtle Warblers
ET’s: 50 Spp.

May 2nd, Banded 55:
Bander: Rick
2 Warbling Vireos
1 Tree Swallow

Female Tree Swallow -DOL

1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
26 White-throated Sparrows
5 Swamp Sparrows
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 Yellow Warblers
7 Western Palm Warblers
9 Myrtle Warblers

May 3rd, Banded 20:
Banders: Rick, Jeremy
1 House Wren
1 Gray Catbird
1 Song Sparrow
1 Nashville Warbler
5 Yellow Warblers
3 Western Palm Warblers
8 Myrtle Warblers
ET’s: 41 spp.

May 4th, Banded 78:
Banders: Rick, Sam
6 Tree Swallows
1 European Starling
1 American Robin
2 American Goldfinches
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow

1st Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year. -DOL

2 Swamp Sparrows
2 Baltimore Orioles
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
1 Northern Waterthrush
1 Black and White Warbler

Male Black & White Warbler. -DOL

2 Common Yellowthroats
10 Western Palm Warblers
46 Myrtle Warblers
ET’s: 65 spp. (including a Virginia Rail!)

April 24th – Eastern Meadowlark Found In France!!

I don’t have access to notable bird records from France but I may be the first person to have seen an Eastern Meadowlark in France! It was a VERY surprising find. And it followed on the tail of my sighting of an American Robin…also in France. I spotted the robin flying about and when I went to look for it more carefully what did I find but this meadowlark peering back at me from just a couple of meters away. I went looking for my camera but by the time I got it I couldn’t find the bird and was unable to track it down.

Of course, it wasn’t on mainland France. I guess I should add that caveat. In fact, it was 289 km east of Cape Breton Island and 222 km directly south of St.Pierre Island – the coast guard vessel I was on was in French Territorial Waters which, in my book, puts it in France. Right?

I keep trying to figure out what this bird was doing so far out at sea. My thinking is that it was trying to make the crossing from Cape Breton to southern Newfoundland, ran into the brisk NW winds we had during the night, and headed for the ship to get some rest….along with the robin. I didn’t see either one of them again. there’s LOTS of hidey-holes on a big working ship and they likely hunkered down. But the winds dropped later in the day and maybe they took off to the north that night well rested. I hope this was the case and that they made it.

Small bird sightings and landings on ships well out at sea are pretty common during migration seasons. We’ve had our share of them on this trip – we headed out of Halifax and have been well out to sea on the various “banks” – George’s Bank, Brown’s Bank, and right up the Nova Scotia coast. Birds can get blown off course or their navigational systems might be faulty but, for whatever reason, we see them with some regularity. On this trip I’ve seen:
American Robins
Song Sparrows
White-throated Sparrows (one was even singing!)
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Juncos
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle

Song Sparrow -DOL

White-throated Sparrow -DOL

Common Grackle -DOL

Too often the ship becomes a death trap for them. There’s no food (and I forgot to bring some seed with me) and you see them searching frantically everywhere for a bite. Sometimes there’s insects and I watched a junco flying up and snagging insects from the bow of the ship when were stopped to take oceanographic measurements. But when we’re moving this usually isn’t an option unless the bird finds something lurking in some nook or cranny. It’s hard to watch and contemplate sometimes.

This Black-legged Kittiwake (still in basic plumage) hitched a ride for a couple of hours on the bow of the ship. -DOL

But birds aren’t the only hitchhikers. Check out this Silver-haired Bat that was found:

Silver-haired Bat.

For this trip the ship was fitted with 2 sound recording devices: one for birds and one for bats. It will be interesting to see what they turn up.

April 14th – Passion and Patience

U of Guelph birding aficianados. ELO

This was definitely a day that tested our patience, but the passionate energy of hopeful nature-enthusiasts made up for it! I arrived at dawn to a very birdy scene and had just nearly finished opening nets when a smug cloud darkened the horizon. I checked my weather app and sure enough, 100% chance of thunderstorm for the next hour… so much for the 30% chance of drizzle. So, I ran about and closed up all the nets, acquiring 5 birds in the process, and hurried back to the hut just as the rain broke. About halfway through the storm some friends from Guelph arrived, and we waited out the rain which cleared away into beautiful blue skies. We were able to open again for about 2 hours before having to close early due to the wind and more showers. A slow day for catching perhaps, but it was still birdy and we managed to complete a census as a group between net rounds. We were definitely not lacking in spirit! After doing totals (which did not take long…), Eila surprised us with her amazing poetry recounting the day’s events (I’m told she may quit her engineering quest and soon strike up a career as a poet…)!

“Once upon a dawnlight dreary, while we pondered weak and weary, waiting for the clouds to split, for they had dumped quite a bit. Many a nature-nerd awaited hoping for the birds that were fated , never to fall into a net, too much rain and wind I bet. Finally, blue emerged from above, nets were reopened with much love. A FISP snuck in to much delight, the net stopping its flighty plight. Unfortune hit yet again, for he was but our only friend, except 3 more SOSPs who had before been caught, and thus our hearts were lonely and distraught. A census then distracted us- turtles basking, bluebirds twitting, and BOGUs causing quite a fuss! Vultures came in, the clouds became grim, and quickly the nets were closed yet again. What a tumultuous morn’, with weather forlorn, but what made it great were a group of slay friends.”
– – ELO

Birding the road….ELO

…and the wetlands…..

Notable sightings were a massive flock of the first Bonaparte’s Gulls of the year, which I noticed were flying towards the river just as the thunderstorm broke, and we later saw some more on census, totalling to over 200 for the day. The first Greater Yellowlegs of the year also made an appearance, flying high over the field. Although a very unsettled day, there were still many birds around, however not many migrants, as the migration conditions were pretty poor last night.

Midland Painted Turtles taking some sun.

Banded 3 of 3 species

Field Sparrow.