September 26th – Downs And Ups

Our “resident” group of 3 Sandhill Cranes dropping in to a neighbouring field. -KMP

A small, inland banding site like the Farm is subject to the vagaries of weather. As a rule of thumb I’ve found that weather conditions that most people find “great” usually result in poor banding numbers here. Whereas unsettled conditions have birds showing up in good numbers. Sunday (24th) was a lovely day but we banded only 4 birds. There were very few birds to be seen at all, even along the field edge which has been producing numerous sparrows. U of Guelph student, Jelany, made the trek all the way from Guelph to further his banding career – he got to band all four birds but it wasn’t a very good return on his travel investment. (Although he did get to band a lovely male Black-throated Blue Warbler.)

Jelany with “his” male black-throated blue Warbler. -DOL

Last night we were treated to “unsettled” weather in this area: wet patches from scattered light showers were evident on River Road as I drove to the Farm. The field edge was hopping with sparrow activity, with birds moving between the wetland edge and prairie grass meadow. We were able to tap into this wealth and ended up banding 41 birds. The meadow is making a big difference in our catching. After today’s banding we have done 72 Song Sparrows, 17 Lincoln’s Sparrows, and 37 Swamp Sparrows and these 3 species make up just over 37% of our overall catch. Now it may just be coincidence, I realize that, but my sense is that we’re getting significantly more sparrows because of the copious amounts of food that the field provides.

For comparison, I’ll throw up some numbers from the previous 2 Fall seasons at the Farm. In September of 2021, we banded only 14 Song Sparrows, 0 Lincoln’s Sparrows, and 18 Swamp Sparrows; the Fall total for these 3 species was 21, 1 and 26 respectively. In September of 2022 (a VERY poor month) we banded only 6 Song Sparrows, 0 Lincoln’s Sparrows, and 9 Swamp Sparrows. (We finished strong though with good catches in October and finished the season with 77 Songs, 4 Lincolns, and 82 Swampies for a total of 163 birds – not that much ahead of the 126 current total for these 3 species.) We’ll see what the final Fall totals yield but my sense is that this prairie grass field is greatly benefiting sparrows passing through and our total numbers will be significantly higher.

Joanne always brings a ray of sunshine and today was rewarded with being able to band a couple of the Eastern Phoebes that we caught. -DOL

Now I thought that this was pretty obvious…but Joannes’s first thought was that a mother was carrying a child on her back. After a little research – done later – she discovered that male grasshoppers die after copulation. For some reason this brought her joy… -DOL

A Fern Hill Student getting ready to release a male Eastern Bluebird. -SAW

Sandwiched between these two days was an outing at the Fern Hill Burlington campus. There, we’re operating only 5 nets, set into the scrubby edge habitat along the east side of the property. This leafy cover turns up a variety of interesting birds – both for me and for the students who seem progressively more interested in learning and getting involved – helping do net checks during recesses and lunch breaks, carrying bird bags, adding branches to our burgeoning brush pile….. It’s great to have so many students looking forward to the next banding session and participation in the Young Ornithologists’ Club. We already have a couple of good scribes!
Here are the banding totals:
Farm; September 24th – banded 4:
1 Gray Catbird
1 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler

Fern Hill School, Burlington Campus; September 25th – Banded 20:
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Northern Flickers
2 Blue Jays
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2 Eastern Bluebirds
2 American Robins
1 Red-eyed Vireo
3 American Goldfinches
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco (the harbinger of coming Winter)
1 Song Sparrow
1 Nashville Warbler

Western Palm Warbler. -SAW

1 Western Palm Warbler

Farm; September 26th – banded 41:
3 Eastern Phoebes
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2 House Wrens
2 Gray Catbirds
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
3 White-throated Sparrows
7 Song Sparrows
8 Lincoln’s Sparrows
7 Swamp Sparrows
2 Common Yellowthroats
4 Myrtle Warblers


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