Thursday, 25 May 2017

Tuesday rambles with David - West Perth Wetland, Mitchell, ON

23 May 2017

     Not having visited Mitchell for a few months we decided to make that our destination for our regular Tuesday walk. All the regulars were present, except for Judy, and for this outing we were joined by John Pringle, an avid and highly accomplished bird photographer from Britain, a friend of Kevin Grundy with whom he is visiting.

     As you can see, John has a lens bigger than most people's ambitions!
     Our old friend Curtiss MacDonald was visiting the West Perth Wetland that day and joined our group too.
     Originally a sewage treatment plant, this area has been transformed into a wetland which attracts a wide range of birds, and features a substantial shorebird presence during spring and fall migration.

     Most of the northbound shorebird migration has already occurred and the southward movement has not yet started, but John managed to capture these stunning images of  a lingering Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla.

     One quickly appreciates what a skilled photographer with the right equipment and a full complement of patience and skill can do.
     John was no less successful with this male Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas. 

     Francine had never had a really good look at a Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis so we felt it our bounden duty to serve one up for her.

     Red-winged Blackbirds Agelaius phoenicius were seen and heard wherever we walked, males defending their harems.....

     ..............and females gathering nesting material and in some cases already feeding young.


     It was a pleasant surprise to see three Ruddy Ducks Oxyura jamaicensis in one of the ponds.

     There were many, many Canada Geese Branta canadensis with young - always a delightful spectacle.

     Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia, as might be expected, was ubiquitous.

     Of the three species of swallow we observed Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor was far and away the most common.

     Near the end of our walk we saw a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheuticus ludovicianus.

     Eastern Kingbird Tyannus tyrannus  was the default flycatcher for the day.

    Miriam heard a Willow Flycatcher Empidonax traillii and John was able to get a picture.

     Francine captured a picture of our group.......

     ........ and it's not hard to see that we all have fun on these weekly outings. Mary was back with us for the first time in a few weeks and we were all delighted to welcome her back into the fold.
     I haven't decided where we will go next week, but I can assure you that we will have a wonderful time together.

All species: Canada Goose, Mallard, Ruddy Duck, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Kildeer, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Downy Woodpecker, Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, American Crow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch.  Total: 30.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Another Banding Operation at SpruceHaven

20 May 2017

     The wind was relatively calm when we arrived before 06:00 but the augury was for the velocity to increase as the morning progressed. The forecast turned out to be accurate and we were compelled to close the nets early. So we did not have an especially auspicious day in terms of numbers and variety of birds; we did, however, enjoy each other's company and benefitted from being together.
     It is rewarding to see how Heather and Daina have become part of our team and have quietly assumed more and more responsibility. Here Heather is set to process a male American Goldfinch Spinus tristis while the maestro Kevin Grundy is content to let these young people become ever more involved.

     Heather is gently blowing on the bird to determine whether there is any deposition of fat. As might be expected on a non-migratory species, there was not.

     Having completed the other measurements she is ready to install the band.

     Her dexterity and confidence grow with each bird she handles.
     Our "bird of the day" was a Mourning Warbler Geothlypis philadelphia, our first ever for SpruceHaven. It is quite incredible how much we have learned of the avian population at SpruceHaven from our banding activities and we did not even start until last fall, and even then only one day each weekend.

     Baltimore Orioles Icterus galbula are pretty common but it is still an amazing sight to see this brilliant bird up close.

     Brown-headed Cowbirds Molothrus ater are ubiquitous at times and it will be informative if we can detect the species which they are parasitizing. 

     We captured this female Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus and I think that Heather's fingers may still be bruised from the experience! It was pretty calm, however, when Kevin held it for a photograph.

     We had expected to be back at it again today, but it has rained quite heavily for most of the morning, so we had to abandon any thoughts of unfurling our nets.
     We will look forward to resuming again next weekend.

All species 20 May: Common Starling (1), American Goldfinch (2), Mourning Warbler (1), Baltimore Oriole (1), Brown-headed Cowbird (1), Red-winged Blackbird (2), Song Sparrow (1), Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1).  Total: 10.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Blue Jays (Geais bleus) in our backyard

     For some reason Blue Jays Cyanocitta cristata seem to be especially abundant this year and we are fortunate to regularly have three or four of this very handsome bird in our backyard.

     Even when sitting outside on the patio they display little fear and will readily come into close proximity. 
     We have a bird feeder dispensing peanuts, designed to exclude squirrels (it is not always effective) and the jays look winsomely at the food inside, unable to get to it. 

     If we are outside we can toss down food for them but in other circumstances any food available to the birds is quickly gobbled up by squirrels. These little critters appear to have become totally urbanized and they exploit every source of anthropogenic food supply available. Friends with rural properties seem not have nearly the same "problems" we have with squirrels in our suburban backyard. Sometimes five at a time are scampering around; their appetites are voracious and their ingenuity knows no bounds.

     In any event, we are very happy to have our Blue Jay companions spend time with us and look forward to many hours of pleasure derived from a close association with these intelligent birds.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Bird Banding at SpruceHaven

13 and 14 May 2017

     Due to a prior commitment to lead a walk for the Bridgeport Neighbourhood Association at Bechtel Park I was unable to make it out to the mist nets on Saturday, but Kevin, Heather and Daina were there to handle everything so all went off as planned. In fact they had a great day with a variety of species reflecting the diversity of spring migration.
     I have been trying to photograph every species that we trap in our nets so Daina remembered to photograph some of the recoveries on Saturday.


Mourning Dove

Palm Warbler ("Western" race)

As above

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)

All species banded 13 May:  Mourning Dove (1), Northern Flicker (2), Black-capped Chickadee (3), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), Grey Catbird (1), Veery (1), American Robin (2), American Goldfinch (1), Ovenbird (2), Common Yellowthroat (1), Palm Warbler (2), Baltimore Oriole (2), Brown-headed Cowbird (1), Red-winged Blackbird (6), Common Grackle (4), Song Sparrow (4).
      We all assembled a little before 06:00h on Sunday morning and were delighted to be joined by Daina's young sister, Nicole, who got out of bed early in order to visit our mist nets at SpruceHaven. Kudos to Daina for bringing her and to Nicole for coming.

Kevin, Nicole, Daina, Heather

    One of our first capture was a Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla, shown here with its band securely attached.

     Nicole did the round of the nets with us each time and we asked her if she would like to record one of the birds. Under careful directions from her big sister, Daina, she made her entry into the records.

          And looked pretty satisfied with herself when it was all done!

     An adult White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys  was captured, probably right around the end of this species' spring migration through southern Ontario.

     Daina took over the scribing duties for a while.

     Unlike Saturday we did not trap many birds, but a new species for the year was a Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii.

     It had been very satisfying on Saturday to capture two Ovenbirds Seiurus aurocapilla and we were happy to net another one on Sunday.

     As I post these pictures I am starting to wonder how many times Kevin's hands have appeared on the internet!
     This Common Grackle Quisculus quiscula let Kevin know it was not happy until he released it.

     The iridescence on this species imparts a beautiful quality to its plumage and when seen strutting in sunlight it is magical to watch the constant change of hues.
     Grey Catbird Dumatella carolinensis is quite common from spring through fall and no doubt breeds at SpruceHaven. We just haven't located the nest.

     Perhaps Kevin and Heather were checking the finer points of identification or aging as it relates to Grey Catbirds; in any event they were engrossed over some detail or other.

     Our final bird of the day was a Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris, a non native species which is a problem bird,  as it aggressively drives out native cavity-nesting species from suitable nest sites. It is implicated in the serious decline of some of these species.

     In keeping with its feisty nature it screamed at Kevin the whole time it was in his hand.
     We might have hoped for a little more active morning so that Nicole could have seen a wider range of species, but we had to close the nets early as the wind picked up substantially. Perhaps she will come out again.

All species 14 May: Grey Catbird (1), Common Starling (1), American Robin (1), Ovenbird (1), Wilson's Warbler (1), Song Sparrow (1), Lincoln's Sparrow (1), White-crowned Sparrow (1).