Tat Valley South

Jannaca’s departure yesterday meant that it was left to just Avery and I to man the station today. Fortunately the morning was relatively calm compared to yesterday which meant that we were able to open all of our nets. On our first net check at 6:45am we brought in a handful of birds; a Wilson’s Warbler, a Lincoln’s Sparrow, a Song Sparrow and our first Swainson’s Thrush of the day though certainly not our last. The trend continued with anywhere from 2-4 birds caught on the subsequent rounds. On the next net round (7:15am) I pulled a recaptured Swainson’s Thrush out of Net 10 that had a prefix that I didn’t recognize.

SWTH 5yr old

Our dignified five year old Swainson’s Thrush

Each band has a four-digit prefix and a five-digit suffix which combine to create a unique nine-digit number. Once we looked up the band number in our records we found that this bird had been first banded as a hatch-year back in 2014 making it 5 years old which is one of our oldest aged birds to date. It was Avery’s turn to do census today and in his absence things were relatively slow during until the 8:45am net round. It was at this point where the gusts of wind started to increase in strength forcing many foraging birds into shelter which resulted in seven Swainson’s Thrush and one Evening Grosbeak in Net 13!


TLBO’s third banded Evening Grosbeak!

The round would yield a further three more birds for a total of 11 but none more exciting than the hatch-year Male Evening Grosbeak which represents our third banding record at TLBO. Incidentally the other two were banded (one by yours truly) during my  stint as a volunteer back in September 2017. The day’s banding progress slowed from there as the wind picked up forcing us to close our most exposed nets. The final tally was 32 new birds banded of 10 species with four recaptures. The most noteworthy aspect of today’s captures were that 15 of the 32 new birds banded were Swainson’s Thrush! Warbling Vireos rounded out the second spot with seven new birds banded.

The more civil wind lead to more bird activity resulting in more observations which lead to a civilized daily estimated total of 53 species. We had our third Turkey Vulture sighting of the season and our second Eurasian Collared Dove. Both of these species are relatively new arrivals to the valley as they have both been increasing their range north over the years.  Turkey Vultures were first detected in the valley in 2014 and Eurasian Collared Doves in 2011 and both have become annuals with the latter becoming permanent residents. Despite perching above both nets 6 and 14 multiple times we did not catch the Eurasian Collared Dove. The highlight of Avery’s census was our first White-crowned Sparrow of the year and an up close and personal encounter with a Townsend’s Solitaire as it landed atop the large pine tree to the east of the banding lab. That is a wrap for another day in the life of TLBO!

Happy Saturday.

Link to today’s eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59230476


Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 15 2
Warbling Vireo 7 1
Song Sparrow 3
Willow Flycatcher 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Evening Grosbeak 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1


Birds Banded 32
Species Banded 10
Birds Recapped 4
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 33
Species Recorded 54



The wind was howling when we rolled out of bed this morning, much to our chagrin. When it starts windy it stays windy in these parts so we weren’t anticipating getting in much banding and this proved to be the case. We started the morning with just our closest two nets open, 1 and 13, while we sussed things out. After a half hour the wind seemed to maybe be letting up a bit so we optimistically opened most of the nets but within an hour we had closed everything but 1, 13 and 15. We ran these nets until, after 3 rounds without a bird and the strong winds continuing, we called it quits at 10:45.

Among the six birds we caught were two adult male American Redstarts which brightened up the banding lab with their stunning plumage. One was a recap, originally banded in August 2018.

Sachi had a predictably quiet census but on the lake he found a Red-necked Phalarope! This is a species that we don’t find every year here but when we do it often seems to be on these very windy days. Before closing the nets down volunteer Jannaca and I set up our third hawk net. I had been humming and hawing over where to put it for a couple weeks now but we ended up setting it up near the bank of the Homathko, just northwest of the “kingfisher net” (one of the other hawk nets).


A happy Jannaca with her last bird banded here at TLBO

After closing down an hour and a half early we decided to try to catch a Kestrel on the bal-chatri trap. Sachi had seen a couple in the firs along the road in to the banding station so we drove out and scanned for them near the hay bales, an area they usually frequent. We spotted one and almost immediately after putting the trap out it dove for it! Unfortunately it pulled up and landed on the tree next to the trap. It repeated this act again, alighting on a perch on the opposite side of the trap. Finally, it took a third crack at it and this time landed on the trap and lo and behold, it was caught! Sachi was the one to run out and get it while Jannaca got the pleasure of banding this beautiful bird; an after-hatch-year male as it turned out! It was undergoing fairly extensive moult, typical of an adult at this time of year, and the tail and wings were in the process of being replaced. Needless to say we were all, and Jannaca in particular, thrilled and it was a fitting finale to Jannaca’s time volunteering with us.


Male American Kestrel

EBird link with the days checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59205383

Species Band Recap
American Redstart 1 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1
American Kestrel 1
Song Sparrow 2

Birds Banded 4
Species Banded 4
Birds Recapped 3
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 28
Species Recorded 42


Clear and calm was the order of the day which was a pleasant change from the strong winds of the past few days. Calm days preceded by strong wind or storms are often slower as the birds tend to take advantage of the clement weather to continue on their migration south. As a result we saw reduced numbers of migrants of each species today but an overall high diversity.

Captures were slow with a handful per round as the birds seemed to be foraging higher up or away from our nets. Our biggest net round came at 8:10am when Jannaca and I caught 8 birds while Avery was away on census. The diversity of today’s catch was low with 28 birds banded consisting of only 8 species.  The ever reliable Swainson’s Thrush topped the charts at 7 individuals banded with Warbling Vireos and Song Sparrows sharing the second spot at 5 birds banded apiece. We had 7 recaptures of 4 species one of which was an inter-annual; an American Redstart that we first banded as an after-second-year on August 4th, 2018. Inter-annual recaptures are often the most interesting as they illustrate the site fidelity of individual birds and provide longevity data.  The milestone that was our 600th bird banded of the season slipped by unnoticed at 7:10am and was either a Warbling Vireo or a Northern Waterthrush.

Today was Avery’s first census of the season as he has been nursing a knee injury that he sustained while trekking in Norway just before coming out to TLBO. Despite it feeling slow he detected 42 species adding our first Northern Shovelers of the season down in the lagoon. The Nashville Warbler that Avery spotted a few days back was also about  during census along with many of the usual suspects. On the observation side of things Avery picked the station’s first Clay-colored Sparrow of the season out of a flock of Lincoln’s Sparrows while he was birding his way back to the station after census! This species was first detected in 2014 and they have been annual albeit in very small numbers ever since then.


Clay-colored Sparrow

We added another Greater White-fronted Goose as one was heard calling while flying high over the station headed south. When net rounds are slow or we get “skunked” (no birds) the person checking the nets heads up to the oxbow to cover some different territory. While looking at the two Mallards and 9 Green-winged Teals that were feeding in the oxbow I caught a lucky glimpse of a small rail-like bird with a short yellow bill, black face and grey neck feeding on the other side of a fallen over dead willow. After a moment it disappeared and then flew into view heading across the water towards the protection of the sedges on the other shore. It was a Sora and our first of the season! Sora are very skulky, secretive birds that feed and breed in cattail and sedge marshes and as a result are often heard and rarely seen. Despite their secretive nature we manage to detect them annually during their migration to the Southern States and Central and South American. It came as a pleasant surprise to us all when we finished up our daily estimated total and found it to be 64 species, the season high thus far!

Link to today’s eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59183608


Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 7 1
Warbling Vireo 5 2
Song Sparrow 5 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4
Common Yellowthroat 3
Alder Flycatcher 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Traill’s Flycatcher 1
American Redstart 2


Birds Banded 28
Species Banded 9
Birds Recapped 7
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 42
Species Recorded 64


Aug 21: Nuthatch

It was drizzling lightly when we woke up this morning but by the time we were heading down to the station it was evident that barely any precipitation had fallen overnight. A brisk South breeze was already blowing, not an auspicious omen. A few brief and very light sprinkles came down during the first hour and half or so of banding but none amounted to much. The inclement weather didn’t negatively effect our banding too much and consistency was the order of the day, with no big catches just a few birds in the nets each round.


The showers gave us a rainbow over the Niuts

On one of our earlier net rounds volunteer Jannaca and I each pulled out an inter-annual recapture from net 12, an American Redstart and a Yellow Warbler, that were caught side-by-side. Both were banded in August, 2018. Our second Least Flycatcher of the season was a nice addition to our catch and we had our first little movement of Wilson’s Warblers this season with 5 banded. We’ve been catching the odd one throughout the first few weeks but they appear to be commencing their migration proper now.
Sachi had a predictably quiet census. Detecting birds in strong winds can be painfully difficult but he did well to get the 31 species he found. One of those species was a Magnolia Warbler, a minor rarity here but our second of the season after the one banded on the 17th. A lone California Gull was at the lake and we would later spot a group of 3, followed by another group of 10 Herring Gulls later in the morning. It has been a low year so far for gulls so it was a surprise to see these little flocks.

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Male Red-breasted Nuthatch

By mid-morning the wind was blowing quite strongly and one by one, our most exposed nets (18, 16 and 6… net 14 was never opened) had to be closed. We continued to catch a few birds and near the end of the morning Sachi came back with a treat for us. We detect a few Red-breasted Nuthatches daily but we only catch one or two a year so the adult male he brought back was cause for excitement! Nuthatches are hardy little birds that store up conifer seeds (and sunflower seeds from feeders) in stashes for the winter and like other species that do this, possess an incredible memory.

The eBird list of the days sightings can be found here:


Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 7
Swainson’s Thrush 6 1
Wilson’s Warbler 5
Western Tanager 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 1
Song Sparrow 2
Common Yellowthroat 1 1
American Redstart 1 1
Yellow Warbler 1 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1

Birds Banded 33
Species Banded 14
Birds Recapped 6
Species Recapped 6
Species on Census 31
Species Recorded 50

Niut Sunrise

This morning’s Niut sunrise was the type to inspire one to expound the many visual and emotional virtues as well as sheer majesty of these mountains when bathed in early morning sun and wax poetic about the glory of each and every morning in this valley. The vast array of colours blend and shift before your eyes in such a way that once you think to take a picture the hue and texture has already changed and that moment is gone, replaced by another that is just as fantastic. When the reverie was broken and attention turned to checking the nets we found we had birds, and they kept on coming.

There was a steady flow, with 4 or 5 birds coming in each round until 7:40am when I headed off to do census and Avery and Jannaca then pulled in 15 birds that round. Amongst this particular catch of birds was the station’s second ever banded Veery, caught in net 12!


The rather striking Veery

A rare visitor to the valley, it is the station’s third record and being a thrush the Veery has a very beautiful, ethereal song that is reminiscent of both Swainson’s and Hermit Thrush and a “veer” call which is where it gets its name. These are truly long-distance migrants, flying all the way to the amazon basin where they spend their winters. During this busy period we had visitors, the Emke family, locals here in the valley. After watching Avery band the previous batch of birds they joined us on the next net round which yielded a further 11 birds, one of which was our first Sharp-shinned Hawk of the season and a happy banding tick for Jannaca. Not long after, I happened upon a Cassin’s Vireo in net 14 which was a banding tick for yours truly and a species that we had not yet banded this year, thus completing the season’s Vireo trifecta. Warbling Vireos topped the charts with 18 banded today beating out Swainson’s Thrush in the second spot with 7. We banded our third Lazuli Bunting of the season, all which have been captured in Net 15. The day finished with 54 birds banded of 16 species with 6 recaptures which is our busiest day of the season thus far!


Cassin’s Vireo

Census started off slow but soon took an exciting turn when I heard our first Lesser Yellowlegs of the season as it flew somewhere overhead calling its single “tew” followed by the diagnostic two note “tew-tew” call. This species is rarely detected at TLBO and this is only the second record in 13 seasons of operation. Some new waterfowl were noted upon reaching the lagoon. Here I was treated to a Ring-necked Duck and a pair of Wood Ducks in flight along with the usual trio of Mallards and the lone Pied-billed Grebe, thus adding three more species to the season’s tally of total species detected. The River Otters were also back, swimming gracefully along in the lagoon as well as a solitary Black Swift soaring above and to the east. Between banding and observations our final tally was 62 species estimated overall.

Happy Tuesday and happy birding!



Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 18 1
Swainson’s Thrush 7 4
Yellow Warbler 5
Orange-crowned Warbler 4
Song Sparrow 3 1
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3
Common Yellowthroat 2
Wilson’s Warbler 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cassin’s Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Veery 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
American Redstart 1
Lazuli Bunting 1
Rufous Hummingbird (1)


Birds Banded 54
Species Banded 16
Birds Recapped 6
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 48
Species Recorded 62


It was a relief to arrive at the station to calm conditions; only a very gentle breeze rustled the Aspen leaves around the banding lab. The good weather and a seeming increase in the bird number over the past few days made for a very enjoyable morning, even factoring in the sudden arrival around 10:30 of a brisk south wind that is the hallmark of the valley.


The Niuts were spectacularly clear this morning

On census Sachi had good numbers of the regular species, including a flock of 25 Clark’s Nutcrackers flying over the valley. The lagoon continues to be disappointing from a waterfowl perspective with just three Mallards present.

Roving bands of Warbling Vireos were once again prominent with a few Yellow, Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warblers joining the fray. A treat in one of the small flocks was a male Nashville Warbler foraging in the alders behind the banding lab. Avery and Jannaca got to enjoy nice looks at it before it dropped out of sight. A few of the vireo flocks ended up in our nets and they finished the day as our most banded bird with a total of 12 when all was said and done. Our first little push of Lincoln’s Sparrows brought us 5 in our nets, a season high so far and we noticed a few more around today than we had seen previously, skulking around in the bushes. For the first time in a few days, we banded a Cedar Waxwing. This was a treat for volunteer Jannaca, as were a couple American Redstarts. Both are species she does not regularly get to band in Victoria.

DSCN3351 (2)

Our first Western Wood-pewee of the season

We caught our first Western Wood-pewee of the season as well. This is a species that we have been detecting almost daily but they rarely find their way down into our nets, preferring to sally for flying insects from atop open perches at the tops of trees or in clearings. Their long wings make them very agile and they will often fly out quite a ways to nab a flying insect, often with much agile mid-air manoeuvring – an impressive sight to behold.

And finally, we banded our 500th bird of the season today! What else but a Warbling Vireo got the honour of being our half-century bird.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59112170

Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 12
Swainson’s Thrush 6
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 3 3
American Redstart 2 1
Northern Waterthrush 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1 1
Western Wood-pewee 1
American Robin 1
Cedar Waxwing 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Oregon Junco 1

Birds Banded 40
Species Banded 15
Birds Recapped 5
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 43
Species Recorded 58
Full Moon Niuts

Cranberry-capped Niuts with the remnants of the full moon overhead

Today we had our first real taste of the famous Tatlayoko Wind. It started off moderately strong from the north (Beaufort 3) and mid morning shifted to the south without so much as a lull. The gusts were strong which I expect would have made the local kite/wind surfers thank their gods but for us it meant a war of attrition as we had to close one net after another starting with the most exposed (Net 14) as the wind continued to increase (Beaufort 4). It was a fight we could not win and we were eventually forced surrender and shut down an hour early. Despite the wind we started capturing birds right off the bat with four on the opening net round. The second round mirrored the first except that there was a surprise in store in the form of a pair of hatch-year Lazuli Buntings (first of the season) in Net 15.

This provided some excitement for our new volunteer Jannaca who is up here for the week from Victoria as it was a banding tick! The slow and steady day provided several more banding ticks for Jannaca as she has done the majority of her B.C. banding down at Rocky Point Bird Observatory on Vancouver Island. Jannaca has also volunteered internationally at several different banding stations with some of the notables being in Mongolia and Azerbaijan. Our two new Swainson’s Thrush were #100 and #101 for the season which has us on pace to mirror last years record of 254 banded. Consolation for having to close the nets an hour early came in the form of a flycatcher that caused some initial confusion. After doing some measurements (flycatchers can be tricky to identify) and deliberation we eventually came to the conclusion that we had a hatch-year Least Flycatcher which was a new species banded for the season, bringing us to a total of 36 species! Today’s final tally was 22 birds banded which considering the weather was a decent days work. If the wind lets up a 30 plus bird day will see us past 500 birds banded tomorrow.

Census was quiet as the strong winds forced the majority of the birds into cover and obscured most calls. The Gray Catbird was still around which gives us hope that we can catch it before it heads south. There were a few mixed flocks foraging in the more protected areas and I had our first Northern Pintail of the season out on the lagoon. Due in large part to the wind our daily estimated total was much reduced at 49 species which was 8 less than yesterday. All in all it was a another great day in this beautifully remote corner of British Columbia.


A rarely posted view of our place of work, the banding lab



Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 4
MacGillivray’s Warbler 4
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Swainson’s Thrush 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Lazuli Bunting 2
Least Flycatcher 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
American Redstart 1
Song Sparrow 1


Birds Banded 22
Species Banded 12
Birds Recapped 2
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 34
Species Recorded 49