Our final day of the season started out at a brisk -1ºC and we were a bit surprised to not see any frost anywhere. On the drive down to the station we had seen a couple Varied Thrushes and we were pleased to note a few about as we opened the nets. Small flocks of American Robins with a few Varied Thrush mixed in were flying south with a fairly strong tailwind coming out of the north. We would continue to see these Robin flocks for much of the morning, coming over in groups of  10 – 30. Interestingly, around 9:00am we started to notice that rather than heading South as they had been up to that point, they were beginning to come over heading back North, and the would continue to do so until we left. We’re sure we missed a bunch but we estimated we saw around 450 American Robin and 62 Varied Thrush, minimum over the course of our session!


More fresh snow on the Niuts

The birds on the ground were much less prevalent and we would have but a thin trickle finding their way into our nets. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the wind forced us to keep several of the nets closed, including our most productive ones, net 14, 6 and 16. To add insult to injury Sachi spotted a Mountain Bluebird (a species we have never caught here) hanging around right beside net 14. We would get our reward though as a fine hatch-year female Varied Thrush made it’s way into net 15, our 55th species banded on the season (61st species if you include the  species caught only in our non-standard nets).  Soon after we nearly had another treat as a Wilson’s Snipe flushed up from under net 11, and then did the same from under net 17 on the next net check.


A special bird of the west; a hatch-year female Varied Thrush

At the end of the day we had banded 11 new birds with no recaps. Our detections for the day though were more impressive as we recorded 1052 birds, surely one of, if not our highest single day total of the season!

Ebird checklist for the day: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60192852

When all was said and done we had another fantastic season here at TLBO. We were hampered somewhat on the banding front by poor weather, more so than usual, particularly in September. This no doubt contributed to our low-ish banding total of 1433 birds banded, plus an additional 14 birds banded in non-standard nets. However, the good numbers in August were no doubt a reflection of a good breeding season for our local birds and early-migrating species. Swainson’s Thrush, Song Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows in particular had fine seasons. 232 Swainson’s Thrushes were banded, our second highest total after 2018. Interestingly, our three highest banding totals for this species have all come in the past four seasons. Song Sparrow’s came in at 186 banded, also the second highest total we have had, after 2008 when we banded a whopping 230. Savannah Sparrows were helped along by one big day, September 15, when we banded a single day record for TLBO of 26! This gave us a season total of 63 Savannahs banded, far surpassing the previous single season high of 45 from 2017.


While we suffered somewhat in the banding department, we made up for it in total birds detected. With 25,430 total birds detected we were a little shy of last year but this was still firmly the second highest single season total. We were a bit miffed to notice though that this puts us 375 birds shy of the quarter million mark in terms of birds detected at TLBO since our inception. Something to look forward to at the beginning of next year I suppose! As is pretty much always the case, Yellow-rumped Warbler was the most detected species, with 4290 counted over the season.


Once again the season was full of highlights. We added six species to the station list which now sits at 202 species. These included, in chronological order; Upland Sandpiper on August 13, American Goldfinch on September 1, American Tree Sparrow on September 11, Caspian Tern on September 13 (species #200 for TLBO!),  Sabine’s Gull on September 16 and Lark Sparrow on September 21. In our nets we had our first banding record of Mourning Dove when one hit our “kingfisher” net by the Homathko River on September 4.  Our second banding record of Veery and third Evening Grosbeak were also memorable.

Our owl banding has been very productive this year with 50 Northern Saw-whet Owls banded after just 10 nights. We are hoping to get in one last session tonight to see if we can’t just break our record of 59 owls in 2017. As is usually the case in high years, almost all of the birds have been hatch-years with just three adults caught so far.

As ever, the 2019 season was only made possible by the efforts of many wonderful people who contributed in a multitude of ways. Hana Kamea deserves special praise for her kindness and patience in putting us up (and putting up with us!) at her house just five minutes from our work. Funding for this year came from Wendy Easton at the Canadian Wildlife Service, the BC Field Ornithologists, Avocet Tours, Charlie and Ruth Travers who live right here in the valley and visited us several times this year, and the many generous folks who donated through my 2018 Birdathon. We must also thank our dedicated crew of volunteers who over the course of the season put in over 450 hours of time! These are, in chronological order, Ashlea and Bob, Sandy, Jannaca, Kate, Emily, Chanel and Alice and Shanelle, the last two our only returning volunteers (their first stint with us was in 2013).


It is hard to believe that another season at the Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory has been and gone but our final thank you has to be to those of you who take the time to read our blog. It is wonderful to get the chance to share our experiences here. We will see you right here again in 10 months time!

Species Band Recap
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
Varied Thrush 1
Song Sparrow 1
Pine Siskin 1

Birds Banded 11
Species Banded 9
Birds Recapped 0
Species Recapped 0
Species on Census 29
Species Recorded 46

Season Total Species Total Banded Total Recaps
Swainson’s Thrush 232 63
Song Sparrow 183 64
Lincoln’s Sparrow 165 18
Warbling Vireo 140 7
Common Yellowthroat 78 26
Savannah Sparrow 63 1
Northern Waterthrush 52 9
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 47 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 45 0
American Redstart 40 17
Yellow Warbler 40 4
Wilson’s Warbler 39 0
MacGillivray’s Warbler 32 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 31 2
Oregon Junco 31 0
White-crowned Sparrow 27 1
Cedar Waxwing 20 2
Pine Siskin 17 0
Hermit Thrush 16 0
Black-capped Chickadee 11 28
American Robin 11 0
Vesper Sparrow 8 1
Dusky Flycatcher 8 0
Alder Flycatcher 8 0
Western Tanager 7 0
Red-eyed Vireo 7 0
Willow Flycatcher 6 1
Fox Sparrow 5 1
Brown Creeper 5 0
Golden-crowned Sparrow 5 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 5 0
Least Flycatcher 5 0
Downy Woodpecker 4 1
Chipping Sparrow 4 0
Spotted Towhee 4 0
Golden-crowned Kinglet 4 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3 0
White-throated Sparrow 3 0
Pacific Wren 3 0
Lazuli Bunting 3 0
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 0
Northern Harrier 2 0
Hairy Woodpecker 2 0
Cassin’s Vireo 2 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 2 0
American Pipit 1 0
Evening Grosbeak 1 0
Varied Thrush 1 0
American Kestrel 1 0
Spotted Sandpiper 1 0
Merlin 1 0
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 1 0
Purple Finch 1 0
Western Wood-pewee 1 0
Townsend’s Warbler 1 0
Nashville Warbler 1 0
Magnolia Warbler 1 0
Mourning Dove 1 0
Veery 1 0
Swamp Sparrow 1 0

Birds Banded 1447
Species Banded 61
Birds Recapped 250
Species Recapped 19
Species on Census 123
Total Species Recorded 148


Avery, Alice and Shanelle went out owling last night after a four night hiatus due to poor weather. The conditions were nearly ideal with only a light drizzle at the outset which delayed the start by 15-20 minutes. Again the owls were very cooperative as they had another big night catching a total of nine birds throughout the course of the evening. Eight of the birds were hatch-years while the ninth was an after second-year. The veritable bounty meant that everyone had their chance to band a few owls which was exciting as this was a first for both Alice and Shanelle! After last night our season total now sits at 50 owls banded which is only nine away from our record year in 2017. As is the case in banner owl years the bulk of the birds we have captured have been hatch years with only three birds thus far being adults (after hatch years). With any luck we will be able to get out again for another night or two and hopefully catch some more owls.

Half clad Niuts

The snow that the weather forecast promised arrived last night. Fortunately it only ventured half way down the Niuts as temperatures in the valley bottom only dropped as low as 2°C. I awoke to rain and as I lit the fire to warm up our house it turned to drizzle. As census time approached the drizzle dissipated allowing us to open the majority of our nets. We would remain open for another two hours and forty minutes until the rain that had been slowly approaching from the north all morning was nearly on top of us. While our nets were open we only banded a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet and recaptured two Song Sparrows. Our timing could not have been better as shortly after our arrival back at our abode the intensity of the rain increased and subsequently turned to sleet.

Cloud clad Niuts

Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Pipits made up the majority of birds that were on the move. In fact almost all of the birds that we observed throughout the short time that we were down at the station were moving north. I spotted two Horned Larks hiding amidst a flock of migrating Pipits which brightened up what was otherwise a cold and dreary census. In a couple of days, like the birds, we will be headed north out of the valley and then south to our respective wintering grounds.

In case you ever wondered, here is what we get up to when there are no birds about. Yes, we get excited about other organisms too.

Shanelle and Alice Botanizing

Birders Botanizing

Link to today’s eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60155604


Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Song Sparrow 2


Birds Banded 1
Species Banded 1
Birds Recapped 2
Species Recapped 1
Species on Census 27
Species Recorded 31

Sept. 26: Double Downy

Lagoon Niuts

After a significant soaking last night we delayed opening nets this morning for a half hour as the low clouds threatened to resume drizzling. Fortunately it held off and by mid-morning had burned off to a beautiful fall day. There were still a few birds about though, as mentioned by Sachi yesterday, it has really thinned out with mainly Black-capped Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers finding their way into our nets. It is interesting how we get this seeming increase in movement of Chickadees in the final week of the season. Most are recaptures of ones banded in previous seasons (2017 or 2018) so they are presumably locals but while most days this year we only caught one or two Chickadees, if any, the past few days have seen us catch 4-5 each day. Presumably this is the point in the season where they start exploring more of the landscape to find good food resources for the upcoming winter.

On the woodpecker front, we caught a duo of Downy Woodpeckers in net 16 mid-morning. The male was a second-year and a recap originally banded a few weeks ago, while the female was a hatch-year and unbanded. The side of net 16 where they were caught has some dead Alder trunks behind it and this seems to have been attractive to woodpecker this year as we have caught several in the same 1-2m width section of the net! The long-staying Lewis’ Woodpecker was sighted again today as well, first by Sachi, along the road on his way back to the station after census and then by the rest of us along the Homathko while checking the nets in the late morning.


Fall colours in the Chilko valley

Just prior to closing the nets our local Black Bear moseyed on out into the east side of the field and proceeded to munch alfalfa. This was a good segue into the afternoon as after lunch we went with Alice and Shanelle over to the Chilko River to see if we could find some Grizzlies. We did’t have to wait long as we were not even five minutes from home when Shanelle spotted a Griz feeding at the top of the field beside the road. Up popped two more little heads as she and her cubs surveyed us from amid the alfalfa.


Once on the Chilko we spotted a fair number of Salmon and the usual entourage of Common Mergansers along with a few Belted Kingfishers, attracted to the fish smorgasbord. We then picked out a mother and cub Grizzly up the near shore who, after five minutes or so, worked their way along the shore below us not 20 feet away! We watched them for a bit before spotting a few more along the far shore. It is always a pleasure to have the chance to see these magnificent creatures up close and we count ourselves fortunate to have had two great bear viewing days in the Chilko this season.


Salmon for everyone!

Conditions seem great for owling tonight so we will hope to add to the 41 we have banded thus far.

Ebird checklist for the day: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60133519

Species Band Recap
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Black-capped Chickadee 1 4
Downy Woodpecker 1 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1

Birds Banded 13
Species Banded 10
Birds Recapped 5
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 31
Species Recorded 42

Sept. 25: Winding Down


The view of the lab from our non-standard songbird net (MXY)

The thermometer read 0°C this morning so on went the long-johns (for me) and the fleece-lined pants (for Avery). The Niuts were up to their usual tricks with only their topmost peaks turning cranberry in the morning glow. For the first time in what feels like weeks the bear was visually absent from our census area. IMG_20190924_125625_resized_20190925_023511616He did however leave us several reminders of his presence in strategic locations around the station. It was a slow day on all fronts at the station with subdued bird activity. A Song Sparrow had the honours of being our 1,400th bird banded from standard nets this season. Passing this milestone was a bit of a relief as for several days now we have been staring it down and wondering if and when we would pass it. Fittingly Song Sparrows ruled the day with seven banded and one recapture. We banded a late after hatch-year Swainson’s Thrush as well as our 10th Black-capped Chickadee of the season. We also recaptured two pairs of Chickadees the first of which were in net 17 and had been banded on the same day last season. The second pair had also been banded on the same day in 2018 but were caught separately at 8:30 in net 6 and 12:00 in net 17. The slow pace enabled both Shanelle and Alice to continue to hone their bird banding skills. The picture above is of Alice practicing one the most challenging procedures, gauging fat on a bird. It requires a surprisingly accurate and steady release of breath in order to part the downy body feathers in order to see the fat deposits both in the furcular hollow and on the sides of the bird’s body. When 13:00 (closing time) came around and the south wind started to blow in earnest our final tally was 11 birds banded of 5 species with 5 recaptures. Upon closing we did however catch what could be a new critter for the station.


Possibly our first capture of an Elm Sawfly larva at TLBO

There were not many birds around for me to identify on census leading to a total of 25 species. The highlight was a Pacific Wren that was calling as it foraged in the willows at the south end of the “Alder Tunnel”. Coincidentally Avery also was greeted by a Pacific Wren first thing while opening net 15. The Lewis’s Woodpecker was present in its familiar haunt at the south end of the old airstrip. As in days past it was joined by a male American Kestrel. Brenda and Jim Bird from Mission who had attended Avery’s talk on Monday night came by for a visit. Their arrival also coincided with a visit from Charlie Travers who is a resident birder and supporter of the station. Our first net check of net 1 with Brenda and Jim yielded a hatch-year male Oregon Dark-eyed Junco. That turned out to be the only bird that we would catch during their three-round visit. While we were out on a fruitless round watching one of the four Northern Harriers cruise close by the hawk net, Avery radioed saying that the Lewis’s Woodpecker had made a surprise visit to the lab! Alas by the time we arrived back at the station it had already departed leaving us to search the fields for more Harriers. There are only three more days left of the 2019 season and if the wind dies down we will be out trying to catch some more Saw-whets.

Stay tuned!

Link to today’s eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60112069


Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 7 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1 4
Swainson’s Thrush 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Oregon Junco 1


Birds Banded 11
Species Banded 5
Birds Recapped 5
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 25
Species Recorded 38

Sept. 24: Swamp Sparrow


IMG_0919We were relieved to see a decrease in the wind when we arrived at the station this morning. We weren’t completely out of the woods though as a moderate breeze was still coming through, out of the north and this would turn into a reasonably strong South wind later in the morning. Still, we were able to open all the nets initially and only a few were closed early.

The Black Bear that has been hanging out in the field just west of the banding station the past two days was asleep near the trail when I went out to open the back nets. Giving him a wide berth, he didn’t seemed too perturbed by my attempts to shoo him away. Indeed, despite multiple tries by both Sachi and I over the first couple hours of the morning he seemed to view sauntering over to the bushes and returning out into the field to munch on rose hips an acceptable response to our efforts.


A classy “Sooty” Fox Sparrow, our regular subspecies

On the second net check Sachi pulled out 11 birds, including a Pacific Wren and seven Yellow-rumped Warblers. This haul would turn out to be over a third of our total for the day as after a couple more rounds of a few birds each things really slowed down with the increasing winds. Still, we were pleased to catch our 4th Fox Sparrow as well as two (4th and 5th) Golden-crowned Sparrows. This slower catch rate meant that Shanelle and Alice could band their first birds.

On census the moderate to high winds (stronger at the lake) meant that it was difficult for Sachi to detect much, but there was still a healthy number of Yellow-rumped Warblers around with just shy of 100 counted. Meanwhile, a small group of American Pipits along with two Savannah Sparrows foraged down on the beach at the lake. On the way back to the station Sachi picked out the Lewis’s Woodpecker that continues to frequent the area around the south end of the airstrip.

At the end of the morning we were delighted to catch, at last, a Swamp Sparrow! In recent years this species has been pretty much annual in our nets with one or two showing up in late September. We had begun to fear that we would not get one this year so it is nice to have those worries alleviated. This was our 148th species detected at TLBO this year – dare we hope for 150?


Our first Swamp Sparrow of the year


Ebird checklist for the day: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S6008788

Species Band Recap
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9
Song Sparrow 6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow 2
Warbling Vireo 1
Pacific Wren 1
Hermit Thrush 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
Oregon Junco 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1

Birds Banded 29
Species Banded 13
Birds Recapped 2
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 28
Species Recorded 49


Yesterday’s pleasant afternoon turned into a lovely evening with the three magical “C’s” of owling: Cold, Calm and Clear. After a delightful salmon feast at the Shaughnessy’s, our two volunteers and I set out to catch some Saw-whets beneath beautiful September starry skies. Before we even set the audio lure we could hear several Northern Saw-whet owls calling which is always a good omen. We caught two birds on the first round and continued to catch one to two on each subsequent round with our biggest push during closing when we caught three! Our final tally was 10 owls which were all hatch-years bringing our season total to 41 owls banded which is now the second best owling season on record at TLBO. Of our 10 birds five were female, one was male and the remaining four were left as unknown. We use a chart that was created by Project Owlnet that uses a combination of wing length and weight to determine the gender of each bird. I must apologize for the lack of Saw-whet pictures as in all the excitement I completely neglected to take any.


Always a sad sight to see nets closed during monitoring

Avery awoke to a reasonably calm morning up at our abode. Once he got closer to the station however the winds were much stronger (30-39 km/hr) and he was forced to hunker down and wait them out. When I arrived an hour later the winds had increased in their ferocity and were verging on a Beaufort 6 (40-49 km/hr). At this point it was evident that we were not going to be able to open any nets so the volunteers and I set out to perform our daily census while Avery headed back home to put some finishing touches on tonight’s presentation. Census was uneventful with 18 species identified during the course of the hour. Yellow-rumped Warblers were on the move as we counted a total of 157 individuals during the period. A Townsend’s Warbler was playing where’s waldo amidst the many flocks of Yellow-rumpeds. This beautiful species of warbler has been scarce around the station this year as this is only our 7th sighting of the season and first of September making it our second lowest detection rate in 13 seasons. For pictures and information on this classy western warbler click on the link below: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Townsends_Warbler/overview

The Lewis’s Woodpecker made another appearance as Shanelle and Alice spotted it while it was being blown westward by the strong winds. We had two surprise visitors, Gayle and Jim from Prince George. While taking them on a tour of the station we added a few more birds to the days list, a White-throated Sparrow, a Merlin and a flock of American Pipits. The latter being chased and harassed by the Merlin out in the north field. The final tally came in at 0 birds banded and 25 species identified which is respectable all things considered.

For those of you in the area, we hope to see you at Avery’s talk tonight at the Tatla Hall. Doors open at 6:30pm with the talk commencing around 7pm. For everyone else, thanks for continuing to read along and stay tuned!

Link to today’s eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60058904


Birds Banded 0
Species Banded 0
Birds Recapped 0
Species Recapped 0
Species on Census 18
Species Recorded 25



Sept. 22: A LASP a Lack

The strong southerly wind that kept us closed down yesterday continued on through the night giving both Avery and I our first night off from owl monitoring in a week. By morning the wind had died down and was replaced by the “Tatlayoko drizzle” which allowed us a much appreciated extra hour of shut eye. Once the drizzle fizzled out we set about opening our nets in the hopes of catching some birds. We were very pleased to see that the Lark Sparrow was still about first thing foraging in the uncut grass along the trail that runs across the field. Once the nets were open I set out on census while Avery manned the station alone. The morning crowd was mostly absent as Avery only caught three birds (two Song Sparrows and a Lincoln’s Sparrow) during my absence. The after 10am crowd once again provided the bulk of the day’s haul with 11 captures. The biggest round came at 10:30 when we caught a flock of five Ruby-crowned Kinglets in net 17. The slow pace enabled us to open all of our “extra curricular” nets; three Hawk nets, the Pipit Fence and the non-standard song bird net (MXY) adjacent to the lab. Much to our chagrin the Lark Sparrow deftly evaded the Pipit Fence on multiple occasions. It even had the audacity to momentarily perch atop the upmost trammel before alighting in the cover the scrubby grass below. A pair of American Kestrels took up their customary perch atop the large Douglas-fir to the northeast of the lab. Our attempts after banding to trap either of them were also derailed, in this case by the arrival of a Sharp-shinned Hawk who was intent upon claiming the territory for itself.


View from my car during our fruitless Kestrel trapping mission

Our fruitless efforts to trap a Kestrel or two left our final tally at 13 birds banded of 6 species with a single Black-capped Chickadee recapture (first banded 2018).

I fared little better on census with only 31 species identified. The contented “tooting” of  Northern Pygmy-owl perched somewhere north and west of the Homathko heralded the beginning of today’s census. Not long after the calling of a Townsend’s Solitaire perched atop an old spruce broke the eerie silence as I padded through the section of pine flats south of the station. Further along the call turned to a song and was answered shortly thereafter by a second Solitaire roughly a kilometer away on the lower slopes of the Potatoes. The flock of waterfowl had shrunk down to a lonely Ring-necked Duck that was quickly spooked by a marauding Northern Harrier  leaving the lagoon calm and sadly empty. A Wilson’s Snipe gave me a fright by issuing its scratchy “kek” call as it flushed from the water’s edge near my plodding feet.

As I made my way back from the lake the usual sparrow flock was noticeably absent. Fortunately the Lewis’s Woodpecker that we first spotted a week ago took this moment to soar over my head and land atop a telephone poll. The striking contrast of it’s iridescent dark green back and wings and salmon pink breast provided a much needed spirit-lifting moment. The rest of the day trundled along with small numbers of our late September feathered friends in attendance around the station. Near closing Avery spotted a high flying V of 75 geese heading south overhead. As they neared we could see that they were mostly dark in colour ruling out Snow Geese and their laughing high-pitched call was that of a Greater White-fronted Goose. This is our third sighting of the season and TLBO’s sixth record of this species and the largest flock that we have reported to date. This flock almost certainly veered inland as it tried to stay ahead of the rain coming in off the coast as they make the long journey from their breeding grounds in the arctic to their wintering grounds in the Southern States and Mexico. For more information on this fabulous goose check out this link: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Greater_White-fronted_Goose/overview

It is a truly pleasant September afternoon and if it holds I will be out trying to catch some more Saw-whets!

Link to today’s eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S60033779


Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 6
Song Sparrow 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Pine Siskin 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1


Birds Banded 13
Species Banded 6
Birds Recapped 1
Species Recapped 1
Species on Census 31
Species Recorded 43