Archive for August, 2010

31 Aug

Human arrogance often concludes that we are the smartest animals on this planet.  Well a probably university educated meteorologist, with a powerful computer and decades of data concluded that today would be partly cloudy, with a light breeze and a chance of minimal precipitation.  87 birds yesterday said in unison, “Let’s get the hell outta here, tomorrow is gonna suck.”  That is 87 correct predictions for the birds, and zero for the bald bipedal primates.  At TLBO we often assume that birds gather up around our banding station at the north end of the lake before making the 46km push south over the lake at night.  We have often seen that with a strong wind from the south bird numbers increase, presumably because they were unable to continue their migration into such a head wind.  Well good thing the birds made their push yesterday because today the winds are pounding from the south and any birds still here certainly won’t be leaving anytime soon.  We were unable to band today due to strong winds.  With the direction of this wind, if it continues, our next banding day will be a very busy one because no one is heading south across that lake today!


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30 Aug

What a day!  Somehow in the past, the few days Steve takes off have always managed to be busy ones.  Not due to his planning, just my bum luck.  Knowing this I awoke reluctantly today, opened the nets, and was unsurprised when I was inundated with birds.  We started with an early 36 bird net run and were playing catchup until around 11am.  Rick was forced to start a late census, but everything worked out well.  Our previous record for this year was 57 new birds, today we put out 72 bands.  I can’t remember the single day record in the five years of TLBO, but 76 sounds about right.  Rick and I both lost a Lincoln’s Sparrow at the net and he released a waning Common Yellowthroat at the net while I released a Ruffed Grouse we are not permitted to band.  Add a Song Sparrow that released itself from the net and one Warbling Vireo mortality to the mix and I think we would have set a new record for the station.  Oh well there is always tomorrow.  High stress and high energy might describe the day, but so would highly productive.  87 total birds were processed and 46 different species were observed.  We finally banded our first Audubon’s Warblers today when a passing flock lost five members to net 14, all hatch year females.  A White-crowned Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireo, and beautiful after-hatch-year male American Redstart highlighted our banding efforts (probably the last of the year).  Observations turned up ten Dusky Grouse, a Townsend’s Warbler, Boreal Chickadees, and a Least Flycatcher to keep us observant during net runs.

I love these birds

I believe the adult male American Redstart is the prettiest bird we band here at TLBO, Rick votes for the Western Tanager.  Maybe I spend too much time in the western US where Tanagers are bountiful and redstarts are absent.  Going to load up on carbs and sleep tonight, because I am pretty sure tomorrow will be just as busy.


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29 August- new species!

Rick Shortinghuis with a female Sharpie

Although fourteen Swainson’s Thrush were banded, we’ll call it a “Woodpecker day” given that 6 species showed up, starting with a Pileated that made a flyover during the first net round. Next, Chris saw four species in one tree: Flicker, RN sapsucker, Downy and Hairy and assured me that it would be a big net round as he headed off on census through the chatter of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings. Sure enough, we captured 18 birds that round including a Sharp-shinned Hawk, then a Downy and two Hairies in one net. When a woodpecker’s tongue becomes tangled in a mistnet and pulled out about 15cm, it ain’t pretty. However, once the barbs at the tip get unstuck, it all furls back up inside like a yoyo string.

Pileated, Downy, Hairy, Red-naped, and Flicker. That still leaves one species of woodpecker unaccounted for.

29 August bird quiz:

The answer to the previous quiz was Magnolia Warbler– the third ever banded at TLBO. Nobody chose to guess on this one…

Now for today’s quiz: Name the species of this new addition to the TLBO checklist, sighted just inside the census boundary around 11am. While at it, name the species of bird mobbing it. (FYI: this may or may not be the last bird quiz of the season, depending on how many contestants step up to the plate!)

Pretty in pink.

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 14 2
Common Yellowthroat 4 1
Song Sparrow 4 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3 1
Warbling Vireo 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
White-crowned Sparrow

MacGillivray’s Warbler



Total banded 35
Species banded 13
Total recaptured 7
Species Recaptured 6
Census:       # Species 31
Daily total:  # Species 45

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28 Aug

Another day of banding.  Really nothing too exciting today compared to recent days.  Nothing unusual was banded and the only unusual birds observed were a pair of Barrows Goldeneye on census.  Trying to think about anything else to say about today and I am drawing a blank.  Was really, really uneventful.  The upside of that is that for a day to be completely unremarkable, you can deduce that nothing bad happened either.  No birds died, no nets got destroyed, no bears were seen.  In order for exciting events to be exciting they have to be unusual, and today was one of those days we invest in making other days seem thrilling.  No pics were taken and apparently someone forgot to save the banding totals so you will have to wait until tomorrow, but no need to hold your breath, there were a lot of Warbling Vireos, Swainsons Thrushes, and Common Yellowthroats…  as always.

Here is something slightly more interesting, at least to me, but I am a nerd, for birds and math, so this will probably bore everyone else.  This table was designed by yours truly to update in real time and let us know how our nets are performing.  You can see with a quick inspection that net 17 is far better than any of our other nets.  In fact it represents just one out of twelve of our nets, but catches greater than one out of four of our birds.  It has always baffled me that net 12 is connected to net 17, yet net 12 catches one bird for every five that 17 catches.   You can understand why we allowed net 7 to be damaged for over two weeks before I repaired it, but the very day net 17 got a hole in it, Steve ran out there with thread to fix it.

Net Banded Birds/Hr Recaps % time used
17 227 1.53 23 0.95
6 106 0.71 21 0.96
15 84 0.56 25 0.96
16 81 0.55 12 0.95
1 68 0.46 12 0.96
9 62 0.42 9 0.96
14 55 0.41 9 0.87
12 40 0.27 14 0.95
13 40 0.27 4 0.96
10 38 0.26 17 0.96
7 23 0.16 3 0.90
11 22 0.15 8 0.95


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27 August

Homathko and Reliance Peaks

The volatile weather continues, and for Tatlayoko that means a few clouds and plenty of wind. The latter forced us to close an hour and a half early today but we still bagged 33 birds plus 4 recaps. The birds seemed to stay in larger mixed flocks with chickadees, vireos and Orange-crowned Warblers as the main species. In discussion with the guys down at Vaseux today, it’s an interesting year for fall migration. They can’t seem to shake off the Yellow-rumped Warblers (and report that many of them are hybrids) while we haven’t caught a single one, and only a dozen or so observed per day seems very low. Neither of us are getting many Ruby-crowned Kinglets (in our case they are completely absent). And whereas we’ve banded 135 Warbling Vireos, they’ve captured one single bird. The VLBO notion is that most of the migrants haven’t arrived yet and we can trust their instincts since they have more than just the banding station to go by- ie. all the birders like yourselves out there reporting what’s going on. Author’s note: isn’t migration season so fascinating?

Three flycatcher species banded today might indeed indicate that early migrants are the norm. Amelie turned up large flocks of American Wigeon and American Green-winged Teal on the lagoon during census, while Steve sighted two Herring Gulls flying to the coast. The flock of thirty or so Red-winged Blackbirds that’s been foraging near net 15 was finally surprised and six of them were captured- one tore a hole in the net during the melee. Many birds, including the blackbirds, are showing quite a bit of fat reserves. This indicates (theoretically) that they are hedging their bets for inclement weather and/or getting ready to, or actively migrating south. One Lazuli Bunting (adult female) had a fat score of 5, meaning that the fat tissue is bulging out and showing up in other places than just the furculum.

The following is a graphical breakdown of our banding season so far, in comparison with previous years. At first it seemed we were low but to date we have banded more birds than in any of our previous four seasons!

Cumulative banding totals for 2006-2010

Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 6 1
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Common Yellowthroat 5 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4 1
Swainson’s Thrush 2
Wilson’s Warbler 2
Least Flycatcher 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
American Redstart 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Lazuli Bunting 1
Song Sparrow 1

Total banded 33
Species banded 14
Total recaptured 4
Species Recaptured 4
Census:       # Species 22
Daily total:  # Species 42

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Thunderstorms greeted the intrepid banders in their cozy beds around 5:30 am. Sleep buttons were pushed and an hour’s delay was a pleasant reward for 25 straight days of migration monitoring. Chris took the day off to work on his thesis, while Steve and Amelie braved the waning storm.

The first bird of the banding day was one we’ve never captured before but has been sighted regularly: a Brown-headed Cowbird. After starting out with such an exciting bird (sarcasm- poor cowbird doesn’t get any respect), we new the day would be a good one. And it was a good one, with census producing 40 species even without Osprey, Red-eyed Vireo, Ruffed Grouse, MacGillivray’s Warbler or Common Loon. No Ruby-crowned Kinglets either, which are notably scarce on the ET sheets so far (only 4 banded this season and not-a-one sighted in the past week!). A Sora made some squawks from the reeds mid-way through the census route. Swainson’s Thrush, American Robins and Cedar Waxwings were everywhere, with the occasional OSFL, AGWT and WIWA highlighting the notebook. Warbling Vireos seemed to appear mainly in the nets, since only a few were sighted during census.

On the last net run of the day we had our best bird- again! This is visible in the quiz, below. Fifty banded is not bad for a shortened day.

26 August Bird Quiz

First, the answer to the 20 August bird quiz was Wilson’s Warbler. A “chup” call.

For today’s quiz, please identify this bird, banded at high noon:

Name the species


Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 20 3
Wilson’s Warbler 6
Common Yellowthroat 4
Song Sparrow 3 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3
Cedar Waxwing 2 1
Swainson’s Thrush 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Quiz bird 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
American Redstart

Total banded 50
Species banded 15
Total recaptured 6
Species Recaptured 4
Census:       # Species 40
Daily total:  # Species 49

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25 August

This morning we had the pleasure of implementing our newest addition to the banding station: Automatic bird release portal (ABRP’s). Peter the program manager installed them overnight and an Orange-crowned Warbler was the test subject. We’ll need to refine them slightly because our feathered guinea pig wanted to fly inward through the viewing glass. But an easy solution has been discovered- we’ll use some leftover one-way mesh that was applied to the windows of the ranch house to avoid bird collisions. This way, the ABRP will have everything a free and easy bird could want: sanded plywood to avoid splinters, extra-thick foam padding, plus a window to the outside world, which is something us banders scarcely have access to during migration season up here at Tatlayoko.

On the new addition topic, check out our high-tech power inverter and accessory gizmo unit that converts the sun’s rays into bird data inputted on our always-charged laptop, not to mention charging the radios we use to communicate while on net rounds. You’ll also notice our new temperature and wind-speed data logger.
Thanks to Peter for being so adept.

On the bird front, it slowed down a bit today, however overhead migration was evident with some Yellow-rumps and a few swallows passing over. No Indigo Bunting was sighted today- only a few Lazulis, which are having a banner year (18 banded). Our first Fox Sparrow was an adult banded around 8am in the same net as a White-crowned and a bunch of other usual suspects.

Internet was down so this blog may not see the light of day…

With solar-powered artificial light we can keep the cold out in the mornings

Torpedo tubes ready for launch

ABRP in place. I think Peter borrowed this model from his ant farm.

Don't touch any of those buttons...

Banders-in-training Tiegan and Osa on a net round

Species Band Recap
Common Yellowthroat 5 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4 3
Swainson’s Thrush 4
Song Sparrow 3 1
Warbling Vireo 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Northern Waterthrush 2
MacGillivray’s Warbler 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Fox Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Yellow Warbler 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
American Redstart 1

Total banded 28
Species banded 12
Total recaptured 10
Species Recaptured 6
Census:       # Species 28
Daily total:  # Species 46

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