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Archive for August, 2014

As we have officially reached the mid way point of our season here at TLBO I will take this opportunity to give a quick summary of the season to date. On the whole August has been well below average. 681 birds banded in our standard nets is our second lowest total of the nine years TLBO has been operating.

2014 Mid-season graph

Graph of each of the 9 seasons of banding at TLBO

Perhaps our most obvious decline this year has been in Northern Waterthrush. To date we have banded just 18, compared to our average of 49. MacGillivray’s Warbler is also well below average with just 18 banded as well (average 36). Amongst our earliest migrants we are unlikely to catch more than a couple more of each of these species this season.

Adult female MacGillivray's Warbler

Adult female MacGillivray’s Warbler

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are a few species that seem to have had a successful breeding season and are on course for an above average season and they are included in the table below.

Species Banded Aug. 2014 Average/Full Season
Swainson’s Thrush 96 113
Common Yellowthroat 80 125
“Traill’s” Flycatcher 41 28
Savannah Sparrow 11 18

Lincoln’s Sparrows also appear to have bounced back somewhat from a record low season last year. In 2013 we banded 2/3 of our Lincoln’s Sparrows in September. If that holds true this year they should return to close to average numbers (204/season).

From a diversity standpoint the season thus far has been bang on average with 109 species detected within the census area. Notable species so far include Long-billed Curlew, Turkey Vulture, Clay-colored Sparrow and Prairie Falcon, all of which were new for the station list. A few other species of interest that we don’t record every year include Bonaparte’s Gull (2 detections) and Horned Lark (35 seen on Aug. 29).

Below is a list of all the birds we have banded this season to date, including those caught in our non-standard nets.

Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 140 7
Swainson’s Thrush 98 34
Common Yellowthroat 83 22
Yellow Warbler 59 12
Lincoln’s Sparrow 56 16
American Redstart 48 11
Song Sparrow 43 27
Wilson’s Warbler 35 0
MacGillivray’s Warbler 18 4
Northern Waterthrush 18 3
Willow Flycatcher 16 0
Alder Flycatcher 16 0
Cedar Waxwing 15 0
Savannah Sparrow 14 0
Black-capped Chickadee 11 12
Traill’s Flycatcher 11 4
Orange-crowned Warbler 10 0
Red-eyed Vireo 8 9
Least Flycatcher 6 0
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6 0
Oregon Junco 6 0
Dusky Flycatcher 5 0
Lazuli Bunting 4 0
Red-winged Blackbird 4 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3 0
Hairy Woodpecker 3 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 3 0
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3 0
American Robin 3 0
Purple Finch 3 0
White-crowned Sparrow 2 1
Downy Woodpecker 2 0
Western Tanager 2 0
Vesper Sparrow 1 1
Western Wood-pewee 1 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 1 0
American Crow 1 0
Mountain Chickadee 1 0
Brown Creeper 1 0
Hermit Thrush 1 0
Chipping Sparrow 1 0
White-throated Sparrow 1 0
Pine Siskin 1 0

This morning was most notable for our first frost of the season. This may have contributed to the lack of birds as we banded just 9 new birds despite a nearly full compliment of net hours. Census was good with 35 species including our first Violet-green Swallows of the season. Eight Northern Shovelers were on the lagoon. Andrew (NCC) and Gail Harcombe are back for another season as our Conservation Volunteers for week 5. Hopefully bird activity improves for them for the rest of the week!

Species Band Recap
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2  
Swainson’s Thrush 1 2
Song Sparrow 1 1
Warbling Vireo 1  
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1  
Orange-crowned Warbler 1  
Common Yellowthroat 1  
Savannah Sparrow 1  

Birds banded 9
Species banded 8
Birds recaptured 3
Species recaptured 2
Species on census 36
Species Total 46
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 681
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 764

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Aug 30

The wind that has caused us to close a couple nets early most of the last week continued today resulting in us only achieving 37 of our usual 72 net hours. Despite having only about half the usual net hours we managed to band 37 birds today, mostly owing to a quick start as activity plummeted around census time. Due to this, census was an abysmal 18 species affair. The highlight of census though was watching a Merlin eat a dragonfly.

 

P1000584Oh you can’t see the Merlin in that picture? How’s this?

P1000576Not bad for a $130 point-and-shoot camera eh?

Catching 37 new birds and 11 recaps on a day with such reduced net hours is pretty good, but what is even better is the birds we almost caught. Early in the day Avery watched a Sharp-shinned Hawk bounce out of one of out larger gauge nets and then later he found evidence that an adult male Northern Harrier had been in one of our nets briefly. This evidence consisted of one chest feather and a beautiful tail feather. Would have been great if we have managed to haul those two in in a single day.

In other news we are completely out of water at the field house which has led to certain compromises in hygiene… until now.

P1000590Seven years of post-secondary education has culminated in this very moment, when I hung a bag of slightly warmed lake water from a telescoping mop handle and propped it against the toilet. UVic and PSU eat your heart out that was money well spent. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and boy was a working shower becoming a necessity.

And finally to address my quiz from a couple days ago. Jaime came closest with her guess of hatch-year (young) Savannah Sparrow. The bird in question was actually an after hatch-year (adult) Savannah Sparrow. Starting at the most distal part of the wing and then working inwards, most passerines have nine primaries, then six secondaries, then three tertials. Adult birds sequentially replace their flight feathers (primaries and secondaries) starting from where the primaries and secondaries meet (the middle of the wing) and then working out in both directions. Due to this pattern, early on in their molt we often find adults with shorter than usual feathers near the center of their wing in good shape, and normal length feathers in bad shape towards the tip and base of the wing. Late in the molting process, when all old feathers have been dropped, we tend to see birds with brand new feathers throughout the wing, but the primaries towards the tip and the secondaries at the base of the wing have yet to finish growing. This is what we see here. The striking difference in length between the three tertials at the base of the wing and the adjacent inner secondaries tell us that this bird is still finishing up its molt, something that only adult birds do at this time of year in this sequential manner. No doubt a tough quiz, but I hope you followed along.

 

Species Band Recap
Lincoln’s Sparrow 12  
Yellow Warbler 6 1
Wilson’s Warbler 5  
Swainson’s Thrush 3 2
Warbling Vireo 3  
Song Sparrow 2 2
Common Yellowthroat 2 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1  
Northern Waterthrush 1  
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1  
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1  

 

Birds banded 37
Species banded 11
Birds recaptured 6
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 18
Species Total 39
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 673
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 755

 

~Chutter

 

 

 

 

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A couple times a season we wake up to the pitter patter of rain on the roof outside our windows. While we love what we do here at TLBO it is a rare luxury to get to sleep in until, gosh, dare I say it…6:30! This is an indulgence I think all bird banders are guilty of.

By 8:00 the rain had stopped and I headed down to the station. Chris took the opportunity of an early start to make the three hour drive into Williams Lake for groceries. When I arrived for census all was calm but this lasted all of about 5 minutes as a strong southerly started blowing. This kept bird activity low but the rain had evidently brought down a few of the high-elevation breeders as I spotted out first Golden-crowned Sparrow of the season. I crossed paths with another one as I walked back to the lab after census as well. 11 American Wigeon and a Green-winged Teal were on the lagoon along with the usual Mallards.

After census I opened what nets I could with the wind still fairly strong. Two and a half hours of banding provided 6 new birds and 3 recaps. One of these recaps was of the same Swainson’s Thrush we first recaptured this year on Aug.7, that was originally banded in 2009. Apparently it chose the Tatlayoko Ranch as a suitable site to complete it’s moult as, like the Robin yesterday, it was looking pretty scruffy in very active moult.

Horned Lark, photo taken in 2012 at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario.

Horned Lark, photo taken in 2012 at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario.

Another first for the season probably knocked down from higher elevations by the weather were two flocks of Horned Larks. This is a species that we don’t see every year so it was a nice surprise to count 35 of them in total. Three American Pipits were accompanying the first flock that landed briefly in the pasture before carrying on southward.

After a couple days absent I again saw the momma bear with her three cubs.

Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 2  
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2  
Swainson’s Thrush 1 1
Yellow Warbler 1 1
Common Yellowthroat   1

Birds banded 6
Species banded 4
Birds recaptured 3
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 22
Species Total 35
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 637
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 718

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Aug. 28: A lone Hermit

The thermometer read an unseasonably warm 9C when we arrived at the lab this morning. While this makes for a pleasant start to the day it is not much incentive for migration. We have been ticking along at a consistent 30ish birds/day for a week or so but now we need a few chilly nights to put a cool breeze up the undertail coverts of our feathered friends in order to get our usual late August push.

Don't be fooled by this birds scruffy appearance, it's not a hatch-year. This AHY female American Robin is in the midst of some heavy moult!

Don’t be fooled by this birds scruffy appearance, it’s not a hatch-year. This AHY female American Robin is in the midst of some heavy moult!

Census was again very diverse with 42 species recorded. A Cassin’s Vireo gave a brief snatch of song from across the Homathko to kick things off. Chris then alerted me over the walkie-talkie of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow coming my way. Swallows have been virtually absent this year which is somewhat alarming given their decline across North America. Alder Flycatchers have suddenly started singing again the past two days although I suspect they are likely all young males as their voices are rather hoarse and only somewhat reminiscent of a typical summer song. At least seven different individuals were singing around the lagoon and the field to the north of it. The lagoon itself contained a few American Wigeon and some Mallards.

While I was on census Chris caught our first Hermit Thrush of the season. This species breeds commonly at high elevations around here and we usually get our first one around this time of the season. Unfortunately they don’t arrive at the station until well after they are done singing but these guys have one of the most amazing songs of any North American bird. Here is an excellent recording of their ethereal song.

http://www.xeno-canto.org/189411

Chris was busy while I was away and also caught our first five Yellow-rumped Warblers! We have been seeing lots of Yellow-rumpeds the past week but they had been eluding our nets until today. Of course by the time I got back to the lab we were back to catching our usual gang of Yellowthroats and Song Sparrows. Late in the morning Chris heard four American Pipits overhead.

Species Band Recap
Common Yellowthroat 5 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5  
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4 1
Savannah Sparrow 3  
Wilson’s Warbler 3  
Warbling Vireo 2  
Yellow Warbler 2  
Song Sparrow 1 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1 1
Alder Flycatcher 1  
American Robin 1  
Hermit Thrush 1  

Birds banded 29
Species banded 12
Birds recaptured 4
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 42
Species Total 54
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 631
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 712

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It is really windy in the valley today and has been since just before closing nets this afternoon. In fact it has seemed really windy in the afternoon for a couple days now, but not in the mornings, as that might permit us to sleep in. The highlight of the day for me was definitely on census when I had my best views of a Solitary Sandpiper that I can remember. And as a bit of a fun twist the Solitary Sandpiper was hanging out with another Solitary Sandpiper and a Sora. Not so solitary afterall, though the other two birds bailed when I got close leaving the one I saw, well in a rather solitary state.

Sosa

Don’t be fooled. It is three different images of the same bird.

Another highlight was our first Three-toed Woodpecker of the year. I heard either a Three-toed or a Black-backed Woodpecker yesterday, but was unable to discern which. This morning Avery heard a Three-toed across the river, possibly the same bird I heard yesterday.

I have had the trail camera up and running for four days now and so far nothing magical has transpired. I have a number of amusing pics of banders walking in circles, scratching their faces, looking upwards, appearing to walk with eyes closed, but no cougars, grizzlies, or better. I have a number of short videos of deer and two pictures of an unknown furry creature. I figure we can use those two pictures as a quiz where no one is wrong because I don’t know what the answer is. What do you think these are? I’m thinking Bobcat.

unk1 unk2

Species Band Recap
Common Yellowthroat 5 2
Warbling Vireo 5  
Swainson’s Thrush 4 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4 1
Black-capped Chickadee 3  
Alder Flycatcher 2  
Song Sparrow 1 3
Oregon Junco 1  
Yellow Warbler 1  
Orange-crowned Warbler 1  
Willow Flycatcher 1  
Dusky Flycatcher 1  
American Redstart 1  

 

Birds banded 30
Species banded 13
Birds recaptured 8
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 32
Species Total 45
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 607
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 683

 

~Chutter

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Aug. 26

Another great day here at TLBO. While banding numbers were average diversity was high with 59 species recorded, the seasons second highest total. On our first net round I spotted the Clay-colored Sparrow that was first seen on the 16th, it seems to be completing its moult as when I first saw it it still had some streaks on the breast (juvenile feathers) whereas this morning it was very clean buff on its underparts. Hopefully it will find it’s way into our nets before it heads south.

IMG_5464

Census was excellent with a whopping 45 species encountered. A good start was a flock of 22 Clark’s Nutcrackers flying along the base of the Niuts followed by a lone Hooded Merganser hurtling it’s way south. Activity was remarkably steady throughout the census route with a couple Yellow-rumped Warbler flocks containing a mix of warblers as well as a Cassin’s Vireo and a couple earlyish Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Over the lagoon field a juvenile Bonaparte’s Gull was circling with one of it’s Ring-billed cousins. A Sora called from the marsh to the south of here, my personal first of the season (Chris has had a couple encounters). On lake lake one and possibly a second Red-necked Grebe were loafing along with a Common Loon.

Back at the station Chris had the pleasure of extracting and banding yet another Hairy Woodpecker. After receiving my share of pecks and lacerations from the four woodpeckers two days ago there was a distinct whiff of justice in the air as Chris got his woodpecker treatment 😉

Savannah Sparrow numbers have been increasing the past couple days and we banded a season high 4 today. Our last bird of the day was just the second Hammond’s Flycatcher of the season.

Hammond's Flycatcher, note the long primary projection

Hammond’s Flycatcher, note the long primary projection

Species Band Recap
Savannah Sparrow 4  
Common Yellowthroat 3 1
Warbling Vireo 3  
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 3
Song Sparrow 2 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 2  
Cedar Waxwing 1  
Hairy Woodpecker 1  
Yellow Warbler 1  
Northern Waterthrush 1  
American Redstart 1  
Swainson’s Thrush 1  
Willow Flycatcher 1  
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1  
Red-eyed Vireo   1
White-crowned Sparrow   1

Birds banded 24
Species banded 14
Birds recaptured 7
Species recaptured 5
Species on census 45
Species Total 59
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 581
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 652

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So to get the usual stuff out of the way: banding was fairly busy and steady all day and we finished with 37 new birds banded, despite closing a little early due to rain. Census was slow with just 26 species, but of course there is a little aside on that. For over a week, there has been one part of census just covered with birds; I usually invest 5-10 minutes at that site each census and probably pick up half my birds there. Today there wasn’t a single bird moving around at that location. I was confused… until I spotted the adult Sharp-shinned Hawk sitting in the very bush that usually had the most activity. Of course on the way back after census the hawk was gone and magically birds had proliferated quickly in his absence. At least on a pretty poor census I was still able to snap some decent shots of the Sharp-shinned Hawk and of a Cooper’s Hawk.

 

Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk wondering where all the songbirds went

Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk wondering where all the songbirds went

Young Cooper's Hawk peering on some Common Yellowthroats

Young Cooper’s Hawk peering on some Common Yellowthroats

Now to the big news. The view from the banding station is almost due north up the valley with a fence line about 400m away from us. This time of year there is almost always a family of 4-5 American Kestrels near or on that fence. We get so used to them being there that we seldom stop to look at them. Today around 10am I saw a raptor near the fence and as I have done dozens of times before thought or said, “Oh look a kestrel”. Normally that would be the end of it, except that I only had one kestrel on census and so wanted to count our usual 4-5 birds. At my blaze proclamation of a kestrel Avery did not raise his binoculars. At my proclamation of, “Not a kestrel,” he still did not raise his binoculars. Then, “It’s big, maybe a goshawk,” he raised his binoculars. Then we both said/thought, “Oh it’s a falcon, must be a Peregrine”, which would be great and our first of the year. However, when the bird reached its destination and started harassing a group of crows we both became certain it was actually a Prairie Falcon, and two banders quickly grabbed their cameras and optics and ran from the station. Sure enough it was the first Prairie Falcon ever seen at TLBO and the highlight of the season so far for me. I have seen this species in Oregon, but am pretty sure this is the first one I have seen in Canada.

P1000548

Digiscoped image in the very tree we refer to as the Kestrel Tree

Somehow a Prairie Falcon seemed destined to happen this season. After our first Turkey Vulture, Avery expressed that he was surprised we had never had a Prairie Falcon before and I agreed. On census about 12 days ago, I thought I had a Prairie Falcon perched on a tree about 300m away, but when it flew I concluded it was just an unusually pale Merlin. Then about 5 days ago I hiked into the alpine area of Potato Mountain and again thought I saw a Prairie hunting low over the open alpine habitat. I lost the bird, but about 10 minutes later a Kestrel appeared and I assumed it was the bird I had seen earlier. Now I’m not so sure. Either way, Prairie Falcon is an exciting species and a great addition to our species list at TLBO that now includes 191 species over nine years.

 

Species Band Recap
Common Yellowthroat 10  
Warbling Vireo 9 1
Swainson’s Thrush 7 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2  
Song Sparrow 1 1
Yellow Warbler 1 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1 1
Alder Flycatcher 1  
Orange-crowned Warbler 1  
Wilson’s Warbler 1  
White-crowned Sparrow 1  
Willow Flycatcher 1  
American Redstart 1  

 

Birds banded 37
Species banded 13
Birds recaptured 7
Species recaptured 5
Species on census 26
Species Total 48
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 558
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 628

 

~Chutter

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