Archive for September, 2014

Sept. 28: Season Finale

Well another season has come and gone. As always it has been an amazing couple of months that has seemingly gone by in a flash. Although bird numbers were fairly low in 2014 the season was special in many regards. The influx of Red-breasted Sapsuckers was a surprise and for the first time in the history of TLBO they eclipsed their Red-naped cousins. The return of sparrow numbers to something more like average was a welcome turn of events after last years collapse. Indeed every species of sparrow except Savannah Sparrow was up from last year. Once again Lincoln’s and Song Sparrows were at the top of the charts where they belong.


One last picture of the Niuts, a view we just can’t get enough of

It was great to have a more successful year for Northern Saw-whet Owls as well. Chris was finally able to go out again last night after a windy week and he banded four more, bringing our season total to 19. Even better was that he re-caught one that we banded Sept. 24, 2013! Our first inter-annual recap for this species!!! It was banded as a second-year and when recapped showed the expected third-year moult pattern (the ASY bird in this blog post from 2012 shows this pattern). I am hoping to be able to get out one more time tonight to push us above 20.

The highlights for the season were many with four species added to the station list (Long-billed Curlew, Turkey Vulture, Clay-colored Sparrow and Prairie Falcon) and three first banding records (American Crow, Cooper’s Hawk and Northern Pygmy-owl). Not all noteworthy occurrences were bird-related – getting to see a Grizzly up close and personal at Chilko Lake was amazing!

2014 graph

As this graph illustrates we just squeaked above 2012 at the last gasp!

Chris and I would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who read the blog this season, we hope we were entertaining and informative and we look forward to starting up again in 2015!

Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 7 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 4

Birds banded 16
Species banded 5
Birds recaptured 7
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 27
Species Total 37

Total Species banded 56
Total Birds recaptured 256
Standard Birds recaptured 226
Total Species recaptured 18
2014 Species Total 130

Species Total Banded Standard Banded Total Recaps
Song Sparrow 157 149 52
Lincoln’s Sparrow 155 148 24
Common Yellowthroat 141 136 41
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 187 136 4
Warbling Vireo 156 111 8
Swainson’s Sthrush 102 100 36
Yellow Warbler 86 80 17
Wilson’s Warbler 54 49 2
American Redstart 50 46 13
Orange-crowned Warbler 43 37 2
Dark-eyed Junco 33 32 0
MacGillivray’s Warbler 24 24 5
Savannah Sparrow 31 25 0
White-crowned Sparrow 26 23 0
Black-capped Chickadee 24 21 28
Northern Waterthrush 18 18 3
“Myrtle” Yellow-rumped Warbler 25 18 0
“Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler 29 17 0
Alder Flycatcher 16 16 0
Willow Flycatcher 16 15 0
Cedar Waxwing 15 12 0
“Traill’s” Flycatcher 11 10 4
Golden-crowned Kinglet 8 8 0
“Unknown/hybrid” Yellow-rumped Warbler 19 8 0
Red-eyed Vireo 8 7 9
Hermit Thrush 8 7 0
Dusky Flycatcher 9 6 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 7 5 0
Fox Sparrow 5 5 0
American Robin 5 5 0
Red-breasted Sapsucker 5 5 0
Least Flycatcher 6 4 0
White-throated Sparrow 4 4 1
Red-winged Blackbird 4 4 0
Lazuli Bunting 4 4 0
Hairy Woodpecker 4 4 0
Purple Finch 3 3 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 4 2 0
Western Tanager 2 2 0
Downy Woodpecker 2 2 0
Western Wood-pewee 2 2 0
Mountain Chickadee 2 2 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 2 2 0
Brown Creeper 2 2 0
Varied Thrush 2 2 0
Swamp Sparrow 2 2 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 2 2 0
Pacific Wren 2 2 0
Golden-crowned Sparrow 2 1 0
Vesper Sparrow 1 1 1
Chipping Sparrow 1 1 0
Pine Siskin 1 1 0
American Crow 1 1 0
Spotted Towhee 1 1 0
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1 1 0
Nashville Warbler 1 1 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0 0
Cassin’s Vireo 1 0 0
Northern Pygmy-owl 1 0 0

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Sept 27 – 3rd busiest day

Well this will be my last blog of the season, and shortly I will return home and once again remember what it feels like to sleep more than 35 hours per week, as well as what it feels like to properly shower or wear clean clothes. Although I know that will feel amazing, I always love this job and know I will miss it after a couple of good night’s sleep and at least one long hot shower.

While some years here the weather conspires to make the last week or so unproductive and unpleasant, that has not been the case this season. Today was our third busiest day with 55 new birds banded, and despite a cold start was a nice sunny day all afternoon. In fact I am pretty sure this is my first year here that we have had zero full weather days, meaning that each day this year we were at least able to open some of the nets some of the time. This means that Avery has banded every single day since Aug 3rd and I have only missed the one that I drove to William’s Lake for groceries.

Around the station today my highlight was that Pacific Wrens apparently finally arrived. On opening round I heard one near net 11 and warned Avery. Just 10 minutes later he caught our first of the season in net 12. Not to be outdone I caught one thirty minutes after that in net 11. I then found two more after census. We have remarked frequently about how they were strangely absent this season, maybe they were just a little tardy. We also caught our second Golden-crowned Sparrow and second Red-naped Sapsucker of the season today. On the way back from census I also spotted a White-throated Sparrow, a species I always appreciate seeing.

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While most seasons it seems our Sept 28th end date is a good time to finish or maybe a little late, it feels this year that we might have been busy for a least another week with present weather conditions and bird numbers. Anyways, showers, laundry, and sleep…  Here are some cute pics of a Grizzle Bear I took yesterday.

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Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 19 2
Song Sparrow 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6
Oregon Junco 4
Hermit Thrush 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3
Pacific Wren 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Wilson’s Warbler 2
Red-naped Sapsucker 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Birds banded 55
Species banded 13
Birds recaptured 4
Species recaptured 2
Species on census 19
Species Total 40


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Another decent day of banding with 28 new and 5 recaps. Clear, cold conditions overnight meant that most birds seemed to leave overnight with markedly less around. As has been typical the past week, Ruby-crowned Kinglets topped the charts. A recap of interest was a Black-capped Chickadee that was originally banded in 2011, one of our older recaps this year.

On they way back from census I flushed up the season’s first Mourning Dove from the roadside, species #129 for 2014.

photo by Temo Bardzimashvili

photo by Temo Bardzimashvili

After banding Temo and Neegin (our conservation volunteers this week), Chris and I headed over to the Chilko valley to check out the salmon run and look for bears. Although there weren’t many live fish left we did end up getting very close looks at a Grizz. When we arrived at the campground at the head of the Chilko Lake we spotted the bear walking along the shore towards us. As we were parked just metres from the shore we went back to the vehicle and from there we watched as it passed within 5 metres from us. It was not too concerned with us as it stopped every few yards to munch on the abundant dead fish.

The one damper on the expedition was a flat tire on the way back. A Fox that Temo spotted after we were back on the road was some consolation.

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 10
Song Sparrow 7 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1 2
Hermit Thrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Oregon Junco 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1

Birds banded 28
Species banded 9
Birds recaptured 5
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 25
Species Total 41

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Sept 25

Another productive day at the station where we were just able to finish our scheduled banding before the wind would have shut us down. We finished the day with a respectable 38 birds banded including a Hermit Thrush and a Fox Sparrow. Census also turned up 28 species including five ducks: Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, and Green-winged Teal. However, the highlight of the day for me was definitely recapturing the Nashville Warbler we caught two days ago. Not only is it a very rare bird around here, but two days ago it escaped my clutches before I could get any photos of it. Well not today, here are a couple photos of the bird that bested me two days ago, but lost in overtime.

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Another highlight for the day was that on census I heard our first Gray Catbird in a couple years. It called 5-6 times from a patch of alder, but unfortunately did not want to come out to say “Hi”. Would have loved to have gotten a couple photos of it… Maybe tomorrow.

Unfortunately, once again it has proven too windy to try for owls tonight.

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 13
Song Sparrow 9 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5 1
Common Yellowthroat 2 1
Oregon Junco 2
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Hermit Thrush 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Fox Sparrow 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Birds banded 38
Species banded 10
Birds recaptured 4
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 28
Species Total 47


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A damp start to the morning prevented us from opening until 8:40. Although it rained on and off for much of the night, it wasn’t raining from the time our alarm clocks went off until about when we were due to leave the house. Once again, a rare opportunity to sleep in was thwarted by mother nature.

When we arrived at the station there were tons of birds about and as I went off on census Chris promptly caught 2/3rds of the days birds on one net round. After this hectic period things quieted down significantly with just the odd Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the nets. We did manage to catch a couple goodies though including our 5th (!) Red-breasted Sapsucker of the season, quite remarkable given we had only ever caught one before this season.


Hatch-year Golden-crowned Sparrow

The highlight of our day was undoubtedly the first Golden-crowned Sparrow of the season, another long overdue species in our nets. This was our 52nd species in our standard nets and 59th species overall this season. Abundance may be low but diversity sure isn’t!

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 18
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Song Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Red-breasted Sapsucker 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow 1

Birds banded 33
Species banded 9
Birds recaptured 0
Species recaptured 0
Species on census 17
Species Total 32

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Another good day at the station. The forecast had been for bad weather all week, but the weatherperson has dramatically changed their tune. It seems no one told the birds this as we had our second busiest day of the season today (58 birds). One notable thing about the birds today is that in general they seemed to have a lot more fat on them than at any other point in the season. This suggests that a lot of birds have elected to stop over in the Tatlayoko Valley recently to refuel for their next jaunt south. This might suggest that the conditions just north of us are worse than they are here. Lucky for us! This stopover of birds also brought us some unusual birds including our first Nashville Warbler, our first two Swamp Sparrows, a late Cedar Waxwing, another Rusty Blackbird, two more Red-breasted Sapsuckers, our first Purple Finch in three weeks, and just our second Barred Owl detection in station history. As mentioned in my last blog Barred Owls are not a rare bird in the valley, but they are a very rare detection for us during banding hours.

IMG_6074 IMG_6079

We finished the day with 58 new birds banded, nearly half of which (28) were Ruby-crowned Kinglets. These tiny little cuties always make a push late in the season to try to top our most abundantly banded bird list, but always start too late to actually make it. This year, however, it looks like they might make it. Today they leap-frogged Swainson’s Thrush and Song Sparrow to take fourth spot, and if tomorrow’s numbers are similar to today’s they would find themselves right behind the stalled Warbling Vireo for top spot. Really the only thing that can stop them now is another perennially late starter in the Lincoln’s Sparrow. Lincoln’s Sparrows usually take top spot, but are not even close to putting up the numbers the Ruby-crowned Kinglets have been of late. Personally I am cheering for the kinglet, they are far more docile and cooperative in the hand and just plain cuter. Here is how the race for most banded bird is shaping up, keep in mind that Warbling Vireos, Common Yellowthroats, and Swainson’s Thrushes are all pretty much done for the season.

Species Banded
Warbling Vireo 155
Common Yellowthroat 139
Lincoln’s Sparrow 139
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 123
Song Sparrow 122
Swainson’s Thrush 102
Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 28 1
Song Sparrow 11 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Oregon Junco 2
Swamp Sparrow 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Birds banded 58
Species banded 9
Birds recaptured 3
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 32
Species Total 46


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Sept. 22: Gold amongst Rubies

Continuing south wind overnight did little to encourage migration, so banding continued to be fairly slow. We did, however, get a smattering of Golden-crowned Kinglets amongst the abundant Ruby-crowneds. I think, of the two, I have to say that Golden-crowneds are my favourite. How can one not like something so tiny that looks so thoroughly ninja?

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Despite the general low numbers of birds about we did have a couple firsts of the year. Just after census I heard and finally saw a Pacific Wren amongst the twinberry at the edge of the lagoon. Not sure where they have been this year but this species was long overdue. A pair of European Starlings elicited a much less favourable response but hey, it bumps up our season species total the same as any other specie would. On the topic of introduced species, a Eurasion Collared-dove was seen and heard on census as well. Although they have yet to become truly invasive – they don’t seem to be negatively impacting anything…yet – this species has spread all the way from an introduced population in the Bahamas as far as Alaska and even into Siberia since the ’80s. Soon they will be invading their natural population in southern Asia/Europe! A remarkable movement.

Not to be outdone, the aspens are also a brilliant shade of gold these days

Not to be outdone, the aspens are also a brilliant shade of gold these days

Another interesting observation on census was a hybrid Yellow-shafted x Red-shafted Flicker. These intergrades are pretty common and can be quite variable in which subspecies’ plumage characteristics they show. This individual was pretty straightforward with more-or-less the head of a Yellow-shafted (black moustache, red crescent on back of head) and the red flight-feathers typical of red-shafted.

The south wind and warm temps (16C at 11pm) didn’t help owling last night as I was skunked for the first time this season.

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 8
Song Sparrow 5 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5
Golden-crowned Kinglet 4
Common Yellowthroat 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1

Birds banded 24
Species banded 6
Birds recaptured 1
Species recaptured 1
Species on census 23
Species Total 38

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Once again we were shut down early by wind today, and the forecast for the next week does not look very good for our net hours this week.

However, the last 24 hours at the station have been pretty interesting despite the wind. Last night I managed to catch five Northern Saw-whet Owls, which is always fun. While waiting for the Saw-whets to get into our nets I could also hear distant Great-horned Owls and Barred Owls calling. Both of these birds are a threat to netted Saw-whets, so I kept a wary ear out all night and they never came very close. This is also interesting as Barred Owls have only been recorded at the station once and that was back in 2008. They are no doubt around, but fairly secretive during the hours we are banding. While closing the nets last night at around midnight it was surprisingly active with birds; I could hear Barred Owls, Great-horned Owls, Canada Geese, a confused Ruffed Grouse, and even a Savannah Sparrow. Perhaps my headlamp made the latter two think sunrise was imminent.

So at the end of the night I thought I had had a pretty owling good time to tell Avery about when I got to the station this morning, but before I could he told me he had just caught a new bird for the station and it was meaner than a Black-capped Chickadee. I was at a loss for what that could possibly be. He had caught the first Northern Pygmy-owl in TLBO history. We hear them most Septembers, but have never been lucky enough to catch one until today. This means that every species of owl ever detected at TLBO has been detected within a 12 hour period starting late last night.

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Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 9
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Northern Pygmy-Owl 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Birds banded 17
Species banded 6
Birds recaptured 2
Species recaptured 1
Species on census 20
Species Total 31


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Sept. 20:

After three nights of windy conditions I was finally able to get out owling again last night. Although there was a persistent southerly breeze the night produced three Northern Saw-whet Owls, two of which came on the last net round. Both of these mid-night owls were particularly feisty but the first owl was very docile and let me take a couple pics without putting up any fuss.

Boy, if looks could kill....

“You’ve won this round bi-ped, but one day…one day…you will PAY!”

Why can owls hear so well? Well, their ears take up pretty much their whole head!

Why can owls hear so well? Well, their ears take up pretty much their whole head!

Migrating conditions were pretty good overnight and it seems that many of our birds took off as it was fairly quiet around the station this morning. Indeed when I arrived, an hour after opening, Chris had caught just one bird. Thankfully things picked up a bit later in the morning and we ended with 25 birds banded. Yet another Red-breasted Sapsucker was amongst these. So far all four RBSA that we have caught have been hatch-years, presumably they had a bumper year as this number is unprecedented here.

Our first Red-breasted Nuthatch of the season was another treat. As with many other species that rely on seed/cone crops this species is irruptive. We have caught just one in each of the past two seasons but in 2009 we banded 28!


*meep meep*

Diversity was good on census with a few mixed-species flocks encountered. A Golden-crowned Kinglet was calling from the pines, just the second detection of the year and two of it’s name-sake Sparrow were spotted by the lake. As I was returning back to the lab a Sharp-shinned Hawk flushed up a Rusty Blackbird from the muddy margins on the far side of the lagoon.

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Song Sparrow 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Oregon Junco 2
Red-breasted Sapsucker 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Yellow Warbler 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1

Birds banded 25
Species banded 12
Birds recaptured 3
Species recaptured 3
Species on census 33
Species Total 40

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Sept 19 – catching leaves

Some days out here there just is not that much to write home about; this was one of those days. Winds started blowing hard this morning and for the first time all season we had to shut all nets early as a result of it. When the wind blows in late September it has the added appeal of us getting to extract hundreds of leaves from our nets. The is often a great task to assign to volunteers, but we don’t have any until Sunday. This also afforded us some time though to move a pair of our nets as cows are to be moved into that field and cows are bad news for mistnets. We managed to band 22 birds before the wind shut us down though, and census turned up a poor showing of just 18 species partly owing to the aforementioned wind.

Nothing noteworthy or photo-worthy was seen around the station today, but for the first time in three nights Avery was able to get out and try for some owls. Hopefully he catches a couple cuties for tomorrow’s blog.

Here is a photo I have been meaning to post for sometime. It shows the strength of bears and is a constant reminder of how much I do not want to get into a fight with one. Those claw marks are over a centimeter deep right into the wood.

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Also of late our station has been invaded by a pair of unfortunate looking chipmunks. We have nick-named them Stumpy and Bot-fly Buddy for obvious reasons. I think they are cute, despite their health issues, Avery tries to chase them out.


Make yourselves at home guys


Bot-fly Buddy looking for lunch




Bot-flies… no thank you!


Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 9 1
Song Sparrow 3 3
White-crowned Sparrow 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Yellow Warbler 1 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
American Redstart 1
Common Yellowthroat 2
Birds banded 25
Species banded 9
Birds recaptured 7
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 18
Species Total 36


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