Archive for August, 2018


We had several locals visit us for a few net rounds!

The last day of August had a decidedly fall-like feel as we had our first really windy day of the season and the first notable smattering of leaf-falling-in-nets action. While strong winds are normal in the valley they got an early start as the south wind picked up around 8:45 and was blowing a beaufort 5 by ~11:00, forcing us to prematurely close several nets.


Female Hairy Woodpecker

Prior to the wind we had a good start to the morning as net 16 caught a nice little flock of mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers. While it undoubtedly contributed to a decrease in activity the wind likely kept birds lower as we caught several more Yellow-rumpeds, a species we tend to catch a very small percentage of compared with what we detect around the nets. Normally they are foraging above net height. So far we have only caught the locally breeding “Audubon’s” subspecies but the boreal “Myrtle” should be arriving soon.

The wind made for a slow census for Sachi as detection rates and activity are much hampered by such conditions. He did have a highlight that pushed us into a record for species recorded in August at TLBO; a roosting Great-horned Owl was species number 119 of the season!

Our final bird banded for August was also a new addition to our banded tally for the season. A hatch-year female Hairy Woodpecker that found its way into net 12 on the last net round was our 45th species banded this year (including the Belted Kingfisher caught in one of our hawk nets, not part of our standard net setup).

Aug. bird banded by day graph

Table 1 - blog aug 31

Table 1. Top 10 birds detected

Overall we had an excellent first half of the season! A total of 942 (+5 birds caught in the hawk nets) birds banded was our 3rd highest August total and if we can maintain this capture rate we could be in for a record season (currently 1871 from 2008). In addition to our species total of 119 being a record we detected a record 11 681 total birds over the course of the month, over 600 higher than the next best August (2015)! The top 10 most abundant species for the month can be found in Table 1. Mallard, Cedar Waxwing, Swainson’s Thrush and Song Sparrows all ended with record numbers for the month.

Banding totals graph

When we got home we were treated to a beautiful adult Grizzly Bear foraging in the field across the road from our cabins. It hung around for about 20 minutes allowing for some nice views in the spotting scope as it munched on grass and alfalfa. This was a lifer mammal for Kat and the first in many years for Morgan – a very fine way to cap off the month!

Species Band Recap
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Swainson’s Thrush 4
Song Sparrow 2 3
Warbling Vireo 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
American Redstart 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Oregon Junco 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1

Birds Banded 28
Species Banded 13
Birds Recapped 3
Species Recapped 1
Species on Census 29
Species Recorded 43

Season Total Species Total Banded Total Recaps
Swainson’s Thrush 193 21
Warbling Vireo 93 5
Common Yellowthroat 73 20
Orange-crowned Warbler 68 5
Song Sparrow 66 41
American Redstart 64 7
Yellow Warbler 56 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 53 11
Northern Waterthrush 48 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler 26 0
Cedar Waxwing 22 3
MacGillivray’s Warbler 20 2
Wilson’s Warbler 20 0
Black-capped Chickadee 14 9
Savannah Sparrow 11 0
Western Tanager 11 0
Oregon Junco 9 2
Purple Finch 8 2
Red-eyed Vireo 8 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 7 0
American Robin 7 0
Willow Flycatcher 6 2
Dusky Flycatcher 6 0
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 6 0
Townsend’s Warbler 5 0
Chipping Sparrow 5 0
White-crowned Sparrow 5 0
Vesper Sparrow 4 0
Lazuli Bunting 4 0
Clay-colored Sparrow 3 1
Alder Flycatcher 3 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 3 0
Red-winged Blackbird 2 1
Downy Woodpecker 2 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 2 0
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2 0
Spotted Towhee 2 0
Traill’s Flycatcher 2 0
Belted Kingfisher 1 0
Hairy Woodpecker 1 0
Least Flycatcher 1 0
Mountain Chickadee 1 0
Pacific Wren 1 0
Magnolia Warbler 1 0
Fox Sparrow 1 0
Pine Siskin 1 0

Individuals Banded 947
Species Banded 45
Total Recapped 144
Species Recapped 18
Species Recorded 119

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Aug. 30: New Nets!

It was a cold clear morning when we arrived at the station and we encountered our first proper frost on the low parts of the walk across the field to net 18. Luckily it stayed fairly clear meaning that it warmed up to a very pleasant temperature after a couple hours.

The clear skies overnight would have made for good migrating conditions and we suspect that this contributed to the marked decrease in birds around the station today. For a long while it looked like we were destined for the lowest banding day of the season as by 11:00 we had only banded 8 birds! Fortunately the last 1.5 hours really picked up and we ended with a respectable 27 new birds. This was kicked off by a mini-rush of 8 birds on the 10:55 net round that included a late “Traill’s” Flycatcher. For the second day running Swainson’s Thrush were NOT the most banded bird as our mid-season regulars such as Lincoln’s Sparrow, Warbling Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler and Common Yellowthroat continue to move up the charts.


The slower conditions allowed Kat to band her first few birds after quickly picking up the basics of bird handling the past two days!

Sachi’s census was consistent with our low activity back at the station, however it was improved by a group of dabblers on the north end of the lake that included a season high 20 American Wigeons along with a half-dozen Northern Shovelers and four Green-winged Teals. A Common Merganser was nearby and was seen again by Morgan when she did a


Morgan picked up our only Vesper Sparrow of the day on her walk to the lake

mid-morning walk down to the lake. Back at the station notable sightings were few but Sachi did hear the long-staying Gray Catbird again and a trio of juvenile gulls came over that included one Ring-billed and two probable Californias. Unfortunately I was distracted by the arrival of the 10:55 rush of birds just as I noticed them and didn’t get a chance to get back on them before they departed.

After banding yesterday we were excited to receive an anticipated package from the post office; 7 new nets for the station courtesy of Wendy Easton at Canadian Wildlife Service! After banding we replaced four nets and some time in the next couple days we’ll replace one or two more. We also erected a new hawk net, perpendicular to and about 30m south of net 18. This is an untested location so we are curious to see if it meets with any success.

Species Band Recap
Lincoln’s Sparrow 6
Swainson’s Thrush 4
Warbling Vireo 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 2
Western Tanager 2
Song Sparrow 1 4
Cedar Waxwing 1 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Traill’s Flycatcher 1

Birds Banded 27
Species Banded 13
Birds Recapped 5
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 40
Species Recorded 57

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Last night we were invited over for dinner at Charlie and Ruth Travers’ place which is up on the north side of Cochin Lake. Both Ruth and Charlie are life long birders who have been keeping records in the valley for nigh on 35 years. We had a lovely evening and hope to see them again soon.

This morning we awoke to a light drizzle and a thermometer reading of 11°C which was nearly a 10 degree increase on the starting temperatures of the last two days. Due to the rain we had to hold off on opening the nets until 7:05am. By this time the bird activity was near its morning peak as within an hour we had a 12 bird net round! Alas this was only the early morning peak as subsequent rounds yielded a few birds per round until the 10:10am net round. On this round we tallied 20 birds which is only 4 birds shy of our season high of 24. The majority of the birds caught in this round were part of a mixed flock that has been building around the station for the past few days.


Avery and Kat working their way through the 20 birds caught at 10:10am.

Today the flock consisted mainly of Warbling Vireos, Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers along with some other warblers mixed in. When we finally arrived back at the station it was time for another net round so Morgan and I headed off to check the nets while Avery and Kat stayed behind to process the birds.

We were in for a surprise as this next net round yielded a further 13 birds which were all in net 6 and based on the species composition likely also belonged to the large mixed flock. Today we recaptured an older lady Orange-crowned Warbler who was first banded as a hatch year in 2013 by Morgan. It is always a treat to have older inter-annual recaptures especially when the original bander is present.


Our gorgeous Orange-crowned lady Warbler who belongs to the coastal subspecies Lutescens.


Those three high volume rounds brought us to 56 birds banded for the day and 892 birds for the season. With any luck we will surpass the 900 birds banded mark tomorrow!

I had no new birds to add to the station’s list on census today. I did however get some good views of the lone Barrow’s Goldeneye along with both the Red-necked and Pied-billed Grebes. The Yellow-rumped Warblers continued to build as we estimated their numbers at 75 individuals within our census area which is the highest number yet this season. Currently Audubon’s is the only subspecies present but as the numbers continue to build during the next month we should also be getting some of the later migrant Myrtle’s (the Boreal subspecies) mixed in as well.

The largest surprise of the day came just after noon when Avery announced over the radio that there was a Tern-like bird soaring over the field in front of the station. He quickly added, “Actually it’s a Jaeger and I have the scope trained on it”, that set all three of us into motion as we sprinted across the field towards the station. Fortunately we were just in time to get some views of the bird as it circled over the hills to the north and finally out of sight. This is the station’s second Long-tailed Jaeger record, the first of which dates back to 2011.


The view from our deck looking south towards TLBO.

I will leave you with the view from our deck. As you can see, without the smoke this is one of the many little pieces of paradise that exist across the beautiful province that we call home.

Until Tomorrow.

Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 11
Orange-crowned Warbler 9 1
Yellow Warbler 6
Swainson’s Thrush 5 2
Common Yellowthroat 5
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4 1
Western Tanager 4
American Redstart 2 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Townsend’s Warbler 2
Wilson’s Warbler 2
Purple Finch 1 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Lazuli Bunting 1


Birds Banded 56
Species Banded 15
Birds Recapped 6
Species Recapped 5
Species on Census 40
Species Recorded 53


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Clear skies overnight made for a brisk 3C at opening with just a hint of smoke on the horizon. This likely provided an opportunity for birds to migrate out of the valley as activity was down on all fronts. By the time we were closing down the smoke was back to “moderate” compared to other days this month.IMG_20180828_075812_resized_20180828_030743379

There was little activity around the station in the first couple hours and this was also reflected in Sachi’s census numbers. A mystery waterfowl a long ways out on the lake provided the only moment of real intrigue for him. Unfortunately it was not too be solved without the aid of a scope. Eventually it warmed up a little and the mixed species flock that has been frequenting the riparian strip along the Homathko built up and we got the usual Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers, Warbling Vireos, a couple latish Alder Flycatchers and a family group of four Lazuli Buntings (one of which we later caught). A trip up to the oxbow provided us with a Least Flycatcher, a species we only record maybe a half-dozen times a season and for the second day running we got American Pipit overhead.


Mountain Chickadee

Despite the low numbers the day was not without its excitement. Morgan had a Sharp-shinned Hawk get out of net 12 before she could reach it and a little while later we caught a rather scruffy juvenile Mountain Chickadee, our first of the season! This species prefers the drier coniferous forest in the valley bottom so rarely ventures out into the deciduous and riparian zones were our nets are.

We also welcomed Kat to the station today, she arrived yesterday from Washington State to volunteer with us for the next 3.5 weeks. The slower day was a good way for her to ease into operations here!

Species Band Recap
Orange-crowned Warbler 5
Swainson’s Thrush 4 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Common Yellowthroat 3
Northern Waterthrush 2
Song Sparrow 1 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1 1
Mountain Chickadee 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Cedar Waxwing 1
Oregon Junco 1
Lazuli Bunting 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1

Birds Banded 25
Species Banded 12
Birds Recapped 7
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 38
Species Recorded 57

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The lovely morning views.

As conveyed by the images above our day began clear and cool (~2°C). The sunrise was magical as it climbed over the Potatoes slowly evaporating the remnants of last night’s rain in wisps of vapour. The birds were in good form as they only needed an hour to get moving. As a result we caught 12 birds during the 7:20am net round! Subsequent rounds were not as abundant yet consistently yielded a handful of birds leaving us with a final tally of 39 birds banded and 5 recaptures. On the banding front our notables included our second Downy Woodpecker of the season and our seventh Sharp-shinned Hawk! We are only one Sharpie away from drawing even with the station record of eight achieved back in 2006. At some point near the end of the day we reached our 800th bird banded for the season.

Today we detected the highest species diversity (66 species) of the season with respect to our daily estimated totals which consists of a combination of both species observed and banded.

Our lone Blackpoll Warbler was back foraging in a large mixed flock of Warblers and Vireos in the alders along the Homathko. It was rather shy and only afforded us with fleeting glimpses as it fluttered from catkin to catkin. Fingers crossed that it is around tomorrow and finds its way into one of our nets. Later on as Avery and Morgan were returning from a trip to the Oxbow we had our first “close” encounter with a Sandhill Crane as it glided over them heading south across the field then banking west just before it reached the station. It was one of those instances where I was so overcome with awe that it was not until later that it occurred to me that I should have tried for a photo. The final surprise of the day was a “scouting party” of two American Pipits. Both Pipits and Horned Larks breed in the alpine after which they tend to follow food as it is available descending in elevation until they reach the valley bottom. Most years there are “throngs” of Pipits with a few Horned Larks mixed in out in the field north of the station. This scouting party bodes well as the throng may even now be on its way assuming that they judged the resources as adequate.


The view south down Tatlayoko Lake.

I will leave you with the view south down Tatlayoko Lake, let us all hope that the rain over the past few days will have quelled and subdued the many major fires that are burning all over our beautiful province.

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 7
Common Yellowthroat 4 1
Warbling Vireo 4
Song Sparrow 3 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Northern Waterthrush 2
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Purple Finch 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1

Birds Banded 39
Species Banded 17
Birds Recapped 5
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 48
Species Recorded 66

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It was drizzling again when we arrived at the station this morning but fortunately it quit by the time we had the nets open. The warmer starting temperature was welcome but this was countered by the fact the mercury rose just two degrees to 11C by closing time. These cool end of August days can often be good as it is incentive for birds to come to lower elevations and/or continue pushing south.

It was a very steady day that at no point felt particularly busy but ended up being one of our better days for birds banded. We finished the day with 45 new birds banded and 7 recaptures. The barrage of Swainson’s Thrushes continued with a season high of 13 banded, bringing us up to a whopping 169 banded to date (already the second highest single season total, only behind the 204 we banded in 2015). We are getting a much higher percentage of adults now, indicating that they are nearing the end of their peak migration period. They will still continue coming through, albeit in ever decreasing numbers, until mid-september at least. Adding a bit of colour to the catch was a beautiful adult male MacGillivray’s Warbler and on the rarer side of things, we caught our 3rd Clay-colored Sparrow of the season. They must be breeding in the valley somewhere as this is quite unprecedented given that prior to this year we had caught just two in 11 years. It was a good day for Flycatchers around the station and we banded two Hammond’s (2nd and 3rd of the season) and a Dusky (4th of the season).


Yet another Clay-colored Sparrow!

Sachi added a couple new species to this season’s list with a Ring-billed Gull and three Common Mergansers on census. The Black Swifts were around again this morning and were joined by a little mixed flock of Northern Rough-winged and Violet-green Swallows. While Sachi has had them on the lagoon during census a few times, it was a pleasant surprise to see a flock of eight Northern Shovelers fly over the station early on.

We were sad to say goodbye to Collin today. After two weeks of volunteering with us he had developed good bird handling and extraction skills. His sense of humour and riddles kept us entertained through the slower periods and will be missed.


The Chilko River, taken on yesterday’s excursion

Birds Banded 45
Species Banded 17
Birds Recapped 7
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 46
Species Recorded 57

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 13 1
Song Sparrow 4
Common Yellowthroat 3 4
Warbling Vireo 3 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
American Redstart 3
Hammond’s Flycatcher 2
Northern Waterthrush 2
MacGillivray’s Warbler 2
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Clay-colored Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Oregon Junco 1
Purple Finch

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Today began unlike any other day in the past three weeks, with a delightful downpour. The soothing patter of rain on my metal roof was as welcome and as sweet as the dawn chorus this morning. Besides the obvious benefits with respect to fire suppression efforts the rain gave us some extra time in the morning as we do not open the nets during downpours.


The Niuts enwreathed in clouds and rain, not smoke!

For the safety of the our avian friends we had to leave the nets closed until 8:00am when the rain had lessened enough. Wind, rain and cold are three elements that we have to constantly gauge while the nets are open as the bird’s safety is always the top priority.  Instances like this offer us the opportunity to focus on observations that we record in our daily totals which is an integral component of migration monitoring.

While we were following a small roving flock of songbirds a large flock of Black Swifts flew overhead. These birds do not tend to come down into the valley often except in instances of low cloud or smoke cover like today. They prefer to nest on sea cliffs and behind waterfalls so as you may expect few of their nesting sites are known. Later while on a net round we had our biggest surprise of the day when Avery picked out a juvenile Blackpoll Warbler from a mixed flock of Warblers and Vireos in the alders around net 15. This was extra exciting because the Blackpoll Warbler was Morgan’s study species for her M.Sc. research. She caught and affixed little harnesses with radio transmitters in order to track their migration. These little birds have one of the most impressive known migratory routes. In the fall they migrate East from across the Boreal forest from as far as Alaska.


Our first of many Foxy Sparrows

Once on the East Coast they eat until they have doubled their body mass so that they can make the 3-day nonstop flight to the Caribbean. Later on we had a Turkey Vulture soar over us out of the Niuts moving east. These birds are rarely sighted in the valley and are recent colonists of the Cariboo and Chilcotin.

Banding was slow and steady seeing 21 birds banded and 2 recaps. The highlight was a Fox Sparrow, which is about a week earlier than when they normally arrive in the valley.

In honour of Collin’s imminent departure we went exploring east over the plateau to Chilko Lake in the hopes of seeing the salmon run and maybe even some Grizzly Bears. Chilko Lake has a much different feel to it as it is a bit of a wetter ecosystem and much less populated. There are several fishing and wildlife viewing lodges along the river whose main attraction is Grizzly Bear viewing during the salmon run. The salmon were running but the Grizzly bears were nowhere to be seen. We were likely a week early as the salmon had not started to die off so there is not yet a large and readily available food source to entice the bears to the river. Despite this let down it was still beautiful and there were some active birds foraging around the campsite.

As you can see we found other ways to entertain ourselves despite the lack of Grizzly Bears. Looking at rocks, birds, skipping stones and eating currants. The area is stunning and we would all highly recommend coming up for a camping trip if you ever have the opportunity.

I am excited to see what tomorrow will bring!

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 5
Warbling Vireo 2
Common Yellowthroat 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 1
Oregon Junco 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1

Birds Banded 21
Species Banded 13
Birds Recapped 2
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 41
Species Recorded 62

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