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A fresh dusting of snow was evident on both the Niuts and Potatoes as we arrived at the station. Frost was pervasive, covering much of the ground and resulting in frozen nets, fingers and toes. Combing back through the records I found that this was the second earliest sub-zero start at -1.5°C preceded by a -2°C start on August 11th back in 2008. The third coldest morning occurred in TLBO’s inaugural year (2006) at -1°C on August 13th. Interestingly the only morning where the mercury dipped below 0°C last season was on September 28th, the final day of the season.

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Fortunately not all of the nets were frozen solid enabling us to open up four standard as well as the two hawk nets. A lonely recaptured adult Swainson’s thrush would start off the proceedings on the opening net round. The chill certainly affected the bird activity in our nets for we would have to wait until 7:55am to band our first bird of the day, a hatch-year Dusky Flycatcher. It wasn’t until 8:25am, a full two and a half hours after opening that our remaining nets were thawed enough to open. On the 9:25am net round we hit the jackpot catching nearly half the days total (11 birds). Net 14 came through with our first four Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warblers of the season while 12 produced our second Sharp-shinned Hawk!

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Hatch-year male Sharp-shinned Hawk

Things would simmer down from there with the odd Northern Waterthrush or recapture sneaking into our nets. A second smaller and final wave would come a half hour before closing when Net 14 revealed a mixed flock made up of a Black-capped Chickadee, recaptured Song Sparrow and our first Purple Finch of 2020. On the same round Net 17 would add a unbanded hatch-year Song Sparrow and it’s previously banded parent. When all was said and done today’s result nearly mirrored that of yesterday’s with 17 new birds banded and 8 recaptures.

Having so many nets out of action meant that we had more time to contribute to observations which was reflected in our final tally of 61 species detected. Fortunately the birds were beginning to wake up by the time I set out on census. While cruising through the pine flats I had a flyover immature Herring Gull – a first for the season. Climbing out of the small draw that precedes the south field the crackling of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet caught my ear. This is only our third sighting of the season as we only encounter the few local breeders during most Augusts before the potential hordes of migrants in September. At the lagoon a lone high flying Barn Swallow danced while two female type Buffleheads and a Hooded Merganser – both new for 2020 – paddled through the calm waters below. As the sun finally tipped its rays down over the western slope of the Potatoes things began to thaw creating a marked increase in bird activity. I encountered two Rufous Hummingbirds soaking up the sun’s warmth along the road. Further along in the midst of a mixed flock of sparrows the Brown-headed Cowbird from yesterday was begging as a pair of Song Sparrows (host parents) scrambled to find food.

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The pair of Buffleheads on the lagoon

So ends another day in this wild valley. As I write the strong south wind has returned and the mountains are accented with a slight haze. Here’s to hoping for a warmer start tomorrow and no fires!

To view today’s eBird checklist click HERE.

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Species Band Recap
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Song Sparrow 3 3
Northern Waterthrush 3
Dusky Flycatcher 1 2
Warbling Vireo 1 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Purple Finch 1
Traill’s Flycatcher 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1

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Birds Banded 17
Species Banded 10
Birds Recapped 8
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 40
Species Recorded 61
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 207

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It was another chilly start to proceedings for us today. Once again we had a light frost on the ground with the temperature hovering just above freezing when we arrived at the station. The cool weather seemed to bring in the Swainson’s Thrushes including three inter-annual recaptures! As Sachi returned from opening nets he arrived with two of these recapture Swainson’s, one from 2017 and one originally banded way back in 2012! It was banded as a hatch-year which makes it exactly 8 years old; tied with our record for our oldest recapture! This individual was also recaptured in 2013, 2014 and 2015 (twice) but not since. It is remarkable to think that this bird has made the ~11 000km round trip migration to and from Central America eight times! That is equivalent to more than two trips around Earth (at the equator) or 1/4 of the distance from Earth to the Moon.

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An 8-year old Swainson’s Thrush, looking rather scruffy as it is undertaking it’s annual post-breeding moult

Interestingly, we ended up catching a very high percentage of recaptures today (11 of our 29 total birds caught) and a total of five of these were inter-annuals: another Swainson’s Thrush (2017) and females of MacGillivray’s Warbler (2019; the second time we have caught it this year) and Yellow Warbler (2019).

The excitement was not exclusively in the recapture department as we banded a few interesting species as well. Along with the duo of inter-annual recapture Swainson’s caught during net-opening was our first “Gambel’s” White-crowned Sparrow, perhaps encouraged down to lower elevations by the cool temperatures overnight. Our first Brown-headed Cowbird (a juvenile) banded since 2012, and just the 4th ever banded here, was caught in Net 11 shortly after. While it is hard to get too enthusiastic about Cowbirds it was interesting to finally catch another after our 8 year hiatus. Lazuli Bunting and Pine Siskin followed while Sachi was off on census, capping off a quartet of rather drab “LBJ’s” (Little Brown Jobs) that were all our first banded of the season. Brightening up this cast of birds in the nets was a stunning hatch-year Townsend’s Warbler, already our third of the season surpassing six of our previous seasons, including last year when we only banded one.

Census was fairly lively for Sachi and the waterfowl flock on the lagoon is increasing. Joining the usual crew of Mallards are now five Green-winged Teals and a trio of Ring-necked Ducks. The latter being our first of the season. Over the lagoon a few Northern Rough-winged and two Bank Swallows were foraging. On the way back from census Sachi spotted a massive group of 56 Clark’s Nutcrackers, the largest total ever recorded at TLBO and likely an indicator of a good cone crop of their favoured Whitebark Pine. He also picked out our first Red-naped Sapsucker of the season along the road.

As the morning progressed we got to enjoy several views of a family of Mountain Bluebirds that were consistently foraging in the pines to the East of the banding lab. There were at least four juveniles that were rather less skittish than their parents and even posed for a few photos. Sachi spotted a Least Flycatcher, possibly one of the two we recorded yesterday, as well as a Turkey Vulture soaring towards the Niuts as we were closing nets. We finished the day with a season high of 62 species recorded.

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Two inquisitive young Mountain Bluebirds

After receiving our raptor banding permit yesterday we opened the “Kingfisher” Net (Hawk Net 7) for most of the day and Sachi setup the “Harrier” Net (Hawk Net 4) for use tomorrow.

The eBird list of all species we recorded today can be found HERE

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 4 6
Song Sparrow 3
Traill’s Flycatcher 2 1
Yellow Warbler 1 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
American Redstart 1
Townsend’s Warbler 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Lazuli Bunting 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Pine Siskin 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
Cedar Waxwing 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1

Birds Banded 18
Species Banded 12
Birds Recapped 11
Species Recapped 6
Species on Census 41
Species Recorded 62
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 190

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We arrived at the station prepared with gloves, toques and a thermos of tea in expectation of yesterday’s chill. Our preparedness turned out to be for naught as the mercury registered a balmy 5°C which incidentally is about the average starting temperature thus far in the season. The Niuts were spectacular as their spires were cloaked in clouds and a hint of cranberry while we opened the nets.

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Bird activity seemed to have risen in conjunction with the temperature as I had to retrieve three on my way back from opening nets. These included a stunning adult male Common Yellowthroat (banded yesterday by Avery) along with a hatch-year Lincoln’s and Song Sparrow. We would have to wait a full hour for our next catch which consisted of a three species of Warblers (Yellow, Orange-crowned and American Redstart) with a couple Warbling Vireos thrown in for good measure. This would be the crest of the wave as subsequent rounds brought in only a bird or two. The 7:55am net round was no exception turning up only a single bird, however it turned out to be our first Least Flycatcher of the season! This little flycatcher is our second “least” banded Empidonax species at 48 all time next to Pacific-slope Flycatcher at 41. To put this in perspective the number of individuals banded of our other Empids (Alder, Willow, Dusky and Hammond’s) range from 106-154. The rest of the day continued to be rather quiet with a final tally of 18 new birds banded accompanied by 3 recaptures. The silver lining was that this afforded Avery a chance to set up our famous “Kingfisher” net in preparation for tomorrow.

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Least Flycatcher number 49 banded at TLBO!

On the observation front, the waterfowl numbers are beginning to build with a similarly sized flock of Mallards to yesterday down at the lagoon while the number Green-winged Teals grew from one to five. The Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler flock that is predominantly comprised of hatch-year birds continues to build around the station as they forage up high in the tree tops. While crossing the the south field on census a largish pale brown bird flushed out of the grass into a willow alongside two Song Sparrows as I passed. After a short search I located a hatch-year Brown-headed Cowbird, our first of the year. This species is rather unusual as it does not engage in nest building but instead lays its eggs in the nests of a variety of host species (140 different species to be exact).

Further on the resident adult Bald Eagle was perched atop a snag sunning itself while three Clark’s Nutcrackers called their nasal “Kra-a-a” as they drifted overhead to alight atop a gnarled Douglas-fir along the shore. The TLBO is unusual in that it is one of the only observatories in Canada that monitors Clark’s Nutcrackers with any regularity and thus it is fitting that it is the station’s emblem.

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Clark’s Nutcracker

The other exciting addition to both the day and year’s list was a pair of White-winged Crossbills that Avery and Morgan had the good fortune to hear and then spot as they flew north along the Homathko. This beautiful and irruptive species is detected most years at the TLBO with the exception being in 2013 and 2014. As the name would suggest they have evolved crossed mandibles that are specialized in the extraction of Spruce and Tamarack seeds. If you want to find out more about this fantastic species click HERE.

I will leave you with one final picture, can you spot the Sandpiper? They can be surprisingly cryptic when they are not calling away while bobbing up and down.

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To view today’s eBird checklist HERE

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Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 3
American Redstart 3
Swainson’s Thrush 2 1
Song Sparrow 2 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Common Yellowthroat 1

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Birds Banded 18
Species Banded 12
Birds Recapped 3
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 40
Species Recorded 54
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 172

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The curious weather to start the season has continued as it was just 0.5C at the station when we arrived today. A light frost was even in evidence along sections of the path as we opened the nets. This seemed to spur an increase in bird activity and as we were finishing opening the last nets a Warbling Vireo and Townsend’s Warbler dropped down from the skies to alight in the willows along the Homathko River.

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Our second Townsend’s Warbler of the season – a rather striking hatch-year male

The nets remained quiet until it started to warm up, shortly after Sachi left on census. Suddenly, there were birds all along the stretch covering our first three nets. Song Sparrows lurking in the brushpiles and berry patches, Chickadees, Warblers of several species and a duo Northern Flickers bickering over a snag. Unsurprisingly, Net 14 (aka “Jackpot”) had a full load with 8 birds in it plus and additional 2-3 that escaped the net before we could extract them. Included in the net were a fine looking hatch-year male Townsend’s Warbler and a surprise Nashville Warbler. The latter we catch most years but often just one or two. A beautiful adult male American Redstart was also in the mix creating for quite the colourful haul!

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Nashville Warbler – a rather subdued hatch-year female

On census Sachi found our first Green-winged Teal of the season, joining 19 Mallards on the lagoon. A trio of Common Loons were also visible at the North end of the lake to finish off census.

Today was the first day this season where we did not note the Violet-green Swallow flock, with just two stragglers being spotted by Sachi. A Turkey Vulture once again seen from the lab, cruising over the north end of the field while we also witnessed an adult Osprey swoop down and pick up a talon-full of cut grass, presumably to line it’s nest. We have seen this behaviour in previous seasons as well and the local pair have obviously learned they can reap some benefit from the rancher’s annual August haying of the pasture.

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Banding in the age of Covid-19 – Sachi releasing a McGillivray’s Warbler

Back in the nets things slowed back down after the excitement of the flock in Net 14. Among the rest of our catcher were two apiece of Northern Waterthrush and MacGillivray’s Warbler. The latter seem to be having a good year as our average is 31 banded per season and we have already banded 12. As Sachi mentioned yesterday I set up a new MX (non-standard location) net along the Homathko, between nets 10 and 16 where the Willows have grown up significantly over the past 5-7 years. Dubbed “MXA”, it continued to show promise as it caught another four birds today. This included a beautiful, if somewhat worn looking, adult male Common Yellowthroat on the closing net round. Unlike the MacGillivray’s, this species seemingly did not have a particularly productive breeding season, at least not locally. Seven days in we have caught just two in our standard nets (plus today’s one in MXA). With the Yellowthroat we ended the day with 8 species of Warbler banded, a respectable diversity for this stage in the season!

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Net “MXA”, I predict it will catch a Marsh Wren this year!

For the second day running an adult Black Bear was seen near the station. It was likely guilty of knocking over/breaking the guy rope at the far end of Net 13 overnight which required a quick repair first thing. Here’s hoping that is the only bear-related net damage this season.

View today’s eBird list HERE

Species Band Recap
Song Sparrow 6 3
Warbling Vireo 2
Swainson’s Thrush 2
Northern Waterthrush 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
MacGillivray’s Warbler 2
American Redstart 2
Alder Flycatcher 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Traill’s Flycatcher 1

Birds Banded 25
Species Banded 14
Birds Recapped 3
Species Recapped 1
Species on Census 39
Species Recorded 54
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 154

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In the Tsilhqot’in language Tatlayoko means “lake of the big winds”. It is a very fitting name as the wind has, and continues to shape the landscape as is deftly illustrated by the way in which these large Douglas-fir have grown (see below). The wind is a consistent companion during our two month sojourn in the valley and on occasion forces us to shut down our monitoring early. Blessedly today was not such an occasion for even as I write the usually strong south wind has yet to set the aspens to their rhythmic trembling and twirling.

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Angled Douglas-fir shaped by the wind over time.

After arriving at the station and opening up all 12 of our mist nets to the accompaniment of a very fleeting glimpse of the wash of cranberry on the Niuts I grabbed my camera to go and check on our three nestling musketeers. Based on the size and maturity of the nestlings we expected them to leave the nest any moment and sure enough when I arrived the nest was empty forcing me to search for our little trio. I didn’t have to look very far for the three musketeers had relocated to a higher perch on a dead willow branch about a meter adjacent to their nest.

Back on the banding front, the first birds to hit out nets came on the second net round of the day. Our catch was comprised of both a hatch-year Lincoln’s Sparrow and Swainson’s Thrush (both first banded on a August 4th) as well as an inter-annual recapture of a Red-eyed Vireo that was first banded back on August 5th of 2017! Inter-annual recaptures are a cause for excitement as they provide insight into species longevity. Specifically, since this bird was aged as an adult back in 2017, we know that it is a minimum of 4 years old. Captures remained slow for subsequent rounds with a bird or two finding their way into our nets. The highlight of the morning was a hatch-year Black-capped Chickadee (pictured below), our first of the season.

BCCH

On census the usual suspects were still calling from their respective territories on the north end of the trail. As I moved through the pines I heard the “whit”-ing of a Dusky Flycatcher as it fed its young somewhere in the aspens ahead. Further ahead, an adult MacGillivray’s Warbler crossly “tsik”-ed from the scrub, beak full of food while I passed. Overhead two Violet-green Swallows circled and twirled like aerial acrobats in a “Circ de Soleil” performance. As I crossed the south field the calling of an Osprey was accompanied by the sight of a flock of Black Swifts, sharp wings beating as they darted this way and that speeding north towards the station. At the lagoon I encountered a large mixed flock of warblers consisting mainly of “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped – many of which were recently fledged – with a smattering of Wilson’s, Townsend’s and Yellow Warblers mixed in. At the shore I watched as three Common Loons lazily plied the unseasonably calm surface of the “lake of big winds” looking for breakfast. As I wandered back to the station a consistent soft metallic chip broke my reverie. I looked about binoculars in hand searching for the source of the familiar sound. After combing through the various snags and alders my eyes came to rest on a dainty hummingbird with a short tail and bill and a rather faded rufous wash on its sides. It was a Calliope Hummingbird, the smaller counterpart to the Rufous Hummingbird which we often encounter and TLBO’s 20th record.

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Poor record shot of the Calliope Hummingbird

Mid morning Avery spotted our first Great Blue Heron of the season as it glided north  then circled back alighting in the area adjacent to the oxbow. Banding continued to keep a slow yet consistent rhythm which afforded Avery some time to test out a new net location. A variety of warblers with a decent crop of Warbling Vireos comprised our after-10:00 catch resulting in a final tally of 23 birds banded and 7 recaptures. While on one of these net rounds I heard a Gray Catbird calling south of Net 6. This is the third year running (since 2018) that we have had this species around the station which suggests that they are likely continuing to breed in the valley.

On the non-banding front Avery and I encountered our first bear of the season. We accidentally spooked the healthy looking black bear off of his feast of Saskatoon berries along the old road between the lab and Net 1. Fortunately he was a well behaved bear and scooted off as quickly as he could manage into the brush south of the station. Later on a fighter jet sped overhead heading north. These jets come all the way up from the Comox military base on training missions semi-regularly throughout the year.

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Species Band Recap
Warbling Vireo 6
MacGillivray’s Warbler 4
American Redstart 3
Song Sparrow 3
Northern Waterthrush 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3
Swainson’s Thrush 2
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1

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Birds Banded 23
Species Banded 9
Birds Recapped 7
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 39
Species Recorded 56
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 129

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Once again we had some rain overnight, though a lot less than the night before. The sky remained intermittently ominous throughout the morning and cool temperatures (high of just 14C at closing!) and brisk wind that picked up from the South around 8:00am made for less than ideal conditions for banding.

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The morning actually started out relatively birdy as activity seemed higher as we opened the nets at our scheduled time of 5:50am. Calling MacGillivray’s Warbler, American Robin and a slightly garbled song of a Northern Waterthrush, as well as a cackling Belted Kingfisher flying up-river broke the stillness of the post-dawn hour. The activity didn’t really materialize in our nets though as just a couple birds were caught on each of our early net rounds. A family of American Redstarts, an adult male and two hatch-year males, in Net 1 were pleasing on the eye and contributed to us banding a season high of 5  Redstarts on the day.

A duo of Hammond’s Flycatcher also found their way into our nets which provided us with a nice opportunity to compare them to the very similar Dusky Flycatchers that we have been catching. These two species have a reputation of being very difficult to differentiate but in the hand the subtle differences in shape and plumage are often fairly evident. Among the traits that separate them are relative tail length, primary projection and the spacing in the visible primaries on the wing when in a natural position as illustrated in the following images. Hammond’s has a shorter tail, longer primary projection and a large gap between two of the three most visible primaries; Dusky Flycatcher has a long tail, short primary projection and more or less evenly spaced tips to the three most visible primaries.

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With the wind picking up Sachi, unsurprisingly, had a sub-par census the highlight being a flock of 15 Black Swifts which have been around for the past few days with the poor weather. He also heard a Varied Thrush near the Homathko prior to census while on a net check, our first detection for this species this season.

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Today Sachi found this Dusky Flycatcher nest with three near-to-fledging young spilling out of it, directly across from Net 1!

As the morning wore on we actually saw a small increase in our capture rate, primarily as a little flock of Warbling Vireo spent this period foraging around the back nets and four ended up getting caught putting us back where we finished two days ago, with 20 birds banded on the day and tipping us (finally!) over 100 birds banded for the season! We also glossed over a major milestone that we hit early on August 4 – our 250 000th bird detected as part of the TLBO migration monitoring program! It has taken us just over 13 seasons to reach this total. Onward to half a million!

Species Band Recap
American Redstart 5 1
Warbling Vireo 4
MacGillivray’s Warbler 2 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 2
Song Sparrow 2
Swainson’s Thrush 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1

Birds Banded 20
Species Banded 10
Birds Recapped 3
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 26
Species Recorded 47
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 106

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We awoke to the drumming of the rain that had been forecast the day before, on our metal roof. This meant that we were afforded another hour of rest and a leisurely breakfast before heading down to the station for census. Fortunately the rain fizzled out by the time we arrived at the station and were immediately greeted by the rattling calls of the valley’s two resident Sandhill Cranes from somewhere in the north field along with as well as the high pitched whistling cry of two Osprey far overhead. While Avery set about unfurling the soggy nets, I went out to survey the north field to see what the rain had left us. As I panned west over the field two prehistoric grey shapes rose into view heading north over the oxbow lake. To the east our resident American Kestrel was harassing a bedraggled Red-tailed Hawk that looked to have hunkered down in the top of a gnarled Douglas-fir. Further up in the mist wreathed sky four Barn Swallows cavorted, tails streaming in counter point to the compact, scimitar-winged Black Swifts that foraged nearby.

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The bedraggled Red-tailed Hawk-new this year’s list

Birds began to slowly emerge as I wandered through dripping aspen and pines. Our resident Dusky Flycatchers were out feeding their young in the wolf willow and juniper stand south of the pines flats. Overhead more Black Swifts came into view and as I neared the south field they were joined by a flock of 60 Violet-green Swallows. The sparrows and warblers were subdued staying mostly hidden in the dripping alder and willow as I neared the road. A male ruffed grouse was spooked by my approach awkwardly gliding to alight atop fence before disappearing into the dense undergrowth. As I neared the calm lake all was silent except for the occasional sweet call note of an adult Yellow Warbler to its young or the flight call of the foraging small flock of Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warblers high up in the cottonwoods. A lone Common Loon glided gracefully out on the lake quietly diving to later resurface in its solitude.

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Back at the lab things were just as quiet as Avery banded two hatch-year Northern Waterthrush, as well as an adult Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warbler. These birds were augmented by three recaptures one of which was an after second year Song Sparrow that was first banded back in mid August of 2018. My arrival back at the station did not change the developing trend as in the remaining three hours we only captured two more new birds, an adult Song Sparrow and hatch-year Swainson’s thrush along with a recaptured second year Dusky Flycatcher that we banded on our first day of the season. The final tally came to six new birds banded with three recaptures.

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We found this at the entrance to net 13 and it is the closest that we came to catching a Northern flicker today

Near the end of the day as we wandered from one empty net to another our spirits were first lifted by an Olive-sided Flycatcher perched atop one of the skeletal branches of a long Saskatoondead aspen tree and then by a lone Turkey Vulture as it soared into view, rocking in the breeze and capping off our tally at a surprising 53 species!

Here is to an unseasonable rainfall that the plants and earth will undoubtedly soak up and utilize in this beautifully dry valley. Happy Thursday!

 

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Species Band Recap
Northern Waterthrush 2
Swainson’s Thrush 1 1
Song Sparrow 1 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Greater White-fronted Goose

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Birds Banded 6
Species Banded 5
Birds Recapped 4
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 35
Species Recorded 53
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 86

 

 

 

 

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Aug. 5: Rounding Down

The thermometer at the station showed a crisp 3.5C when we arrived this morning after a calm and clear night. The stillness of the weather, until the customary increase in South wind around 9:30, seemed to be reflected in the bird activity as there was less around than yesterday. We started with an adult female and young Orange-crowned Warbler in net 17 along with our 4th Dusky Flycatcher of the season (plus one different individual we recaptured). It seems to be a bumper year for Dusky Flycatcher on the property as we have a pair either side of the banding lab, at least one of which has fledged young and both of which we have seen carrying food. We average 11 Dusky’s banded per year and we have already, three days in, banded as many as in the entire 2007 season!

Sachi had a good selection of the expected species on census detecting 42 species on his walk down the census route to the North end of the lake. These included our first American Kestrel of the season as well as the usual Belted Kingfisher down at the lagoon. Unlike the Dusky Flycatchers, the resident Kingfishers seemingly did not have a successful breeding season as there has just been a lone one hanging out at the lagoon so far whereas we typically have 3-4 around daily throughout August and they will often come up the Homathko River to fish in the pools near our nets.

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A view we rarely post – Mount Moore, ever present at the South end of the lake

Around the time Sachi was returning from census I spent a few minutes watching a trio of Evening Grosbeaks that were perched in the Aspens near the outhouse. These gorgeous finches have declined precipitously across their range in North America but for the past couple seasons we have seen them in decent number at the TLBO. Shortly after this we could hear Common Loons calling overhead and after a minute of scanning spotted 5 flying together wayyyy up above us, heading South. This is the first time I can remember spotting a flock of this species passing over like this, though it is not uncommon to hear them passing over.

Back in our nets the morning rather petered out with one of the highlights being a second-year Cedar Waxwing finding its way into Net 9. This provided an opportunity to compare the tail shapes between it and photos I took of the tail of an after-second-year Waxwing that we caught yesterday. With most of the songbirds we catch we can age them based on the shape of their tail feathers (called rectrices or “rects” for short); juvenile rects are more tapered/pointed whereas adult rects are broader and more rounded/squared off. As the Cedar Waxwings moult later in the year than most of our songbirds any birds in adult plumage at present can be aged as second-year or after-second based on whether their tail feather are juvenal (retained feathers grown in the nest as nestlings last summer) or adult (moulted in last fall).

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A comparison of the tail shape and texture of after-second-year (female – note the reduced yellow tips) and second year (male – more yellow!) Cedar Waxwings

We seem to be hitting the round numbers this year as we banded exactly 30 birds on each of our first two days and today we followed up by “rounding down” – banding just 20 new birds.

In addition to our usual bird monitoring activities we also got to play “ranch hand” for a bit today as we noticed early on that the cows had broken through the fence line two pastures north of us. I walked up to the fence line immediately North of us and closed the two gates but noticed that the fence had blown over at the far end of the line, thankfully in the opposite corner to where the cows were drifting into this ungrazed pasture. Fortunately they waited until around noon, when we were leaving the station, to move en masse into this field by which time Sachi and I managed to return the fallen down fence to a more or less up-right and functional state. Never a dull moment around here!

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 4
Orange-crowned Warbler 4
American Redstart 2 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 2
Song Sparrow 2
Cedar Waxwing 1 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Yellow Warbler 1

Birds Banded 20
Species Banded 10
Birds Recapped 3
Species Recapped 3
Species on Census 41
Species Recorded 52
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 80

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Aug. 4: Day 2 of 2020

Day two of banding started off brisk at 4°C and provided our first of many cranberry bathed Niut sunrises. Bleary eyed but content we divided into two groups as is our custom and set out to open the nets. Despite the chill we managed to catch two birds on the opening net round, a hatch-year Chipping Sparrow and the highlight of the day, a hatch-year female Townsend’s Warbler. This gorgeous specialty of the west breeds mainly in mature coniferous forests ranging from Alaska and the Yukon in the north through to Oregon and only so far east as the Rockies. They are arguably one of the most stunning warblers that we capture at TLBO.

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Townsend’s Warbler

The subsequent several rounds were slow with either a Swainson’s Thrush, Song Sparrow or Cedar Waxwing trickling in. While Morgan and Avery were out on a net round I wandered out into the north field to inspect a mixed flock of sparrows that I could see foraging in the distance. As I suspected the flock was comprised of mainly Chipping Sparrows with some Savannah and a handful of Vesper mixed in. As I turned to go the musical “tew” of a Mountain Bluebird caught my ear immediately before six  drifted into view.

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Mountain Bluebird

From there, I set off on census expecting things to pick up on the banding front as they usually do during that period. Alas for both Morgan and Avery captures stayed low with only 4 birds banded and one recaptured during the hour and a half that I was absent.

Census was eventful with several new additions to the 2020 list. Some of the notables were a flock of twelve calling Evening Grosbeaks that were seen and enjoyed by all. As I made my way eastward across the south field I could hear the staccato “plick-plick-plick” of Red Crossbills flying somewhere overhead amidst the varying chips of Song, Savannah, Lincoln’s and Chipping Sparrows at times punctuated by the more forceful “chuks” of Common Yellowthroats and sweeter notes of Yellow Warblers. Meanwhile a flock of 60 Violet-green Swallows cavorted calling back and forth with the odd Northern Rough-winged Swallow mixed in providing comic relief with their flatulent-like calls. Nearby, Barn Swallows danced above the lagoon while a Merlin and some hapless bird zipped by engaged in a high stakes chase. Further on, a flock of seventeen Clark’s Nutcrackers uncharacteristically silent cruised overhead across the valley headed for the peaks of the Niuts. I arrived at the lake to find an Adult and young Spotted Sandpiper taking advantage of the relative calm to forage along the shore.

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Back at the lab Avery and I continued to take turns going on net runs. Despite there being a noticeable increase in avian activity from yesterday, we continued to only catch a handful of birds a net round. It was during this time that we had our first Wilson’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo and Savannah Sparrows of the season. A hatch-year female Rufous Hummingbird also found its way into net 16. At TLBO we do not band hummingbirds but instead take down the species, age and sex of the individual and send it back on its way. As seems to be the trend year after year earlier on in the season, Swainson’s Thrush was our top banded bird with seven while Northern Waterthrush held down second place with four. The slow and steady capture rate was deceptive as we finished the day as we had yesterday with 30 new birds banded and three recaptures (all of which were banded yesterday). The apparent increase in avian activity and diversity was borne out in the data for we finished the day with 57 species, nine up on yesterday’s total of 48.

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Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 7
Northern Waterthrush 4
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3 2
Cedar Waxwing 2 1
Dusky Flycatcher 2
American Redstart 2
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 2
Alder Flycatcher 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Rufous Hummingbird (1)

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Birds Banded 30
Species Banded 14
Birds Recapped 3
Species Recapped 2
Species on Census 44
Species Recorded 57
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 60

 

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Welcome back to another season of the TLBO blog! It has been an interesting past few months as we worked out how/if we were to operate this year after the uncertainty cast on all facets of our lives by the Covid-19 situation. Thankfully, BC Spaces for Nature, the Tatlayoko Field Station Society and the banders decided this spring to proceed in the hope that things would not devolve to the point where operating the TLBO would no longer be feasible. A Covid-19 protocol was created and this has meant a few adaptations to our methods such as not sharing equipment, wearing of face masks in the banding lab etc. as well as a roughly 400% increase in the amount of sanitizing/cleaning products brought with us to the station! Another aspect of our Covid-19 protocol is that we have decided to keep our crew as small as possible this year and will, sadly, not be accepting any volunteers or visitors this year.

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Adult male American Redstart, always a delight!

As per usual, we arrived in time to spend two days on setup and Sachi had the good fortune of arriving at the station on August 1 a few minutes before myself and promptly spotted a Chestnut-backed Chickadee in the pine beside the banding lab! This denizen of temperate rainforests is a quite scarce species at the TLBO so we’re hoping it will stick around to be tallied now that the season has officially begun! While there seems to be a rather above-average mosquito crop this summer, the bird activity was rather low during setup so we were curious as to what today would bring.

We opened nets this morning with the customary sense of anticipation and a pair of Sandhill Cranes serenading us from the south field. An adult Alder Flycatcher was the first bird banded of the 2020 season, extracted as we returned to the lab after opening nets. The first net round produced a further half dozen birds and we would maintain a steady pace through most of the first half of the morning with Swainson’s Thrush and American Redstart (including 2 stunning adult males, nearly finished with their moult!) being the most prolific. A trio of adult Cedar Waxwings were characteristically classy and our first Sharp-shinned Hawk got our blood pumping early on. This latter was a very small hatch-year male, barely larger than the American Robin we caught later! We had four inter-annual recaptures including a male American Redstart from 2018 and Dusky Flycatcher presumed to have been banded by Barry Lancaster on one of his annual week-long spring banding sessions that he undertook up until a couple years ago.

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A wee male Sharp-shinned Hawk, trying its best to look fierce!

Sachi had a seasonally typical census though a Turkey Vulture spotted soaring against the Niuts was a highlight. This species only recently colonized the Cariboo and they are still fairly irregular at the TLBO though getting more frequent each year it seems. A large flock of Swallows was around for much of the day and we estimated that there were around 80 all told, almost exclusively Violet-greens with a couple Tree and Northern Rough-winged (at the lagoon on census) in attendance. For much of the morning the flock was foraging in the NE corner of the field in front of the banding lab. On a sojourn up to the oxbow lake at the NW corner of the field Sachi flushed up a duo of Wilson’s Snipe, not a species we usually encounter this early in the season. This could indicate that they bred on site this year.thumbnail_DSCN6768

By mid-morning the wind had picked up significantly and scattered rain showers were visible along the Niut Mountains to the south of us. The beaufort 4-5 winds meant we had to close our three most exposed nets and caused bird activity both in and outside of the nets to drop noticeably. Still, on out last net round before closing we had a nice mini warbler “flock” hit nets 1 and 13 with a recapture Yellow Warbler (banded 2019), a MacGillivray’s Warbler and an American Redstart which would end up being our last birds of the day giving us a total of 30 birds banded and 4 recaptures. This total is our third lowest for a Day 1 but we take hope from the fact that 2019 was our lowest ever Day 1 (24 banded) and we still finished with an average season total of birds banded.

Here’s looking forward to Day 2 in paradise!

Species Band Recap
Swainson’s Thrush 6
American Redstart 4 1
Cedar Waxwing 3
Song Sparrow 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 3
Yellow Warbler 2 1
Northern Waterthrush 2
MacGillivray’s Warbler 2
Dusky Flycatcher 1 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
American Robin 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1

Birds Banded 30
Species Banded 13
Birds Recapped 4
Species Recapped 4
Species on Census 35
Species Recorded 48
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 30

 

 

 

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