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Being from British Columbia and relatively new to birding it is easy to forget that there are many birds that others like our friends Anna and Kyle from Ontario do not get to regularly see. One such bird is the American Dipper which Kyle and I had the pleasure to watch whilst filling up our four 18.92 L jugs of drinking water from Crazy creek. Without digressing too much I would like to state that they are a most impressive song bird. Seeing one of them dive in through a hole in the ice covering a creek in the dead of winter and then suddenly reappearing 20 feet down stream from another such hole with dinner in its bill never gets old and only deepens my respect for this courageous bird that fills such a unique niche.

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Early morning shot at the Niuts. Photo credit Laurel.

Last night we braved the elements (cold mainly) and fortified by a stiff pot of coffee went to the station for a night of Northern Saw-whet Owl monitoring. Since the first night of owling we have not been very successful with anywhere from 0 to 3 captures over the 3 hour monitoring span. With the lessening of the strong south winds and clear skies Kyle said that he had a good feeling about the success of our night’s endeavour. In that he was not wrong. On my first night at TLBO which incidentally was our first night of owling I asked what few questions my sleep deprived and road weary brain could come up with. One of the more irrelevant ones was what the column denoted “Status” signified? It seemed like a stupid question at the time as all of the entries for that column were listed as “300”. Kyle replied that “300” was the code used for when a bird was captured in a mist net and that another possible code was “370” – the holy grail of owling as it entailed spotlighting an owl in a tree and hand capturing it. I am sure that you can see where this is going, as our first owl of the night was a “370” – performed by Kyle as he stalked off into the alder after hearing a call and returned with a Northern Saw-whet in hand and a grin from ear to ear. The night continued on as it had started which is to say that it was great! We banded 10 owls, 2 of which were done by yours truly (which were another first for me). I must thank the owls for their patience and at times somewhat pointed remarks as I learned to apply their new jewelry, ouch…

Like last night it was cold this morning. So cold in fact that we had to delay opening the nets until 9:50am which is 3 hours later than usual. Those hours were well spent birding around the property, crunching over frozen grass and peering through thick valley fog in search of our feathered friends. Some observational highlights were; 6 Mountain Bluebirds, 1 Nashville Warbler and a host of chatty and courageous chipmunks. Once the nets were finally unfurled and thawed banding went smoothly with 15 birds netted, 14 new, and 1 recapture. The major highlights were a Fox Sparrow (again banded by yours truly) and a Brown Creeper which was expertly banded by Laurel.

Another fine day in this beautiful valley.

Cheers,

-Sachi

Total Banded 923
Species Banded 52
Total Recapped 118
Species Recapped 14
Species Recorded 129

Species Banded Recapped
Lincoln’s Sparrow 163 18
Song Sparrow 124 28
Common Yellowthroat 110 35
Swainson’s Thrush 90 12
Warbling Vireo 51 1
Savannah Sparrow 40 0
Orange-crowned Warbler 36 0
Yellow Warbler 35 2
Wilson’s Warbler 30 0
American Redstart 28 2
Oregon Junco 22 0
Northern Waterthrush 21 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 19 3
White-crowned Sparrow 17 1
Northern Saw-whet Owl 15 0
Black-capped Chickadee 12 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler 11 0
Chipping Sparrow 10 0
Cedar Waxwing 9 5
Dusky Flycatcher 8 0
Hermit Thrush 8 0
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7 0
Vesper Sparrow 5 0
Townsend’s Warbler 5 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 4 0
Willow Flycatcher 3 1
Red-eyed Vireo 3 0
Cassin’s Vireo 3 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 2 0
Spotted Towhee 2 0
American Robin 2 0
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 0
Northern Harrier 2 0
Downy Woodpecker 2 0
Brown Creeper 2 0
Fox Sparrow 2 0
Lazuli Bunting 1 0
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0
Marsh Wren 1 0
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1 0
Pacific Wren 1 0
Western Tanager 1 0
Least Flycatcher 1 0
Red-winged Blackbird 1 0
Indigo Bunting 1 0
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1 0
Western Wood-pewee 1 0
Purple Finch 1 0
Merlin 1 0
Evening Grosbeak 1 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 0 1
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We had a busy day at the station today, with a lot of firsts for the season. One was the White-crowned Sparrow, which we’ve seen around the station for the past week but hadn’t caught in the nets until today. White-crowned Sparrows are divided into five subspecies, differentiated by subtle differences in their plumage; the three we had today were all immature Western Taiga, or Gambel’s, sparrows.

 

Kyle was excited to band a Western Wood-pewee. Not only was this the first bird of this species banded so far, it was also the first one he’d ever banded. Wood-pewees are a kind of flycatcher, a group of birds notoriously difficult to tell apart. Kyle had to break out a ruler and a pair of calipers!

 

The Cassin’s Vireo was a pleasant surprise. Like the White-crowned Sparrow, this is a bird we’ve seen around the station but not yet in our nets. We catch lots of Warbling Vireos, a similar species, so it was nice to have a little vireo variety. Now if only we can catch one of those Red-eyed Vireos we’ve seen hanging around…

 

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Cassin’s Vireo, left, and Warbling Vireo for comparison.

 

But by far my favorite bird of the day was this little Chestnut-backed Chickadee. All of the different species of chickadees are adorable, but something about the Chestnut-backed sets it apart as the cutest of them all. I’ve been hoping for one from the moment I arrived, and I’m so glad we finally got one!

 

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Chestnut-backed Chickadee.

-Gwyn

Total Banded 577
Species Banded 42
Total Recapped 91
Species Recapped 12
Species Recorded 115

Species Banded Recapped
Common Yellowthroat 86 31
Lincoln’s Sparrow 84 13
Swainson’s Thrush 77 10
Song Sparrow 60 19
Warbling Vireo 33 0
Yellow Warbler 31 2
American Redstart 25 2
Wilson’s Warbler 24 0
Northern Waterthrush 21 1
Savannah Sparrow 21 0
MacGillivray’s Warbler 19 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 14 0
Chipping Sparrow 10 0
Dusky Flycatcher 8 0
Cedar Waxwing 7 5
Black-capped Chickadee 7 3
Vesper Sparrow 5 0
Townsend’s Warbler 5 0
Oregon Junco 5 0
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4 0
Willow Flycatcher 3 1
Red-eyed Vireo 3 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 3 0
White-crowned Sparrow 3 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 2 0
Lazuli Bunting 1 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0
Spotted Towhee 1 0
American Robin 1 0
Marsh Wren 1 0
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1 0
Pacific Wren 1 0
Western Tanager 1 0
Least Flycatcher 1 0
Red-winged Blackbird 1 0
Brown Creeper 1 0
Indigo Bunting 1 0
Cassin’s Vireo 1 0
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 1 0
Western Wood-pewee 1 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 0 1

 

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While we had less wind and more birds than yesterday, there were no exciting new species so I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce myself and tell you a little about what I do when I’m not banding birds.

My name is Gwyn, and I’m volunteering at TLBO for a couple weeks to brush up on my banding skills. I’m from Oregon, where I’ve spent the last three years working with Marbled Murrelets in the Coast Range. Since Marbled Murrelets are way cooler than I am, let me tell you a little about these awesome birds.

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Marbled Murrelet.

Marbled Murrelets are a kind of seabird, in the same family as puffins. They spend most of their time on the water like other seabirds, diving to catch small fish. But while most seabirds nest on rocky cliffs near the ocean, murrelets do something pretty weird: they fly inland and nest high in old growth trees. The two parents take turns incubating the egg in 24-hour shifts, switching around dawn. Once the egg hatches, they leave the chick all alone in the forest, only visiting it at sunrise to bring it a couple of fish.

Because they fly at highway speeds and are only in the forest very, very early in the morning, these are not easy birds to study. Want to find out if a Marbled Murrelet is nesting in a particular patch of forest? Here’s what you do: First, find a gap in the canopy so you can see at least a little bit of sky. Then, the morning of your survey, get up really, really, early—maybe around 3:00 or 3:30. Drive an hour or so to get as close as you can to that patch of sky, then get out and hike the rest of the way—probably another hour or so. You should be in position 45 minutes before sunrise. Finally, stand under your gap and stare straight up for two whole hours and hope you see or hear a murrelet on its way through the forest. Chances are you won’t—but if you do, there might be a nest nearby!

 

-Gwyn

Total Banded 445
Species Banded 36
Total Recapped 72
Species Recapped 12
Species Recorded 107

Species Banded Recapped
Common Yellowthroat 75 25
Swainson’s Thrush 64 8
Lincoln’s Sparrow 49 10
Song Sparrow 45 12
Yellow Warbler 26 2
American Redstart 24 2
Warbling Vireo 22 0
Northern Waterthrush 20 1
Savannah Sparrow 19 0
MacGillivray’s Warbler 18 3
Wilson’s Warbler 11 0
Chipping Sparrow 10 0
Orange-crowned Warbler 8 0
Cedar Waxwing 7 5
Dusky Flycatcher 7 0
Vesper Sparrow 5 0
Townsend’s Warbler 5 0
Black-capped Chickadee 4 2
Red-eyed Vireo 3 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 3 0
Oregon Junco 3 0
Willow Flycatcher 2 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1 0
Lazuli Bunting 1 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0
Spotted Towhee 1 0
American Robin 1 0
Marsh Wren 1 0
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1 0
Pacific Wren 1 0
Western Tanager 1 0
Least Flycatcher 1 0
Red-winged Blackbird 1 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 0 1

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Today we got to band one of my favorite birds, a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. These tiny birds are plain overall, but have a fiery orange streak across the top of their head. Males have longer, more visible stripes than females, and the moment I saw this little guy in the net I knew it was a male—so bright! Back home in Oregon I rarely get to see Golden-Crowned Kinglets, but I often hear them as they flit around the thick undergrowth. They have a distinctive song, a bit like someone winding up for a very musical sneeze. The opening notes sound similar to the song of the Chestnut-Back Chickadee, and so there’s a mnemonic to help you tell them apart: just remember that it sounds like the Golden-Crowned Kinglet is saying, “I… am… not… a… chestnutbackedchickadee.”

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Golden-crowned Kinglet. Photo by Anna TN.

We haven’t seen any Chestnut-Backed Chickadees yet this season, but today we did see another bird I know well from Oregon: a Pacific Wren, our first of the season.

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Pacific Wren. Picture by Constanza Rivas.

Other exciting birds for the day were a Western Tanager and a beautiful Cedar Waxwing. Seen, but not banded, were two Townsend’s Warblers, which just happen to be my favorite warbler. We’ve banded a few earlier in the season, but none since I arrived, and I hope one flies into our nets soon—and maybe brings a Chestnut-Backed Chickadee with it.

-Gwyn

Total Banded 381
Species Banded 34
Total Recapped 60
Species Recapped 12
Species Recorded 102

Species Banded Recapped
Common Yellowthroat 65 21
Swainson’s Thrush 54 7
Lincoln’s Sparrow 41 7
Song Sparrow 34 8
Yellow Warbler 24 2
American Redstart 23 2
Northern Waterthrush 19 1
Savannah Sparrow 18 0
MacGillivray’s Warbler 17 3
Warbling Vireo 15 0
Chipping Sparrow 10 0
Wilson’s Warbler 10 0
Cedar Waxwing 7 5
Dusky Flycatcher 7 0
Vesper Sparrow 5 0
Black-capped Chickadee 4 2
Red-eyed Vireo 3 0
Orange-crowned Warbler 3 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 3 0
Oregon Junco 3 0
Willow Flycatcher 2 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1 0
Lazuli Bunting 1 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0
Townsend’s Warbler 1 0
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0
Spotted Towhee 1 0
American Robin 1 0
Marsh Wren 1 0
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1 0
Pacific Wren 1 0
Western Tanager 1 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 0 1

​​

 

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Yesterday, Gwyn–after a long trip from Oregon–joined us as a volunteer. She arrived with a lucky day. On census, Kyle saw the first Black-headed Grosbeak at TLBO. It would be interesting to know from where it came. This species migrates from North America to Mexico to spend the winter there. The first Stellar’s Jay appeared this season. Beautiful bird. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you google it.

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Black-headed Grosbeak from today. Photo by Kyle.

Today was a busy day. Many birds were close to the nets. We banded 47 birds! A record  for this season. 20 Common Yellowthroats were banded. Species for which we had few banded were present today, such as a Orange-crowned Warbler, Willow Flycatcher and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Our visitors from yesterday came back to join us. Today, they had more luck than yesterday, and everyone had the chance to let a bird go after the bird was banded. It was a hard day, and they left very happy and tired, like us.

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Gwyn and Anna with our visitors from yesterday. Photo by Kyle.

We have been recovering our energy for another exciting day at TLBO.

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A view at TLBO. Photo by Kyle.

-Constanza

Total Banded 320
Species Banded 30
Total Recapped 50
Species Recapped 12
Species Recorded 96

Species Banded Recapped
Common Yellowthroat 52 16
Swainson’s Thrush 50 7
Song Sparrow 31 5
Lincoln’s Sparrow 30 6
American Redstart 23 2
Yellow Warbler 21 2
Northern Waterthrush 19 1
Savannah Sparrow 16 0
MacGillivray’s Warbler 15 3
Chipping Sparrow 10 0
Wilson’s Warbler 9 0
Dusky Flycatcher 6 0
Warbling Vireo 6 0
Cedar Waxwing 5 5
Black-capped Chickadee 4 1
Red-eyed Vireo 3 0
Orange-crowned Warbler 3 0
Willow Flycatcher 2 1
Vesper Sparrow 2 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 2 0
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2 0
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1 0
Lazuli Bunting 1 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0
Townsend’s Warbler 1 0
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0
Oregon Junco 1 0
Spotted Towhee 1 0
American Robin 1 0
Red-naped Sapsucker 0 1

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The “summer” in this valley of Canada is very special. 2°C in the morning, my fingers were frozen. Fortunately, I brought enough clothes for this special weather.

This day has been slower in the number of species banded than other days, maybe because of the fires. I really don’t know. However, we have seen many species flying around. Today, we saw four Great Blue Herons flying above the field. Apparently, it’s not common to see them flying in a group. So I’m lucky to have seen them together. We also saw a dozen Warbling Vireos; we had not seen so many together since the beginning of the season.

I finally saw the ducks that I have been hearing for three days. There were at least 15 Mallards and they were in a wetland very close to the nets. In the same place, there was a shorebird, the Spotted Sandpiper. He/she was very difficult to see, because he/she was really camouflaged. Andrew helped me see the bird. It looked very familiar, so I realised that it was a Playero Manchado (Actitis macularius). He/she breeds in spring and summer in North America, and then migrates to South America to avoid the winter. Among other places, they go to my lands, the North of Chile. Maybe we are doing a similar route, the Spotted Sandpiper and me—except I’m not breeding.

Today, Andrew and Gail left the ranch to go back to their home, so we shared a last dinner in the ranch. They cooked for us with the vegetables that Sally (our neighbor) gave us. Gail cooked a delicious apple crumble. We really enjoyed the time, the stories, and the teaching that they gave us. We are already missing them. I hope to meet them again in another adventure.

– Constanza.

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Last dinner. 

Total Banded 197
Species Banded 23
Total Recapped 23
Species Recapped 7
Species Recorded 82

Species Banded Recapped
Swainson’s Thrush 29 4
Song Sparrow 20 2
Common Yellowthroat 19 6
Lincoln’s Sparrow 19 3
American Redstart 17 2
Yellow Warbler 17 0
Northern Waterthrush 14 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 9 1
Chipping Sparrow 9 0
Savannah Sparrow 7 0
Wilson’s Warbler 7 0
Cedar Waxwing 5 2
Dusky Flycatcher 5 0
Warbling Vireo 3 0
Red-eyed Vireo 3 0
Black-capped Chickadee 2 1
Vesper Sparrow 2 0
Willow Flycatcher 1 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1 0
Lazuli Bunting 1 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 1 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0
Townsend’s Warbler 1 0
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1 0
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0
Oregon Junco 1 0
Spotted Towhee 1 0

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The smoke has cleared substantially today, and the view is most stunning. We can see the clouds moving and the wrinkles of the mountains.  Every cloud has a silver lining.

A guest volunteer, Hana Kamea, enthusiastically joined us and witnessed some of the ongoing observed and banded birds, including Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Swainson’s Thrush, and Yellow Warbler.

We had a first-of-the-season for TLBO in the net, a Yellow-rumped Warbler (subspecies: Audubon)–also my first Audubon, as we only get Myrtles in Ontario. A “tournament” (i.e., flock) of five Chipping Sparrows were in net “14” during one of the net rounds, a relatively productive net so far. 14 Clark’s Nutcrackers and eight Ring-billed Gulls were observed, and these birds have been scarce until today.

Right before we wrapped things up, this bird showed up:

Do you recognize the species? What’s going on with this bird?

After work, we joined Hana for a delicious lunch. We also got to meet her friendly dog Jaya. We headed home, and then Constanza and Kyle went for a swim at Tatlayoko Lake while I took a nap.

 

After 12 dry and sunny days, I think tomorrow’s rain will be rather refreshing.

Anna.

Species Banded Recapped
Swainson’s Thrush 24 3
Song Sparrow 19 2
Common Yellowthroat 15 3
American Redstart 15 0
Lincoln’s Sparrow 13 2
Yellow Warbler 13 0
Northern Waterthrush 12 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 9 1
Chipping Sparrow 8 0
Savannah Sparrow 7 0
Cedar Waxwing 5 2
Wilson’s Warbler 5 0
Dusky Flycatcher 4 0
Warbling Vireo 3 0
Black-capped Chickadee 2 0
Red-eyed Vireo 2 0
Willow Flycatcher 1 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1 0
Lazuli Bunting 1 0
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 1 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0
Townsend’s Warbler 1 0
Vesper Sparrow 1 0
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1 0

Total Banded 164
Species Banded 20
Total Recapped 15
Species Recapped 5
Species Recorded 75

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