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Sept. 21: More Raptors!

After the weather finally broke yesterday evening Alex and I were able to get a full stint of owling in. We were joined for the first hour and a half by the Principal of the local elementary school and her daughter who we, fortunately, were able to show one Saw-whet. That was all we ended up catching but it was nice to be back out again after having limited opportunities the past 10 days.

It was nice and calm this morning although the low cloud meant it took a long time for things to warm up and correspondingly, the birds didn’t seem to be out and about until around 8:30. My census was fairly uneventful. Most of the waterfowl Chris encountered yesterday were still on the lagoon and I flushed up a Wilson’s Snipe from more or less the same spot as Chris did yesterday.

Once I got back to the station though things picked up. I opened up our MXY net that is just beside the banding lab and the next net round it caught a beautiful male American Kestrel!

Male American Kestrel

Male American Kestrel

Not to be out-done our “Harrier net” caught another hatch-year male Northern Harrier, this one slightly bigger than the others and significantly more tangled. Interestingly, it also had a few white feathers including one Alula (on the “shoulder”), one tail feather and a couple lower back feathers. That now makes 3 Kestrels and 4 Harriers for the season!

Chris with the Harrier

Chris with the Harrier

A single white tail feather on the Harrier

A single white tail feather on the Harrier

Our standard nets were busy by then as well and we had our first real numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers in our nets, including both subspecies – the western “Audubon’s” and the northern/eastern “Myrtle”. Despite this being the first day we’ve caught many Yellow-rumped, the high numbers of adults caught indicates that they are nearing the end of their migration through the valley.

Two woodpeckers found our nets, our first Downy and our second Red-breasted Sapsucker of the season. Our second Brown Creeper was another notable catch as Alex had just been asking me if we caught many shortly before Chris brought it in!

Our first Downy Woodpecker of 2015

Our first Downy Woodpecker of 2015

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 19
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Oregon Junco 2
Golden-crowned Sparrow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1 3
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 1
Northern Harrier 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Red-breasted Sapsucker 1
Hammond’s Flycatcher 1
Brown Creeper 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1

Birds banded 52
Species banded 18
Birds recaptured 4
Species recaptured 2
Species on census 25
Species Total 49
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 1478
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 1555

Sept 20 – stormy

At 10:00pm last night it was calm and clear and the stars were out so I had high expectations we would be banding today. Well I was wrong, early this morning the rains came and then shortly before we might have banded the wind returned as well. The wind and rain combined for a definitive no go on banding. Unfortunately, this late in the season the rain is unlikely to have an effect on our dry well. Hopefully we are not in for a repeat of 2010 and 2011 where Avery spent the last week of the season hoping for a break in the weather that never came.

All we were able to do today was one wet census that did turn up more species than I expected (around 18 but I left the notes at the station). Highlights were a large mixed species raft of ducks on the lagoon (Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shovellor, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, and Mallard) as well as a Wilson’s Snipe in the lagoon field. Fingers crossed Avery and I and our volunteer from the U.K. don’t spend the next week indoors watching the rain in a house without water.

~Chutter

As Peter wrote yesterdays post, I will quickly recap the events of the past two days. Shortly after arriving at the station yesterday the winds picked up and remained strong throughout the morning. We did still manage to keep seven nets open for the full 6 hours which resulted in 27 birds banded, including a couple late Warbling Vireos and our 6th Sharp-shinned Hawk of the season.

The capture of the day though was an unusual one, and a first for TLBO, to my knowledge. As volunteer Alex and I were completing a net round we arrived at net 17 and I noticed that some of the netting was stuck onto the trunk of the nearest bush…and it was moving. It transpired that it was a Red Squirrel that had tried to jump from the bushes on one side of the net to those on the other. After tipping our catch off the trunk and into the pocket of the net I pinged the net back and the somewhat discombobulated squirrel catapulted neatly back on to the trunk of the bush that it must have arrived in the net from. Presumably it decided to take an alternate route to wherever it was going as there was no sign of it when on the next net check!

IMG_8330

This morning the winds were still howling when our alarms went off and unfortunately are still persisting. Alex joined me for a blustery census that was more productive than what we have come to expect during high winds. There were seemingly still plenty of birds about as we ran into a couple small flocks of Kinglets and Yellow-rumped warblers with both Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees in attendance. As we finished up at the head of the lake an Eurasian Collared-dove flew past, heading south, into the wind.

After we got back to the station we spent an hour and a half doing some vegetation management around nets 12 and 17. Every couple years we cut the bushes within a few metres of these nets down to net height to maintain a consistent likelihood of bird capture. As we were trimming an adult Red-tailed Hawk landed in a nearby snag.

Youth and Nature

It was Chris’ turn to post today but he very graciously agreed when I asked if he would mind letting me do the posting.

Each year NCC hosts school students and First Nations groups at the Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory. It’s always a highlight for me to be on-hand during these field trips. On Wednesday this week ten students from the primary grades (K to 3) at Tatla Lake School and three adults came to visit the TLBO. Chris has already mentioned this briefly in his posting from that day. But I wanted to share the wonderful images with you, no statistics on bird numbers or species numbers today.

So what follows is essentially a photo montage of the day with a few captions and minimal text. The facial expressions captured in these images speak for themselves, no words required. Priceless! I hope they remind us of something we all know anyway – the importance of engaging youth in direct interaction with Nature. Enjoy! (photo credit Roma Shaughnessy).

Below are a select few of the images. If you would like to see the entire album go here – Tatla Lake School TLBO field trip

Starting out on a “net run”

The children were keenly engaged during net runs and as birds were processed at the banding station. Each student was able to carry a bird in a bag back to the station. Once the birds were processed, each student had an opportunity to hold the bird and then release it.

Bander-in-charge, Avery Bartels, extracting a bird from a mist net

Every student was able to carry a bird in a bag back to the banding station

Learning to hold a bird properly

There he goes….

There were enough birds that even the adults were able to participate.

Catch of the day – Red-breasted Sapsucker

IMG_7960

Another excellent day at the station as the Ruby-crowned Kinglet numbers just keep building. 28 banded is one of our highest ever single day catches of a species and, along with our two Golden-crowneds caught first thing, accounted for just shy of 200g of Kinglet! That’s roughly equivalent to 7 Swainson’s Thrush, 3 American Robins or 1.5 medium sized Sharp-shinned Hawks or 1 smallish can of tomato paste.

While the RCKIs seemed to be in every bush there was the odd bird out mixed in here and there, a few Orange-crowned and a fair number of Yellow-rumped Warblers were also about and I re-sighted the Red-breasted Sapsucker on census that we banded yesterday (I am fairly confident I even saw the band on it’s leg). Also on census was a big flock of 27 American Wigeon on the lagoon and a couple Wilson’s Warblers. As I set out from the station I could hear a Cooper’s Hawk calling from over near the Homathko river.

A Pacific Wren spent the latter half of the morning hanging out by nets 9 and 10, scolding us each time we passed, but it managed to avoid being our first banded for 2015. One bird of interest that did hit our nets was a very late Warbling Vireo, these guys come through in August usually but we do get the odd straggler late in the season.

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 28 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 5
Orange-crowned Warbler 4 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Song Sparrow 3
Yellow Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 2 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Swainson’s Thrush 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
American Robin 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Fox Sparrow 1

Birds banded 58
Species banded 14
Birds recaptured 6
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 29
Species Total 43
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 1409
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 1476

Sept 16 – Foxy

Occasionally, especially in late fall, writing the blog can be tough. This happens when little is worthy of writing about. Today was not one of those days.

Last night Kristie and I went out to try to band owls. After two hours we had caught none and were starting to think of going to bed. Just before getting to the nets on our fourth net round we spotted eye-shine very low to the ground and walking down our trail. There were deer everywhere last night but this was much lower. We walked closer and eventually could tell it was a very cute Red Fox. He stood there and watched us and looked curious for nearly a minute before it started walking towards us. He got to within about 10 feet of us and gave us great views before jumping up on a fence and scampering away with perfect balance. We ultimately banded three owls last night and on the way home bumped into the same fox walking down the road. He again gave us great views as he came very close to check us out.

Mind if I come a little closer?

Mind if I come a little closer?

On second thought perhaps I will run away.

On second thought perhaps I will run away.

Weee I love fence.

Weee I love fence.

You again?

You again?

Today at the station we had 10 young kids from the Tatla Lake School stop by to check out the station. Fortunately for them we were busy this morning and they got to see a lot of birds including some highlights. They got to see our first banded Red-breasted Sapsucker of the year as well as our first Swamp Sparrow of the year. It is difficult to make anyone but an avid birder appreciate the subtle beauty of a Swamp Sparrow, but the sapsucker with its bright red head and aggressive personality was a hit.

Subtly beautiful Swamp Sparrow.

Subtly beautiful Swamp Sparrow.

Charismatic and ostentatious Red-breasted Sapsucker.

Charismatic and ostentatious Red-breasted Sapsucker.

Today we started late (due to cold) and kept several nets closed (due to the threat of precipitation) resulting is just 30.5 of our usual 72 net hours. Despite this we still managed to band 42 birds! Who knows how many we could have caught if we had had all 12 nets open for six hours.

On census I had my first Pacific Wren of the season and on the walk back spotted the first Boreal Chickadee of the season. It is funny how the common and highly aggressive nature of the Black-caped Chickadee makes it one of my most dreaded birds around the station, while its Boreal Chickadee cousin is so rare and comparatively docile that I always enjoy an interaction with it.

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 18 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Yellow Warbler 4
Song Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 2
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Common Yellowthroat 1
Red-breasted Sapsucker 1
Dusky Flycatcher 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Swamp Sparrow 1

~

~

Birds banded 42
Species banded 12
Birds recaptured 1
Species recaptured 1
Species on census 21
Species Total 39
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 1352
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 1418

Sept. 15: Frosty Nets

When the alarm went off at 6:00am I customarily check the Environment Canada current weather site. Today it said -6C! I was a bit skeptical that it was actually that cold but the frost on the deck convinced me that it was cold enough that we wouldn’t be able to open nets first thing. At 8:15 we arrived at the station. Though it was warming up (still -1C) there was a light frost on many of the nets.

HY female Townsend's Warbler

HY female Townsend’s Warbler

It took a little while for things to pick up but once the Kinglets got moving they kept us fairly busy throughout the remainder of the morning. A surprise the past two days has been a little resurgence in Yellow Warbler numbers with 2 banded yesterday and 4 more today. Presumably these are from more northerly populations. Also in our nets was a late Townsend’s Warbler (3rd) and a Mountain Chickadee (2nd), both caught in MXX with a flock of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Every year we catch a couple very pale Orange-crowned Warblers that we are unsure of which subspecies they belong to. We only ever catch them late in the season which leads me to suspect that, like these late Yellow Warblers, they are coming from further north. Typically we catch both the brighter coastal lutescens and the grey-headed interior orestera subspecies which are generally pretty easy to distinguish (see here for a blog post from 2014 with more info on how we tell these two subspecies apart).

A very pale Orange-corned Warbler from 2013 that looked very similar to the bird we caught today

A pale Orange-crowned Warbler from 2013 that looked very similar to the bird we caught today

Chris had a fairly slow census but did spot a flock of Mountain Bluebirds foraging along the road and a small group of Evening Grosbeaks. Sightings from around the station included a group of 4 Rusty Blackbirds, a flock of 23 Horned Larks foraging in the field, a few Northern Harriers (one that nearly hit our hawk net) and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circling over the NE corner of the census area.

Species Band Recap
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 19
Common Yellowthroat 5 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 4
Yellow Warbler 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Song Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Mountain Chickadee 1
Townsend’s Warbler 1
Wilson’s Warbler 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Swainson’s Thrush 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1

Birds banded 43
Species banded 12
Birds recaptured 4
Species recaptured 4
Species on census 17
Species Total 42
STANDARD TOTAL BANDED 1320
SEASON TOTAL BANDED 1376