2013 in Review

Looking back on the past 12 months, I did a lot of bird-y things in 2013 — helping out with the Edmonton Nature Club’s Young Naturalists’ Corner at the Snow Goose Chase, raising money for Bird Studies Canada and my local naturalist society with the Baillie Birdathonbirding in Central Park, a month-long internship in Ontario helping with fall migration monitoring, working on my Young Birder of the Year projects, and the Alberta Birds Facebook group I started in 2012 is up to 763 members, including lots of great birders and photographers.

A Savannah Sparrow (digiscoped) in June,

IMG_0435

I added 31 new species to my Life List, putting it at 266 species. I was a little disappointed with my Alberta List, since I saw only 137 species compared to 154 last year. For my Year List, I saw 22 mammal species and 210 bird species.

On of my lifers this year — a Harris’s Sparrow that showed up at my feeders this past spring,

IMG_5320

I added a new species to my humble yard list — a Blue Jay which stayed for only a few minutes in October, but I was very excited to see it,

IMG_6210

A Double-crested Cormorant in Central Park in July,

IMG_5724

A Month at the Long Point Bird Observatory, Part 2

(Part 1 of my internship account is here)

September 1st: It was a little windy today, so some of the nets were closed, but we caught a hatch-year female Sharp-shinned Hawk which was very neat! An after-hatch year male and female Canada Warblers were caught in the same net. It was a good opportunity see the differences in plumage in the hand, and side by side. There weren’t very many songbirds around, but I did find a Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, and a Wilson’s Warbler flitting about in some bushes near one of the nets.

A female Sharp-shinned Hawk,

IMG_1597

The after-hatch year male and female Canada Warblers,

IMG_1604

IMG_1606

We saw a few Ospreys at the Tip, and this one was very obliging for a photograph,

IMG_6032

September 4th:  Today was the only day we banded over 100 birds while I was at the Tip. It was a lot of fun to see so many birds but it was also very tiring for the banders. Most of the birds caught were Catharus thrushes, Blackpoll Warblers, a Wood Thrush, and other species, and a Connecticut Warbler was also banded later in the morning. There were hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds flying over with a few Bobolinks in the mix, and there were 25 Sanderling feeding along the beach.

A Connecticut Warbler,

IMG_1631

A Viceroy Butterfly,

IMG_5977

LPBO staffer Janice with a male Indigo Bunting (and matching shirt and fingernails!),

IMG_1521

September 5th: Today wasn’t as busy as yesterday for banding, but the number of warblers moving through the area was astounding! Some of the warbler species were Wilson’s Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Canada Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, Northern Parulas, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Cape May Warblers were all seen around the Tip. In the afternoon Ana, Antje, Daniel, and I did a supplementary census and the highlights were a large mixed flock of 16 warbler species, a Brown Thrasher, a Baird’s Sandpiper feeding in a group with three Least Sandpipers, a Cooper’s Hawk, and a very co-operative Philadelphia Vireo. My two lifers for the day were the Philadelphia Vireo and Northern Parula.

A Bay-breasted Warbler,

IMG_1590

Northern Parula,

IMG_1643

September 8th: It was much too windy to open any of the nets today, so in the early morning Dayna, Ana, and I went out to the Tip to look for any unusual gulls and Jaegers that would have been brought in by the strong winds; unfortunately we didn’t see any. We did see over 4,000 Double-crested Cormorants flying past the Tip which was quite the spectacle. There were three Great Black-backed Gulls at the Tip and large flocks of Sanderlings were flying around with a Baird’s Sandpiper and two Semipalmated Plovers mixed in.

IMG_6121

A beautiful Pandora’s Sphinx Moth,

 IMG_1419

A Monarch Butterfly chrysalis I found in the sand at the Tip,

IMG_1667

September 9th: Bird activity is still very slow and since it wasn’t too windy we were able to open some of the nets. Double-crested Cormorants were flying past the Tip in large numbers, and a Great Blue Heron was hunting along the shore of the Tip. On one of my net rounds, I saw a banded Rock Pigeon sitting on the Heligoland Trap. Some of my favorites banded today were a Tennessee Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Magnolia Warblers, and Blackpoll Warblers.

Tennessee Warbler ruffled from the wind,

IMG_1679

A male Chestnut-sided Warbler,

IMG_1683

Sunrise at the Tip,

IMG_1676

LPBO staffer Dayna with a Black-throated Blue Warbler,

IMG_1695

One of my favorite warbler species — a male Black-throated Blue Warbler,

IMG_1693

A very ratty looking moulting Eastern Towhee,

IMG_1697

Eastern Whip-poor-Will,

IMG_1708

IMG_1714

September 11th: Swainson’s Thrushes, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Veerys, Wilson’s Warblers, American Redstarts, Red-eyed Vireos, and American Robins were some of the species caught this morning. The best bird of the day was an immature male Eastern Towhee. Stu and Ed were on census, but about half an hour into the census Ed came running back to tell the rest of us at the banding station that they had found an Upland Sandpiper in a tree. It was really interesting to see the sandpiper just standing on a branch high up in a tree.

An Upland Sandpiper,

IMG_6139

September 14th: Banding was steady this morning with LPBO’s first Orange-crowned Warbler of the Fall season and lots of Swainson’s Thrushes. I was able to band a Wood Thrush, many Black-throated Blue Warblers, and American Redstarts. There were lots of American Redstarts in the woodlot around Old Cut and many of them were adult males instead of the usual females and immature males. In the late morning, someone who was birding around Old Cut found an Eastern Whip-poor Will roosting in a spruce tree, it was a great way to end my stay at Long Point!

Late in the afternoon of the 14th I left Long Point and got on a plane in Hamilton to fly back home to Alberta.

During my month stay at Long Point, I read the first 40 pages of Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part II which is essential to bird banding; there are copies of both volumes in all the LPBO banding labs and library. From my banding work and the book, I learned a lot this summer about skull ossification and molt patterns. I also learned just how much work is put in by volunteers, from entering data, and bleaching the walls of the house at the Tip to keep molt and spider droppings from wrecking the paint, to sweeping all the sand out of the house daily and installing a new refrigerator. Without all the hard work done by volunteers, the Long Point Bird Observatory wouldn’t run as smoothly as it does.

I had so much fun at Long Point again and learned so much. I hope to go back sometime soon!

The species I was able to add to my Life List at Long Point, August-September 2013:

Eastern Whip-poor Will, Upland Sandpiper, Philadelphia Vireo, Northern Parula, Wood Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Bay-breasted Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Palm Warbler, Peregrine Falcon, Wilson’s Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, Virginia Rail, and Magnolia Warbler.

A Month at the Long Point Bird Observatory: Part 1

I’ve been home now for about two weeks after spending a wonderful bird-filled month at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario. I had such a great time at Long Point (it’s hard not to!) with the other volunteers, banders in charge, and all of the birding and banding. And I learned so much about banding, molt, neat tricks for aging and sexing certain species, and also how much hard work goes toward keeping all three banding stations going.

I miss everyone at LPBO very much lot and am envious of all the amazing birds that have been banded and seen since my departure. Some of my favorite species I banded were a Semipalmated Plover, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, an Orange-crowned Warbler, countless Swainson’s Thrushes, a Black-billed Cuckoo, an American Goldfinch, Black-throated Blue, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Eastern Wood Pewees, and a Connecticut Warbler, just to name a few.

Because I was at Long Point for such a long time and we did so much, I haven’t included all of my daily journal entries, just some of the highlights (and this is just Part 1): I arrived at the Long Point Bird Observatory from Toronto on August 14th, in the morning. At Old Cut I met Dayna and Janice, LPBO staff who are both banders in charge, and volunteers Darren from New Zealand and Antje from Germany.

In the late afternoon, I walked the census route to re-familiarize myself with the area, and in the evening some of us went to the dike behind Old Cut to count the thousands of Bank Swallows flying overhead. Antje with retrap male Downy Woodpecker at Old Cut, IMG_1303 An Adult Yellow Warbler, IMG_1310 August 16th: I’d been at Old Cut for only one day, and today Darren, Antje, Antoine, Christophe, and I boated out to the Tip. It was a great day for boating — the lake was calm and the sun was shining. When we got to the Tip, we unloaded the supplies and groceries, had a quick lunch, and set up the nets in the garden.

As we were setting up one of the nets, we heard a Virginia Rail calling from the marsh — a lifer for me. We went for a walk on the census route, but passerine activity was fairly slow, though there were lots of birds at the very Tip including 3,000 Common Terns, 73 Herring Gulls, three Least Sandpipers, eight Semipalmated Sandpipers, and one Semipalmated Plover.

The Tip’s Heligoland (funnel) trap was in need of some repair to the mesh, so the birds wouldn’t escape through the holes as they flew into the trap. When we opened the door, we found this Little Brown Bat sleeping. It didn’t move as we continued work on the HT, IMG_1356 August 19th: On my way to check the mist nets this morning, I saw a Blackburnian Warbler in a poplar along with an American Redstart. On my Monarch census for my research project, I found a Black-and-White Warbler and a Brown Thrasher. While swimming in the lake, an immature Ruddy Turnstone flew past with a flock of Least Sandpipers.

After supper, Darren came inside to tell us that there was an American Woodcock near one of the nets so we all went out to look at it. An Ovenbird, IMG_1510 August 20th: It was very windy this morning, and because of that we had to close some of the nets early, but we caught a Black-billed Cuckoo in the Heligoland trap. We all drew net pegs to see who would band the bird and I was very excited when my peg was chosen.

In the evening we put up some mist nets on the beach to catch shorebirds and caught two Least Sandpipers. They’re so small — weighing about 20 grams. An adult female Black-billed Cuckoo, IMG_1410

If you look closely on the primaries and primary coverts, you can see a slight tinge of blue on this female Indigo Bunting,

IMG_1424 Unfortunately, this year the Monarch Butterfly population decreased dramatically so there weren’t as many Monarchs at the Tip as in previous years. During my stay at the Tip, I saw four pairs of Monarchs mating, IMG_5965 A Bay-breasted Warbler, IMG_1590 August 21st: When I was out at the Tip with Euan, a volunteer from Scotland, seven Willets landed on the beach, and as we were just about to leave, three American Avocets flew in.

It was very neat to see both Willets and Avocets because they are fairly unusual species around Long Point. I added a new lifer to my list — a Great Black-backed Gull standing at the Tip with the Ring-billed Gulls. Birds waiting to be banded on one of our fairly busy days, IMG_1359 A Great-crested Flycatcher, IMG_1377 August 26th: We opened only one net this morning because of the strong winds but we did seven HT runs. We almost caught a Sora but it escaped through a hole in the mesh.

In our last HT run we caught a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! There was an immature Black-crowned Night Heron flying around, which then landed in some poplars. I saw 16 Monarchs on census, as well as two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds chasing a Red-winged Blackbird. A Brown Thrasher, IMG_1406 Darren found this huge Bullfrog one night near the lighthouse and brought it back to show the rest of us, IMG_1455 We caught this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the HT, but you need to have a special license to band gnatcatchers because their legs are so small; in fact, the smallest band LPBO has will fit right over a gnatcatcher leg. So if Blue-gray Gnatcatchers get caught at LPBO, they are released, IMG_1471 August 28th: It was raining in the morning so we didn’t open the nets until 9:30. We all went on census and saw 42 species, with a flock of Cape May Warblers, a Canada Warbler, a Blackburnian, Tennessee, and Magnolias in some bushes. In the nets we caught a Western Wood Pewee which is a very rare species for Long Point.

We took lots of photos and took a few feather samples. In the evening we did a supplementary census. It was really amazing to watch the thousands of gulls “hawking” for insects over the marsh. There were seven Common Nighthawks too. A Western Wood Pewee, IMG_1571 Stay tuned for part two! I hope to get it up as soon possible.