Winter – 2008 to 2009

Weeks 1-4:  November 2008

PICTURE OF THE WEEK


Although fall migration is over according to the MBO calendar, that doesn’t mean that all species have finished moving through the area. We usually see good numbers of American Robins remaining at MBO well into November, and sometimes a few of them lingering even further into winter, subsisting on the berry crop. This November, robins were actually the third most numerous species observed during censuses. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

 THIS MONTHTHIS WINTER2008 TOTALSITE TOTAL
# birds (and species) banded5943 (84)18921 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat1122 (49)3348 (65)
# birds (and species) return123 (22)454 (32)
# species observed2626158197
# net hours8519.530465.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours69.862.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls).

Censusers: Shawn Craik, Gay Gruner, Barbara MacDuff, Christine Murphy

Notes: The easy pace of November was a welcome relief* after the busy fall-banding season. Censuses were conducted weekly and the winter feeders were installed with hopes of doing some winter banding in 2009. However, the main focus of this transitional month was taking stock – what worked well this fall season, what we can improve upon and how to deal with site maintenance.

Bird-wise, small flocks of Canada Goose continued to fly over and both Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were still present. Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Slate-coloured Junco and American Goldfinch were seen on all seven visits in November, while American Robin, seen on six occasions, was the third most numerous species. A lone White-throated Sparrow was spotted just once in late November. The total number of species observed was 27.

* Perhaps not such an easy pace for Barbara Frei, who began the Herculean task of verifying and submitting our fall data.


Weeks 5-9:  December 2008

PICTURE OF THE WEEK


So far this winter Pine Siskins have been a rare visitor to the MBO feeders, but reports from elsewhere suggest they are on the move south and east, so we will keep our eyes open for more arrivals in the new year. This photo shows well the much more elongated and fine bill of the siskins compared with most other finches. (Photo by Greg Rand)

 THIS MONTHTHIS WINTER2008 TOTALSITE TOTAL
# birds (and species) banded5943 (84)18921 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat1122 (49)3348 (65)
# birds (and species) return123 (22)454 (32)
# species observed2230158197
# net hours8519.530465.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours69.862.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls).

Censusers: Jean Bacon, Shawn Craik, Gay Gruner, Christine Murphy

Notes: It was difficult to access MBO in December. First, freezing rain converted the road to MBO into an Olympic bobsled event. Next, there were some heavy snowfalls and ploughing the road to the MBO was bottom of the snow-clearers’ priority list and wasn’t done until after Christmas. However, we still managed to fill the feeders and observe a few birds.

The total number of species observed this month was 22, of which the most numerous were Canada Goose. House Finch, Mourning Dove and Black-capped Chickadee were regular guests at the feeders.


American Tree Sparrows have been regular winter residents at MBO, but only one individual was recorded in December – though the reduced number of visits due to weather may have resulted in some being missed. (Photo by Greg Rand)


Weeks 10-13:  January 2009

PICTURE OF THE MONTH:


A second-year (note the contrast between brownish and blackish feathers on the wing) Northern Shrike hanging around at MBO this winter. (Photo by Greg Rand)

 THIS MONTHTHIS WINTER2009 TOTALSITE TOTAL
# birds (and species) banded18921 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat3348 (65)
# birds (and species) return454 (32)
# species observed203420197
# net hours30465.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours

62.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Censusers: David Fishman, Gay Gruner, Christine Murphy, Greg Rand

Notes: Overall, January was a cold month – far too cold or windy or snowy to do any winter banding, a great disappointment to us all.

We observed 20 species, including White-winged Crossbill and a Ruffed Grouse near the eastern edge of the Stoneycroft Pond – a species that returned to MBO just last fall after an absence of five years. European Starling, Bohemian Waxwing and Common Redpoll were present in good numbers and a Northern Shrike was observed observing the feeders from a perch in the treetops.

David Fishman, teaching assistant for the Ethology class, set up three additional tube feeders for the purpose of a seed preference study. Fortunately, the class did their lab early in the month as some cheeky creature, possibly a raccoon or a squirrel on steroids, “liberated” two of the feeders late in the month. (The feeders remain missing in action, perhaps to be found in the spring.)

The Ethology Lab investigated aspects of optimal foraging theory through observing the behaviours of wild birds feeding at a prepared site. The feeding station consists of three feeders suspended from a taught rope, each containing a different variety of commercial sunflower seed: (1) black-oil sunflower; (2) gray-striped sunflower; and (3) safflower. It was predicted that the differences in kernel-to-hull ratios between the seeds would be reflected in the foraging decisions of the birds.

A total of three species of birds visited the feeders during this study. These were Black-capped Chickadee, American Tree Sparrow and Slate-coloured Junco. The total number of feeding bouts recorded during the period of observation was 302; 93.7% of which selected black-oil seeds, 6.3% selected gray-striped, and no birds selected safflower. These results were consistent with the experimental predictions, as the black-oil seeds possessed the highest kernel: hull ratio.


We haven’t observed any owls at MBO this winter, but this wing imprint in the snow provides evidence that at least one is around and hunting. (Photo by Greg Rand)


Weeks 14-17:  February 2009

PICTURE OF THE MONTH:


Common Redpolls are among the four finch species that have been regular visitors to the MBO feeders this month. (Photo by Greg Rand)

 THIS MONTHTHIS WINTER2009 TOTALSITE TOTAL
# birds (and species) banded18921 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat3348 (65)
# birds (and species) return454 (32)
# species observed283828197
# net hours30465.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours62.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Censusers: Jean Bacon, Tiffany Gilchrist, Gay Gruner, Peter Gruner, Kristen Keyes, Barbara MacDuff, Christine Murphy, Greg Rand

Notes: The cold trend continued into February and again we were not able to band. Our disappointment levels were especially high as 4 finch species (House Finch, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch) were very regularly present in good numbers at the feeders.

Overall, we saw 28 species, raising the site total for 2009 to 30. The three most observed species were European Starling, Common Redpoll and Bohemian Waxwing. Other interesting sightings included Great Black-backed Gull, Brown Creeper, White-winged Crossbill, Northern Shrike and an early Red-winged Blackbird (27 February).

Towards the end of February, the promise of spring was in the air. The angle of the earth to the sun resulted in longer and more intense shadows than the previous months, the piercing song of the Northern Cardinal was audible everywhere, and an American Robin was heard rehearsing its spring song.


The winter landscape at MBO in winter, showing the deep accumulation of snow toward the north end of Stoneycroft Pond. (Photo by Gay Gruner)


Weeks 18-21:  March 2009

PICTURE OF THE MONTH:


Though Common Redpolls always seem to look inquisitive when having their photos taken, this little second-year female was exceptional – and she was a “coppertop” to boot! (Photo by Gay Gruner)

 THIS MONTHTHIS WINTER2009 TOTALSITE TOTAL
# birds (and species) banded32 (6)32 (6)32 (6)18953 (105)
# birds (and species) repeat0 (0)0 (0)0 (0)3348 (65)
# birds (and species) return6 (4)6 (4)6 (4)460 (32)
# species observed395144197
# net hours24.024.024.030489.3
# birds banded / 100 net hours133.3133.3133.362.1

Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge: Gay Gruner, Marie-Anne Hudson Observers: Sophie Cauchon, Simon Duval, Nicki Fleming, Tiffany Gilchrist, Kristen Keyes, Barbara MacDuff, Chris Murphy, André Pelletier, Greg Rand

Notes:  Only being able to band for the first time in the last month of the winter season certainly has its downsides, but easy data entry isn’t one of them!  Though you may think that there are typos in the table above due to the repetition, it’s correct: the totals are all the same for Month, Winter and 2009, since March 10th was the first time we were able to get out this winter. Cold winds and snow were to blame for the most part, but that didn’t stop our censusers from going out a bunch and collecting some wonderful observations. New species for the season include some species heavily hinting that spring is on its way: Wood Duck, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Killdeer, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, Song Sparrow, and Common Grackle. More surprisingly, we had to wait until the last few days of the winter season to finally spot our first House Sparrow – formerly a regular sight at MBO, they have largely disappeared over the past year.

Species banded for the first time in 2009 (and this winter) included a handful of Black-capped Chickadees, a Northern Cardinal, a couple of American Tree Sparrows, several Common Redpolls, a few Pine Siskins and some American Goldfinches. We also managed to recapture a few feathered friends, also firsts for 2009 (Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers).


A sure sign that Ruffed Grouse are among us – fresh tracks! (Photo by Gay Gruner)