Blackpoll Warbler


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS-August 19-25

Cooler temperatures and northerly winds seem to be appropriate conditions for "fallouts" during autumn migration at Tommy Thompson Park. The past week was a record setting one for the research station as numbers of migrating warblers in particular were unusually high for this time of year. August 19 was a washout as rain and high winds forced cancellation of fieldwork. High south winds from August 20-21 probably limited overnight migration as daily banding totals were in the teens. New arrivals during the two days included Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-eyed Vireo, Veery and Swamp Sparrow. A cooling trend on the 22nd along with winds shifting to north brought in more activity as 37 birds were banded on the 22nd. Empidonax flycatchers and warblers were dominant on the day while 2 Hermit Thrushes banded was noteworthy (early). A "fallout" occurred on the 23rd as 17 species of warbler were recorded and 73 birds in total were banded. Banding totals of Veery (8), Magnolia (15), Chestnut-sided (6), Black-and-white (5) and American Redstart were significant. The tall cottonwoods towards the tip were absolutely alive with birds, mostly Myrtles (110 estimated)! A continuation of the weather pattern resulted in another strong passage of migrants on the 24th as 63 birds were banded. The 25th was equally impressive as American Redstart, Myrtle Warbler, Nashville and Magnolia Warbler were detected in higher than "normal" concentrations. The season's first Black-billed Cuckoo was observed on this day. Data from previous fall seasons at TTPBRS indicate that the highest single-day banding total for August was 45! This record was broken each day from the 23rd to the 25th of this year. Another cold front is forecasted for the middle of next week so hopefully we will have lots to report next week.....
Note: The TTPBRS Sightings Board is updated on a daily basis so check here for regular daily banding totals and new arrivals. The site also features the occasional photo essay. This week featured a write-up on a case of diet induced plumage variation in a Baltimore Oriole captured at the station.
Aug 22
6-Traill's Flycatcher
2-Hermit Thrush (early)
2-Tennessee Warbler
Aug 23
3-Swainson's Thrush
15-Magnolia Warbler
2-Bay-breasted Warbler
5-Black-and-white Warbler
1-Slate-coloured Junco (record early date, September 18 last year)
Aug 24
2-Philadelphia Vireo
9-American Redstart
Aug 25
2-Cape May Warbler
2-Mourning Warbler
Aug 20
1-Sharp-shinned Hawk
Aug 21
19-Eastern Kingbird
6-Purple Martin
1-Blackburnian Warbler
Aug 22
1-Peregrine Falcon
1-Scarlet Tanager
Aug 23
2-Green Heron (2nd record for TTPBRS)
10-Green-winged Teal
14-Chestnut-sided Warbler
23-Magnolia Warbler
13-Black-and-white Warbler
Aug 24
1-Eastern Phoebe
6-Red-breasted Nuthatch
2-Black-throated Green Warbler
8-Wilson's Warbler
Aug 25
1-Cooper's Hawk
1-Black-billed Cuckoo
3-Great-crested Flycatcher
8-Red-eyed Vireo
115-Myrtle Warbler (~90% moulting juveniles and 10% moulting adults banded during the week)
26-American Redstart
Season Banding Total
Season Species Total


Field Assistants Ian Sturdee (right) and Andrew Jano


Notes from the lab....

It has been very busy at the research station the past two days, especially for August. In fact, the 73 birds banded yesterday and 63 today are the highest single-day banding totals for August in our 3 years at the site. American Redstart, Magnolia, Black-and-white and Myrtle Warbler have been particularly abundant. Good numbers of flycatchers, Veery and Swainson's Thrush were also observed. The unusually high density of migrants is attributable to cool temperatures and north winds.

The Red Oriole

The photo below is in fact a Baltimore Oriole and not some strange hybrid! The unusual red colouration of the bird is likely caused by diet. The phenomenon is commonly found in young Cedar Waxwings whose tail bands can be orange in some parts of the species range. Interestingly, orange coloured terminal bands were not documented prior to the 1950's. The appearance of the colour change coincided with the species population doubling from 1965-1979. So what would cause this?

Honeysuckle is an introduced shrub which produces red berries in mid-summer that many songbird species feed on. During the 1960's the shrubs were endorsed by the U.S. government as a valuable means of improving wildlife habitat. The distribution of honeysuckle increased dramatically during that time and the plants have since spread across the northeast. The increase in numbers of fruit-bearing ornamental shrubs has been credited with the increase in Cedar Waxwing numbers.

The relationship between honeysuckle and plumage variation in songbirds lies in the chemical composition of the fruit. Berries of some Honeysuckle species contain a red pigment called rhodaxanthin which causes the moulting tail feathers of 1st year Waxwings to be orange. Tartarian Honeysuckle was not tested but the species is closely related to Morrow's Honeysuckle (Lonicera Morrowi) which tested positive for the pigment. Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera Tatarica) are abundant at TTPBRS and 2005 was a bumper year for the berry crop. Waxwings, Orioles and Robins were all observed gorging on berries during the first few weeks of August. At least two species of honeysuckle occur at the research station and the presence of Tartarian is known, the other has not been identified. Orange tail bands of young Waxwings have been commonly noted over the past three years of banding at Tommy Thompson Park.

Unfortunately I couldn't find any reference to plumage variance in Baltimore Oriole that is attributable to a diet of Honeysuckle berries. We can only speculate about the cause of the red plumage but diet is certainly plausible. At least 3 young Orioles banded this fall have shown varying degrees of red pigment to the feathers. One pair of Orioles (male and female were banded) successfully reared young on peninsula D in a Cottonwood directly above the shrubs. Certainly these berries would have been a substantial portion of the food brought to the nest by the adults. As the nestlings matured the incoming feathers could have come in red instead of the usual orange or yellow.

If anyone has any comments on this topic or other reports of "red" Baltimore Orioles, please email me!

Dan Derbyshire
Baltimore Oriole-Red Variant


Juv. Swamp Sparrow

Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS-August 12-18

It has been a very interesting month of August at the research station as temperatures have been below average and we have had higher numbers of warblers than previous years. That being said, our banding totals are consistent with the August average (lowest month of the "field" year). Despite the rain cutting our net hours in half on August 12 we banded 29 birds which included good numbers of Traill's Flycatcher (11) and Yellow Warbler (14). Higher than normal numbers of Myrtle Warbler continue to pass through the park as daily totals have hovered around 10-20 individuals. The nets were very quiet on the 13th however 6 new arrivals for the fall included a singing Alder Flycatcher (1st fall record for TTPBRS) and an Upland Sandpiper (1st record for TTPBRS). 7 Short-billed Dowitchers on the 14th were new for the station checklist. The highlight of the day was the biggest concentration of swallows in the three year history of the migration monitoring program. Barn Swallow (620), Northern Rough-winged (150), Bank (120) and Tree Swallow (25) were observed migrating directly over the banding lab and along the north shore towards the lighthouse. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers started appearing on the 14th and were captured daily throughout the remainder of the week. 25 birds were banded on the following day which included season firsts of Mourning Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler. A total of 10 warbler species were observed or captured.  Strong winds on the 17th limited overall capture rates however a good passage of warblers were detected including the seasons first Black-throated Green Warbler. Remarkably, 41 Myrtles were tallied on the day! Favourable winds preceding the 18th resulted in the busiest day of the season so far as 40 birds were banded of 19 species. Numbers of Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole (6 banded) and American Goldfinch were significant.
Aug 12
11-Traill's Flycatcher (record high one-day banding total for fall)
Aug 15
4-Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1-Cedar Waxwing (1st and probably last banded of fall 05!)
Aug 16
1-Swainson's Thrush
1-Tennessee Warbler
Aug 17
3-Magnolia Warbler
2-Bay-breasted Warbler
1-American Redstart
Aug 18
2-Downy Woodpecker
2-Barn Swallow (1st banding records since spring 2003)
3-Eastern Kingbird
3-Wilson's Warbler
6-Baltimore Oriole
Aug 12
28-Yellow Warbler
1-White-throated Sparrow
Aug 13
1-Cooper's Hawk
1-Upland Sandpiper (1st record for TTPBRS observed by Paul Prior)
1-Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1-Alder Flycatcher (1st fall record for TTPBRS)
130-Cedar Waxwing
Aug 14
1-Common Loon
2-Black-bellied Plover
1-Least Sandpiper
7-Short-billed Dowitcher (1st record for TTPBRS)
Aug 15
1-Horned Grebe
1-Semipalmated Plover
Aug 16
1-Red-breasted Merganser
1-House Finch
Aug 17
10-Lesser Yellowlegs
22-Eastern Kingbird
41-Myrtle Warbler
Aug 18
1-Cape May Warbler
Season Banding Total
Season Species Total


Canada Warbler


Sunday, August 14

Still very quiet for migrant landbirds although there have been some unusual sightings over the past couple days. Yesterday Paul Prior had 8 species of warbler and a flyover Upland Sandpiper! This is the first record of UPSA for the station. Today there were 5 new arrivals, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Common Loon, Common Yellothroat and 7 Short-billed Dowitcher. The Dowitchers are also new for the TTPBRS checklist. However the highlight was a huge push of swallows. Today was the biggest swallow day on record for the station as some 600+ Barn, 120 Rough-wing and 150 Bank were observed. We also banded the first Canada Warbler of the season this morning.


Northern Waterthrush (dgd)

Migration Monitoring at TTP-August 5-11

This is an update on the first week of fall migration in 2005. The station was setup on August 4 in preparation for the first day of fieldwork on the 5th. 18 birds were banded on the first day which included juvenile Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Song Sparrow and American Goldfinches. Migrants were few but a single Northern Waterthrush was captured along with 6 Yellow Warblers. The 6th featured more Traill's Flycatchers as well as early records of Swainson's Thrush and Wilson's Warbler. Also noteworthy on the day was an Indigo Bunting which was just the 8th banding record and the first fall banding record for TTPBRS.  A trickle of Yellow Warbler and Empidonax flycatchers continued on the 7th however the highlight was a very early Hermit Thrush. Hot and humid weather really put a damper on migration during the first week and was reflected in the low banding totals from the 7th-11th. Despite this there were some nice observations including singles of Tennessee, Magnolia, Blackpoll and Blackburnian Warbler. The most obvious difference between the first week this fall and previous fall seasons is the absence of Cedar Waxwing and American Robin from the banding data-set. The birds are present but are heavily concentrated on the north side of the peninsula feeding on the abundant honeysuckle berries. Most of the observations of warblers have been at this location as well. It was a quiet week overall but a good kickoff to the season and it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the fall unfolds!
Aug 5
1-Least Flycatcher w/brood patch
Aug 6
5-Traill's Flycatcher
1-Swainson's Thrush
1-Nashville Warbler
1-Black-and-white Warbler
2-Northern Waterthrush
1-Wilson's Warbler (record early)
1-Indigo Bunting (1st fall banding record)
Aug 7
1-Hermit Thrush (record early)
Aug 9
1-Magnolia Warbler
Aug 11
2-Brown Thrasher
Aug 6
1-Cooper's Hawk
1-Red-breasted Nuthatch
1-Golden-crowned Kinglet (record early)
1-Myrtle Warbler
3-Chipping Sparrow
Aug 8
1-Horned Grebe
2-Greater Scaup
Aug 9
24-House Sparrow (record high count)
Aug 10
105-Cedar Waxwing
Aug 11
8-Purple Martin
1-Blackpoll Warbler
3-Least Sandpiper
Season Banding Total
Season Species Total
Dan Derbyshire
Coordinator, Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station (TTPBRS)
Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA)
The Tommy Thompson Park Migration Monitoring Program is a joint project
of Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) and Toronto Bird Observatory (TBO)
TTPBRS Sightings:


TTPBRS is open!

The research station was opened today for fall 2005 (our 3rd fall so far). Despite a couple of wasp nests, countless ants and high temperatures, the opening went very smoothly. Thanks to Don Johnston, Kerry McGuire and Steve Gillis for their help today!
There were a few birds about, the highlights were several Purple Martins and an early Myrtle Warbler. The Myrtle is the earliest fall record ever at TTPBRS!
Looking forward to tomorrow!
Dan Derbyshire
Coordinator, Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station (TTPBRS)


Fall 2005

Where did the summer go? Fall 2005 is only a few days away now and staff and volunteers are preparing for another season of fieldwork at Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station! Stay tuned for an update on our first day of operations.

Dan Derbyshire