Fall Migration at TTPBRS- August 19-25

American Woodcock (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS)

So far, August 2007 has been unusually slow in terms of abundance of migrants, while over the same August period we have detected more species than in any previous fall. The lack of favourable winds is at least partially responsible for the low numbers of birds and it remains to be seen as to whether reduced breeding productivity this summer is also involved.

Light north winds on August 19 resulted in 40 birds being banded of 17 species. Increased numbers of warblers and shorebirds were documented along with higher counts of roosting Monarch Butterflies. A few Empidonax flycatchers were also recorded, in what is likely to be a record low fall for the these species. A suite of new arrivals for the fall were encountered on August 20, including Green-winged Teal, Merlin, Northern Harrier and Trumpeter Swan. Strong winds kept the nets furled on August 21, which gave us an opportunity to count over 1000 Monarch Butterflies at TTPBRS. A bit later in the morning, an awesome tally of 1,215 Purple Martins were observed off Pipt Point, and it was amazing to see these birds forging through massive wind and waves as they disappeared over a turbulent Lake Ontario. A return to full coverage on the 22nd was productive as 45 birds were banded of 19 species. Warbling Vireos were abundant and 13 warbler species were detected, which included the first Wilson's Warbler of the fall. Numbers of waterbirds have been higher than normal as indicated by the 300 Mallard and 42 Mute Swans recorded on August 23. A total of 67 Eastern Kingbirds were observed flying over the station on the 24th, which was a record high count for a 24-hour period - until 140 were observed on August 25th! Black-throated Green Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher were new arrivals on the 25th, which was a quiet day with just 12 birds captured.
The past month of migration has certainly been a curious mix of low volume and high diversity punctuated by some spectacular sightings, which is reminiscent of our first fall at TTPBRS in 2003. It will be very interesting to see how the next week or two unfolds as a cold front is due in just a few days.

HIGHLIGHTS (capture totals in bold)

Aug 19
4-Common Loon
1-Ruby-throated Hummingbird
6-Purple Martin
3-Red-breasted Nuthatch
22-Warbling Vireo
11-Yellow Warbler
2-Chestnut-sided Warbler
1-Blackburnian Warbler
3-Mourning Warbler

Aug 20
9-Green-winged Teal
1-Eastern Wood-Pewee

Aug 21
1-Trumpeter Swan
46-Purple Martin
64-Barn Swallow

Aug 22
16-Lesser Yellowlegs
2-Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2-Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
95-Purple Martin
30-Warbling Vireo
1-Philadelphia Vireo
2-Wilson's Warbler
3-Magnolia Warbler
5-Black-and-white Warbler

Aug 23
42-Mute Swan
1-Scarlet Tanager
1-Wilson's Warbler

Aug 24
8-Northern Shoveler
67-Eastern Kingbird
95-Cedar Waxwing
2-Philadelphia Vireo
1-Cape May Warbler

Aug 25
1-Olive-sided Flycatcher
140-Eastern Kingbird
3-Black-throated Green Warbler
5-American Redstart
2-Northern Waterthrush

Total Banded- Aug 5-25

Total Species- Aug 5-25


Amazing Purple Martin Migration!

Purple Martins (Ian Sturdee-TTPBRS)

August 21st was a cool and blustery day of summer and relatively few birds were evident, except for some overhead passage of mixed swallow species. Monarch butterflies were gathering up on poplar and sumac branches. The early closure of our nets due to high winds gave us (Ian Sturdee, Seabrooke Leckie and Dan Derbyshire) opportunity to look for monarchs at the tip near the lighthouse. However, a flock of Purple Martins caught our attention near Pipit Point. A walk to the end of the point revealed wheeling flocks of American Goldfinches and a large flock of southbound martins. We waited at the tip to see what was going on and noticed flocks of 50-100 martins flying directly over us and low out onto Lake Ontario. These birds were clearly migrating and in a hurried fashion, despite the oppressive conditions, which included massive swells and whitecaps, spray and a very strong SE wind! In just over 2 hours we counted an amazing 1, 215 Purple Martins! Observations also included a Little Gull, several Bonaparte's Gulls, and small numbers of other swallow species.

Purple Martin populations have been unstable for many years in Ontario and sightings of big numbers like this are very rare. This was a significant migration event and an absolute pleasure to experience.


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS- Aug 12-18

Ovenbird (TTPBRS-TRCA)

The diversity of species during the second week of fall 2007 was very good, which made up for the many empty net checks. Weather was hot with variable winds from the south on August 12 as 15 birds were banded. Dominant migrant species on the day were Cedar Waxwing, Traill's Flycatcher and Yellow Warbler. The first Canada Warbler of the fall was banded. Winds switched to north for the 13th, but were likely too strong to encourage large numbers of birds to move. Five new arrivals for the fall were recorded including Pied-billed Grebe, Bay-breasted Warbler and the 5th banding record of Yellow-billed Cuckoo for TTPBRS. Conditions were suitable for an influx of migrants on the 14th, however just 15 birds were banded in six hours of effort. The weather must have been responsible for the arrival of seven new species for the fall, which included a record early Hermit Thrush, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Plover and a few warbler species. Very strong winds rolled in on the 15th, which closed many of our nets early. A full day of fieldwork on the 16th produced 18 new birds banded, the highest one-day banding total of the week! Highlight of the morning was an early Blackpoll Warbler. Numbers of Monarch Butterflies increased substantially on the 17th and the seasons' first Ovenbird and Northern Mockingbird were recorded. For the second time during the week, north winds and cooler temperatures failed to stimulate any significant push of southbound migrants on the 18th as just 8 birds were banded on the day.

Recent days of unstable weather has made for some interesting mornings, which have featured some surprising species, gathering monarchs (700-1000 at TTPBRS today) and one particular migration event that was truly unforgettable. Stay tuned to our website for an account of a migration spectacle from August 21st.
HIGHLIGHTS (banding records in bold)

Aug 12
2-Northern Shoveller
2-Short-billed Dowitcher
14-Purple Martin
80-Cedar Waxwing
1-Canada Warbler

Aug 13
1-Common Loon
1-Pied-billed Grebe
2-Least Sandpiper
1-Yellow-billed Cuckoo
1-Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
720-European Starling
36-Yellow Warbler
6-Myrtle Warbler
2-Northern Waterthrush
30-Baltimore Oriole

Aug 14
1-Semipalmated Plover
35-Eastern Kingbird
1-Hermit Thrush
3-Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1-Chestnut-sided Warbler
3-Magnolia Warbler
1-Black-throated Blue Warbler
2-Black-and-white Warbler
1-Mourning Warbler
1-Semipalmated Sandpiper

Aug 15
1-Swainson's Thrush

Aug 16
2-Blue-winged Teal
1-Red-breasted Nuthatch
1-Blackpoll Warbler

Aug 17
1-Black-billed Cuckoo
1-Northern Mockingbird

Aug 18
9-Lesser Yellowlegs
1-Eastern Phoebe

Total Banded- Aug 5-18

Total Species- Aug 5-18


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS-August 5-11

Adult Female Cedar Waxwing (TTPBRS-TRCA)

The Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station began the Fall Migration Monitoring Program on August 5th. After a busy summer of data management and breeding bird monitoring it was great to return to Tommy Thompson Park for another exciting season of bird migration! The Cedar Waxwing was certainly the most numerous species at the site during the a hot and humid first week. Large flocks of both adult and young waxwings have been wheeling around the study area in search of the remaining honeysuckle and dogwood fruit. The capture of an Indigo Bunting on the first day was a surprise as was the rather meager total of just 12 birds captured on the day. While the banding may have been slow during the period, the variety of species present was quite good. Eastern Kingbirds, Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles and Barn Swallows were on the move on August 6. A very early Philadelphia Vireo, several Purple Martins and 40 Yellow Warblers were observed on August 7. Temperatures were very high on August 8, which forced us to close down a bit early and likely limited bird movement during the morning. A return to full coverage on August 10 yielded just 12 birds banded, however an impressive 10 species were added to the season species total. Silver-haired Bats were also common, fortunately only one was found in the nets! Bird activity picked up on the 11th as 33 birds were banded, which included Northern Waterthrush and Mourning Warbler. Overall it was a great start to the fall season, which will run until mid-November. Raptors, vireos, warblers and Monarch Butterflies are beginning to build in numbers and we are hoping for some active (and cooler!) days ahead.

Daily updates from the station are once again available on our website (

The next issue of Flightnotes will be coming to you very soon and we are looking forward to the official launch of our Membership Program in the fall. Several brand new members-only events (full details in the newsletter) will be offered in the next few months. Flightnotes will also provide the latest TTPBRS news, project updates and feature articles.

HIGHLIGHTS of the WEEK (banding records in bold)

Aug 5
1-Common Loon
1-Black-billed Cuckoo
1-Nashville Warbler
1-Indigo Bunting (Only 12 prior banding records)

Aug 6
3-Lesser Yellowlegs
32-Barn Swallow
130-Cedar Waxwing

Aug 7
6-Great Blue Heron
5-Traill's Flycatcher
4-Purple Martin
1-Philadelphia Vireo
40-Yellow Warbler
32-Baltimore Oriole

Aug 9
1-Black-billed Cuckoo

Aug 10
1-Least Sandpiper
1-Least Flycatcher
24-Eastern Kingbird
130-Cedar Waxwing
1-Tennessee Warbler
1-Myrtle Warbler

Aug 11
16-Traill's Flycatcher
2-Northern Waterthrush
1-Mourning Warbler
3-Purple Finch

Season Banding Total (Aug 5-11)

Season Species Total (Aug 5-11)