Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS: April 22-28, 2008

Rusty Blackbird (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS)

The third week of our spring season was rather low key on the migration front once again. Last autumn at TTPBRS was our slowest fall ever in terms of migrant abundance. The high proportion of adults to young indicated low breeding productivity for most species, which would likely result in a reduced flow of birds in the following spring. This season could be shaping up much like spring 2004 when a very quiet April was followed by an extremely busy month of May. May 10, 2004 was certainly one of the most memorable days in the short history of the station as 409 birds were captured with just 6 of 15 nets in operation. Overnight rain and dense morning fog combined on that day to cause an astounding migration event, which featured 75 Bobolinks singing from the cottonwoods (a Bobolink has not been observed at ground level since)!

April 22 was warm with light east winds. The day featured moderate numbers of Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and White-throated Sparrow. Our second Red-bellied Woodpecker of the spring was observed on April 23, a day when just 19 birds were banded. April 24 was a mirror of the previous day with moderate numbers of April migrants. The arrival of Palm Warbler on April 25 was a welcome sighting, although no significant changes in the migrant array were noted. A full cast of 6 volunteers were pleased by some new arrivals and increased activity on April 26. Yellow Warbler, Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Waterthrush were all new for the season. A total of 49 birds were banded, which included 33 White-throated Sparrows. Field Sparrow and Northern Flickers were also more numerous than previous days. TTPBRS was host to a Bird Handling and Identification Workshop for FLAP on April 27. Just 6 birds were banded (8 recaptures) on the day but the participants were more than happy with the selection. Things got cold, wet and windy on the 28th. No banding occurred this day but a large contingent of various swallow species were observed feeding along the southern shoreline.

Baillie Birdathon

The 2008 Baillie Birdathon for TTPBRS will be a month long activity in May and we hope that you will consider sponsoring Bob McDonald or perhaps even doing your own birdathon to help birds in Toronto! This annual fundraiser is key to the sustainable operation of TTPBRS going forward. You can learn more about all of the fantastic prizes, benefits, events and activities at the website of The Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto. Also, don't forget about the Tommy Thompson Park Spring Bird Festival on May 10! Click here for more information on this exciting event.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK (banding totals in bold)

Apr 22
1-Sharp-shinned Hawk
2-Cooper's Hawk
1-House Wren
24-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
18-Hermit Thrush
8-Myrtle Warbler
4-Red-winged Blackbird

Apr 23
4-Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
2-Golden-crowned Kinglet
3-Brown Thrasher
35-Myrtle Warbler
55-White-throated Sparrow
1-Red-bellied Woodpecker (2nd record of 2008)

Apr 24
5-American Wigeon
1-Downy Woodpecker
1-Purple Finch

Apr 25
4-Greater Yellowlegs
1-Palm Warbler
45-White-throated Sparrow

Apr 26
1-Rough-legged Hawk (2nd spring record for TTPBRS)
1-Yellow Warbler
1-Northern Waterthrush
2-Field Sparrow
33-White-throated Sparrow (80 Standard Total)

Apr 27
1-Northern Harrier
2-Spotted Sandpiper
1-Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2-American Pipit

Apr 28
25-Northern Rough-winged Swallow
20-Bank Swallow
18-Barn Swallow

Season Banding Total

Season Species Total


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS: April 15-21, 2008

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The third week of Migration Monitoring this spring was exceptionally warm with record high water levels. Water striders, Leopard Frogs and the occasional Mallard have been common sights in net lanes 4 and 9 at the south edge of our count area! The high pressure system that lingered throughout the week produced little in the way of landbird migration as daily banding totals ranged from a low of 9 (Apr 15) to a high of 27 (Apr 19). Observations of doppler radar have indicated weak nocturnal migrant passage, which suggests that we haven't just been bypassed due to the weather. Common Terns arrived en masse on April 15 and were joined by first sightings of Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Red-necked Grebe for spring 2008. April 17 saw a shift to south winds, which likely caused a small increase in numbers of Hermit Thrush and Myrtle Warbler. A late Northern Saw-whet Owl was also spotted that morning. The following day was similar in terms of weather and birds found at TTPBRS. Highlights of the day included the arrival of Brown Thrashers and a total of 18 Myrtle Warblers detected during the morning. April 19 was a bit more active, particularly for 30 White-throated Sparrows busily tossing leaf litter for emerging insects. A Pine Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker and the first banding of a Red-bellied Woodpecker were highlights of the morning! Not a great deal to report for the following day when 20 birds were banded, although 8 Brown Thrashers provided a diverse soundtrack to the morning. Bonaparte's Gulls have been numerous this spring, reaching a high of 26 on April 21. Eight Common Loons and the first House Wren for the spring were also noteworthy.

Recovery Alert: A Northern Saw-whet Owl recovered at TTPBRS on October 16, 2007 was originally banded a little less than a month earlier on September 21, 2007 at Observatoire d'oiseaux de Tadoussac, Quebec. This distance covers a minimum of 820 km in a southwestern direction. This record was the 29th exchange of an NSWO between TTPBRS and another station!

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK (banding records in bold)

Apr 15
1-Red-necked Grebe
2-Horned Grebe
18-Golden-crowned Kinglet
3-Myrtle Warbler
2-Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Apr 16
7-Common Loon
11-Northern Shoveler
2-Horned Lark
1-Bank Swallow
1-Barn Swallow
1-American Tree Sparrow
1-Field Sparrow

Apr 17
2-Northern Pintail
2-Greater Yellowlegs
1-Northern Saw-whet Owl
12-Hermit Thrush
8-Myrtle Warbler

Apr 18
5-Great Egret
10-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
2-Brown Thrasher
18-Myrtle Warbler
1-Fox Sparrow
3-Swamp Sparrow

Apr 19
2-Cooper's Hawk
1-Hairy Woodpecker
12-Yellow-shafted Flicker
18-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
20-Hermit Thrush
6-Cedar Waxwing
1-Pine Warbler
30-White-throated Sparrow
1-Red-bellied Woodpecker (1st banding record for TTPBRS)

Apr 20
8-Brown Thrasher
3-Eastern Towhee
3-Chipping Sparrow

Apr 21
8-Common Loon
26-Bonaparte's Gull
1-House Wren

Season Banding Total: April 1-21

Season Species Total: April 1-21


Red-tailed Hawk at TTPBRS

Click here for HD version of this video clip (it will take a minute or two to load)
Untitled from Dan Derbyshire (TTPBRS) on Vimeo.

Baillie Birdathon 2008!

Northern Saw-whet Owl at TTP (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS) __________________________________________________________

The TTPBRS Baillie Birdathon in 2007 was a terrific achievement raising over $17,000 for the understanding and protection of birds in Toronto! This annual fundraiser is entering its third consecutive year and its growing success is due to the fabulous contributions of over 20 birdathoners and hundreds of birdathon sponsors. The Baillie Birdathon is vital to the permanent operation of the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station and we hope that you will consider supporting us in 2008!

What's in store for this year?

We are very excited to announce that Bob McDonald, the host of CBC's Quirks and Quarks program, will be our guest birdathoner this year! Bob will be doing his birdathon on May 10 at Tommy Thompson Park in conjunction with our Spring Bird Festival.

Bushnell Outdoor Products and Mountain Equipment Co-op continue to step up in support of birds in Toronto and have donated some fabulous prizes for TTPBRS birdathoners in 2008. The top prize is a pair of Elite binoculars donated by Bushnell! Our registered birdathoners will also receive a one year TTPBRS membership.

The Baillie Birdathon isn't just for expert birders as this fundraiser is all about helping and learning about birds and having fun! We are offering guided walks at Tommy Thompson Park so you can hone your identification skills. Come down to the Spring Bird Festival at Tommy Thompson Park on May 10, 2008!

TTPBRS is open to the public on weekends and holidays from April 1-June 9. We encourage you to invite your friends, family and colleagues to visit TTPBRS this spring to see the work we are doing, up close and personal!

Please consider joining the 2008 Baillie Birdathon in support of Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station!

How Can You Help?

Sign up for your own Birdathon in 2008!

Dan Derbyshire, TTPBRS Coordinator


Sponsor our guest birdathoner Bob McDonald!

You can sponsor Bob online by clicking here
(More information for both sponsors and birdathoners is found in the attached brochures)


Dan Derbyshire
Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station

Toronto and Region Conservation


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS: April 8-14, 2008

Fox Sparrows (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS)

[The photo above compares two subspecies of Fox Sparrow. The bottom two photos show P.i.iliaca, the eastern subspecies of the "Red" Fox Sparrow group while the top two show P.i.zaboria, the central subspecies of the "Red" group. P.i.zaboria breeds from Alaska to Manitoba while P.i.iliaca ranges from Manitoba to Newfoundland. The more westerly subspecies has reduced rufous streaking on the head and underparts, giving a much grayer appearance]

The second week of the spring 2008 season at TTPBRS began with promising south winds and warm temperatures. Despite the favourable conditions, migration was quite sparse with just a sprinkling of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Eastern Phoebes, Brown Creepers, sparrows and kinglets. A large flock of 52 Bohemian Waxwings noisily announced their presence in the tall poplars near the tip of peninsula D on April 8. This was the first record of this northern species for TTPBRS, which was followed by the 2nd record on April 9 and the third on April 10! Migration remained light into the 9th when rain arrived in Toronto around mid-morning. Season firsts of Purple Finch and Eastern Towhee were noted. April 10 was seasonal with moderate north winds. A Mourning Cloak was sighted late morning, which was a highlight of a rather slow day for birding (just 5 birds banded in 6 hours). Steady rain and high winds moved in on the 11th, which succeeded in flooding two of our net lanes, a first since the spring of 2004. Thick fog settled over the area during the morning, which resulted in some excellent waterbird sightings. Red-throated Loon (2), Harlequin Duck and Ruddy Duck (5) were just a few of many waterbird species viewable from the north shore. Also observed during the day were season firsts of Great Egret, Blue-winged Teal, Merlin, Caspian Tern and Swamp Sparrow. On April 13 we welcomed a second group of students from York University who are heading to Costa Rica for a field course. Luckily a Winter Wren happened into a net, which enabled us to offer a live banding demonstration for the group. New for the season on this day were Myrtle Warbler, Northern Goshawk and Barn Swallow. April 14 was eerily quiet as just 9 birds were banded on the day. High diversity and abundance of waterbirds were recorded but very few passerines were evident.

Despite low overall numbers, the birding at TTPBRS has been fantastic with over 100 species having been observed in just two weeks! If you have not yet been down to Tommy Thompson Park, now would be a great time as birds should be arriving in high numbers with the increasing temperatures and south winds. The Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station is open to the public on weekend and holiday mornings when the park is open. A big thanks is due to Seabrooke Leckie for her wonderful photos used in the weekly updates. You can find more of her excellent photography and writing here. Thanks also to TTPBRS friend and all-around bird and bug guru Dave Beadle for confirming the above subspecies identification.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK (banding records in bold)

Apr 8

1-Horned Grebe

13-White-winged Scoter


2-Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

5-Horned Lark

11-Hermit Thrush

7-Cedar Waxwing

52-Bohemian Waxwing (1st record for TTPBRS)

2-Fox Sparrow

6-White-throated Sparrow

Apr 9

4-Winter Wren

1-Eastern Towhee

40-Song Sparrow

1-Purple Finch

Apr 10

2-Great Black-backed Gull

1-Northern Saw-whet Owl

1-American Pipit

23-Bohemian Waxwing

Apr 12

12-Common Loon

2-Red-throated Loon

3-Horned Grebe

1-Great Egret

1-Harlequin Duck

5-Ruddy Duck

65-Red-breasted Merganser


1-Caspian Tern

1-Swamp Sparrow

3-Common Redpoll

Apr 13

1-Northern Goshawk

1-Northern Saw-whet Owl

6-Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

1-Barn Swallow

1-Myrtle Warbler

6-Rusty Blackbird

Apr 14

1-Pied-billed Grebe

Season Banding Total: April 1-14





Season Species Total: April 1-14






Migrants on the move....

April 15, 2008- 930pm

Predictably, migrants are moving tonight with the light southerlies and warm air. The image above was taken from Buffalo NEXRAD. This picture indicates a light but developing movemnt of birds over Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow with the change in weather and a strong nocturnal movement of birds. We always check on what is happening with the doppler radar before leaving for the day's fieldwork. The radar picks up migrating birds (and insects) as well as it picks up storms. Click here for a comprehensive tutorial on the subject of monitoring and researching migrating birds using radar.


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS)

Our 6th season of the Migration Monitoring Program at TTPBRS got underway on April 1! A lot of discussion in the preceding weeks focused on whether or not the study area would be submerged under several inches of ice on opening day. We were pleased to find little or no snow on April 1, along with an impressive tally of 41 species on day one. Wind and rain limited our coverage to the daily census and a scant banding effort. Any thoughts that migration might be delayed in 2008 were quickly dismissed as a strong variety of migrants were noted including good numbers of Eastern Phoebes and Golden-crowned Kinglets as well as singles of Evening Grosbeak, Winter Wren and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Conditions turned cold on April 2, resulting in 15 birds banded in 3 hours of banding effort. Thirteen species were first arrivals for the spring, which included Glaucous Gull, Hermit Thrush and Rusty Blackbird. Overnight sub-zero temperatures on April 3 likely kept northbound migrants at bay as just 5 birds were banded in 4 hours of effort. During the morning our work was documented by the Toronto Star for an article appearing earlier this week. Fieldwork was limited to the daily census on April 4 due to steady showers and wet snow throughout the morning. None of this weather was helping migration as a meagre 4 birds were banded on April 5. Despite the low numbers of birds, new arrivals included Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Meadowlark and Osprey. April 6 was warm with winds from the ENE. Birding was much the same as the previous day although a Sandhill Crane flying low over the tree line was a definite highlight! Winds switched to south overnight which led to 54 birds banded on April 7. Suddenly, the TTPBRS study area was alive with the sights and sounds of spring. Fox Sparrows, Tree Swallows and White-throated Sparrows were welcome additions to the study area.

In sum, it has been an exciting start to a new season of fieldwork at TTPBRS, and it is remarkable to think that 5 years have passed already since this whole initiative began. We owe it all to the tremendous contributions of our dedicated volunteers and supporters and we look forward to another year in the study and protection of birds in Toronto!


Common Redpoll Recovered

A Common Redpoll banded at TTPBRS on November 16, 2007 was recovered at Port Rowan, ON on March 22, 2008. This was the 23rd individual and the 10th species banded at TTPBRS to be recovered elsewhere.

In The Media

TTPBRS was recently featured in the Toronto Star (April 7) and on GlobalTV (April 8) during the first week of fieldwork in 2008!

Some exciting news will be presented in the next issue of FlightNotes, the tri-annual newsletter of the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station. The issue will be distributed by late April. In the meantime, you can follow along with the spring migration at our website.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK (banding records in bold)

April 1
1-Great Blue Heron
4-American Woodcock
1-Northern Saw-whet Owl
1-Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
8-Eastern Phoebe
5-Golden-crowned Kinglet
5-Horned Lark
1-Evening Grosbeak

April 2
3-American Coot
4-Brown Creeper
21-Golden-crowned Kinglet
1-Winter Wren
1-Hermit Thrush
1-Rusty Blackbird
2-Glaucous Gull

April 3
7-Wood Duck
6-Bonaparte's Gull
1-Common Redpoll
1-Lapland Longspur

April 5
1-Turkey Vulture
6-Northern Pintail
1-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
170-Red-winged Blackbird
1-Eastern Meadowlark

April 6
1-Common Loon
80-Common Merganser
1-Cooper's Hawk
5-Bonaparte's Gull
1-Sandhill Crane
1-Field Sparrow

April 7
1-Northern Harrier
5-Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
3-Tree Swallow
55-Golden-crowned Kinglet
1-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1-American Pipit
7-Fox Sparrow
1-White-throated Sparrow
9-Song Sparrow
15-Slate-colored Junco
2-Common Redpoll

Birds Banded: April 1-7

Species Recorded: April 1-7


The 2008 Field Season is Underway!

The Spring Migration Monitoring Program was launched on April 1. The weather has featured a little bit of everything, which has meant reduced net hours for the first few days of the season. The snow and ice have all but melted and we have been pleased to find a good variety of migrants. A full report on the first week will be posted by Wednesday of next week.

Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS

Embayment C is still frozen but large cracks in the ice are beginning to form along the shoreline. This bay will be full of ducks within the next week or two.

Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS

Song Sparrows (Melospiza Melodia) have been the most abundant early spring migrant so far. Smaller numbers of Eastern Phoebe, Rusty Blackbird, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker have also been noted.


Javier Arata learning to hold songbirds for the first time.