Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS: May 20-26, 2008

Northern Parula

A light breeze from the south on May 20 stimulated an impressive movement, which brought several new arrivals and a total of 78 species during that morning. A total of 151 birds of 39 species were banded, the highest single day total of spring 2008. Swainson's Thrush, Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and American Redstart were the most numerous species banded during the morning. Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Wilson's, Blackpoll and Mourning Warblers were all new arrivals for the spring. High winds and cool temperatures arrived the following day, leading to less bird activity in the study area. Many birds from the previous day opted to stopover, as evidenced by the 25 individuals recaptured. The banding of a female Cerulean Warbler and the observation of a Yellow-throated Vireo were both exceptional records as these were both new for the TTPBRS Migration Monitoring Program! More high winds on May 22 forced many migrants to linger in sheltered areas on the Toronto lakeshore as recaptures (31) outnumbered new bandings (30) for the first time this spring. Warblers were well represented during the morning as 19 species were recorded and some high counts were noted such as 24 American Redstart and 28 Magnolia. May 23 was quite interesting as the strong north winds never relented and yet an increase in new migrants with very high fat scores were sampled. This is likely due to the many restless and corpulent migrants dispersing between greenspaces in wait for suitable winds. Swainson's Thrushes and Red-eyed Vireos were more apparent, adding some late spring flavour to the masses of warblers present. A total of 10 Blackburnian Warblers (including 4 males in a net at once!) was a standout amongst the 23 warbler species noted. More "weighty" warblers arrived on May 24 with strong north winds. Cape May Warbler, Myrtle Warbler and Canada Warbler were more abundant this day and the first flock of Whimbrel in 2008 was recorded. Winds shifted to light southerlies for May 25, which resulted in the first significant wave of empidonax flycatchers, Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes and another strong push of warblers. Common Nighthawk, Orchard Oriole and Winter Wren were noteworthy sightings. The final day of the update period was a little less busy but still very productive for surveys and net checks. The composition of migrants had changed sharply overnight as thrushes, flycatchers and Cedar Waxwings took centre stage after a mass scale departure of most warbler species. A record high total of 30 Common Yellowthroats was significant (banded and observed).

The Spring Migration Monitoring Program will operate on a daily basis until June 9, so we have 11 more days left of fieldwork to look forward to. The bulk of thrushes, vireos and flycatchers are still yet to come through and there are always a few surprises in store!

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK (banding totals in bold)

May 20
7-Long-tailed Duck
1-Ruby-throated Hummingbird
3-Eastern Wood-Pewee
1-Great Crested Flycatcher
30-Swainson's Thrush
4-Wood Thrush
8-Red-eyed Vireo
1-Orange-crowned Warbler
2-Northern Parula
39-Magnolia Warbler (58 total detected)
7-Palm Warbler

May 21
1-Peregrine Falcon
2-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
24-American Redstart
1-Cerulean Warbler
1-Yellow-throated Vireo

May 22
55-Chimney Swift
1-Cape May Warbler
1-Cliff Swallow

May 23
1-Hairy Woodpecker
12-Blue Jay
4-Tennessee Warbler
2-Orange-crowned Warbler
4-Cape May Warbler
4-Blackburnian Warbler (10 total detected)
3-Bay-breasted Warbler
11-Northern Waterthrush
6-Wilson's Warbler
10-Rose-breasted Grosbeak

May 24
2-Blue-headed Vireo
14-Chestnut-sided Warbler
7-Cape May Warbler
5-Palm Warbler
2-Blackpoll Warbler
6-Canada Warbler

May 25
1-Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1-Alder Flycatcher
12-Least Flycatcher
1-Winter Wren
1-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
17-Swainson's Thrush
4-Gray-cheeked Thrush
30-Magnolia Warbler
16-Myrtle Warbler
20-American Redstart
13-Wilson's Warbler
1-Orchard Oriole
1-Common Nighthawk

May 26
210-Cedar Waxwing
1-Blue-winged Warbler
3-Mourning Warbler
30-Common Yellowthroat
11-Lincoln's Sparrow

Individuals Banded: April 1-May 26

Species Recorded: April 1-May 26


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS: May 13-19, 2008

Magnolia Warbler (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS)

The period of May 13-19 could be regarded as the "sweet spot" of spring migration as the last few early migrants intermingle with the peak for neotropicals in mid-May. This is one of the most popular weeks for birders at Point Pelee and other famous migrant traps in eastern North America. However, the quality of a May birding day is more dictated by weather systems than the calender and this week at TTPBRS was a good example. Conditions were unusually cool for much of the week with winds dominating from the north. A total of 29 birds were banded on May 13, which included our first Orange-crowned Warbler of the spring. Light southerlies on the 14th produced a small push of migrants from the south as 69 birds were banded during the morning. Just 10 warbler species were noted, of which Magnolia and Myrtle were most numerous. A flyover Solitary Sandpiper and the arrival of Swainson's Thrush were also noteworthy. May 15 was a quieter day with 17 birds banded and 30 species recorded on census. Red-eyed Vireo made its first appearance for the season and another Orchard Oriole was spotted. Spring 2008 has been remarkable for the number of Orchard Orioles observed. One was observed in each of 2006 and 2007 and thus far we have seen six individuals in our study area alone. The arrival of Gray-cheeked Thrush and Green Heron were highlights of the 16th, when just 16 birds were banded in six hours of effort. Warblers were few and far between at this point, and much of the activity in the study area was due to whirling pairs of nesting birds such as Yellow Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, American Robin, Warbling Vireo and Gray Catbird, among others. The Yellow Warblers are particularly abundant, with conservative estimates of around 20-30 pairs! Wind and rain arrived mid-morning on May 17, forcing us to close up early for the day. Monitoring revealed no major changes in the composition and abundance of migrants that morning, although an especially vocal and 'well-dressed' Canada Warbler was well appreciated. The change in weather brought increased numbers of migrants to the site on May 18, with 51 birds banded before nets had to be closed by 10am. Warblers were well represented in the surveys, especially Magnolia (14 banded), along with Least Flycatcher, Veery and Swainson's Thrush. A biting wind blew from the northwest on May 19, which would normally translate to another quiet day; however, migrants were found in high numbers in sheltered areas where midges were abundant. The highlight of the day was a female Summer Tanager observed on census, a first record for TTPBRS!

NEWSLETTER- The spring issue of FlightNotes is still forthcoming and we apologize for the delay, it has been an extremely busy past couple of months!

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK (banding totals in bold)

May 13
1-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1-Orange-crowned Kinglet
2-Western Palm Warbler
2-Indigo Bunting

May 14
1-Solitary Sandpiper
1-Great Crested Flycatcher
6-Swainson's Thrush
1-Wood Thrush
2-American Pipit
1-Scarlet Tanager
15-Rose-breasted Grosbeak
13-Lincoln's Sparrow
40-White-throated Sparrow

May 15
1-Eastern Phoebe
2-Blue-headed Vireo
1-Red-eyed Vireo
2-Indigo Bunting
1-Orchard Oriole

May 16
1-Gray-cheeked Thrush
2-Western Palm Warbler

May 17
8-Least Flycatcher
1-Wood Thrush
1-Canada Warbler
6-Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1-Orchard Oriole

May 18
3-Swainson's Thrush
14-Magnolia Warbler (25 Daily Total)
2-Bay-breasted Warbler
8-Northern Waterthrush
14-Baltimore Oriole

May 19
30-Yellow Warbler
1-Summer Tanager (1st for TTPBRS)

Individuals Banded: April 1-May 19

Species Recorded: April 1-May 19

Cerulean Warbler

This female Cerulean Warbler was banded this morning at TTPBRS. This is the first record of the species for TTPBRS and to my knowledge the first observed at Tommy Thompson Park/Leslie Street Spit in at least 5 years. The Cerulean Warbler is considered the fastest declining warbler on the continent. Forest loss and fragmentation are key concerns for the future of the species and it is remarkable that they are still not listed as threatened in the endangered species act. The second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas documented significant declines of Cerulean Warblers in Ontario since the early 1980's.


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS: May 6-12, 2008

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS)

May 6-12, 2008, was a week with relatively few birds compared to previous spring seasons at TTPBRS. North winds were dominant during the period, which must have stalled north bound migrants. However, even a quiet week at TTPBRS is filled with discovery and wonder as some old friends returned, over 350 visitors were welcomed, and some new records were established!

May 6 was the most active day of the week as 77 birds were banded and 72 species recorded in the six hour count period. An impressive 40 Palm Warblers were noted, their buzzy trills seeming to echo from all directions throughout the morning. Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrow, Palm and Myrtle Warblers were the most abundant species captured. Great Crested Flycatcher, newly arrived, and 10 warbler species were documented. Light south winds on May 7 pushed some migrants in from the south as another 74 birds were banded and just 6 recaptured. Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush and Eastern Kingbird were spotted for the first time in 2008. A group of 103 curious and eager students from The Bishop Strachan School were welcomed late morning. North winds returned to hold the birds up again on May 8. Just 28 birds were banded during an abbreviated morning of coverage due to high winds. A Northern Parula was banded, and another tally of 40 Palm Warblers were notable. A cool and windy May 9 was even quieter with just 14 birds banded and 7 recaptured during the 2.5 hours of coverage. A Brown-headed Cowbird was observed attacking and eventually drowning a rival male cowbird to death in the north slough of the study area. This was a fascinating, if somewhat morbid, event to behold and should be documented for the official record. May 10 was the Tommy Thompson Park Spring Bird Festival, which ran from 7am-4pm. The day-long event was very well attended and the birds did not disappoint. Thanks to all the volunteers, University of Guelph Wild Bird Clinic and the Fatal Light Awareness Program for their support! A record-setting estimate of 5-7 Orchard Orioles on the spit was the highlight of the day. Those pesky winds from the north forced an early closure once again on May 11. As expected, the weather kept things quiet as just 25 birds were banded. Twelve Least Flycatchers, a singing Tennessee Warbler and 10 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were noteworthy.



We are pleased to report that a good number of returning breeders were found this past week, which included a couple of Yellow Warblers and a Brown Thrasher originally banded in spring 2003!


The spring issue of FlightNotes, newsletter of the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station, will be coming to you very soon. A spring and summer slate of members' events are included in the issue.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK (banding totals in bold)

May 6
90-Bonaparte's Gull
2-Least Flycatcher
9-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1-Great Crested Flycatcher
4-Magnolia Warbler
85-Myrtle Warbler
40-Palm Warbler
2-Savannah Sparrow
130-White-throated Sparrow

May 7
3-Least Flycatcher
1-Eastern Kingbird
61-Blue Jay
1-Wood Thrush
10-American Pipit
2-Northern Parula
1-Scarlet Tanager
8-Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1-Rusty Blackbird

May 8
1-Northern Parula
40-Palm Warbler
1-Lincoln's Sparrow

May 9
7-Common Loon
2-Chimney Swift
1-Northern Waterthrush
1-Orchard Oriole

May 10
2-Orchard Oriole

May 11
1-Blackburnian Warbler
8-Rose-breasted Grosbeak
8-Baltimore Oriole

May 12
1-Lesser Yellowlegs
12-Least Flycatcher
1-Wood Thrush
1-Tennessee Warbler
10-Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Season Banding Total

Season Species Total


Brown Thrasher

A Brown Thrasher bounded into one of our nets this morning. This in and of itself wouldn't be unusual except that this particular bird is at least 7 years old - well shy of the 12 years, 10 months longevity record for the species, but still a significant record.

We noticed that the band was quite worn and thin but still quite readable. I took this top view photo of the old band with a new band right beside it. The aluminum has worn to almost half of its original thickness. It turns out that this bird was originally banded on May 26, 2003 as a male weighing 70.2g. The bird was encountered again on May 15, 2005 and not detected again until today when it weighed 70.2g!


Migration Monitoring at TTPBRS: April 28-May 5, 2008

Whip-poor-will (Seabrooke Leckie/TTPBRS)

The fourth update of the spring season has always featured lots of new arrivals and impressive movements of White-throated Sparrows. This week was no exception as weather brought both on May 3rd! April 29 was cool with north winds. Expectedly, the birding was a little slow as 29 birds were banded and 29 species recorded on the daily census. Least Flycatcher and Common Yellowthroat were new arrivals that morning. April 30 was even quieter, which was made up for by the capture and banding of an immature Red-tailed Hawk, the second capture of the species since 2003! The turn of the month brought a few familiar bird species to the station including Savannah and White-crowned Sparrow. A total of 12 birds were banded that morning indicating that migrants were few and far between. A change in the weather on May 2 brought substantial rain to the Toronto lakeshore, further raising the water levels in the study area. A rather quiet male Nashville Warbler was observed during a wet census. Overnight showers and early morning fog struck again in early May at TTPBRS, bringing 15 new arrivals and a remarkable volume of migrants on May 3. A total of 123 birds were banded and 14 warbler species recorded during a busy morning. Whip-poor-will, Brewster's Warbler and Grasshopper Sparrow were just a few of the many highlights. A remarkable 55 Palm Warblers were tallied, which is atypically high for the species at TTPBRS. Higher winds on May 4 limited the bird activity to some extent, however a respectable 58 birds were banded during the morning, which featured 5 more new arrivals. Right on schedule, Yellow-rumped Warbler and White-throated Sparrow were easily the most numerous species during the week. So, after a slow start the season has picked up, with the neotropical migrants appearing in moderate to high numbers.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK (banding totals in bold)

Apr 29
3-Blue Jay
1-Red-breasted Nuthatch
32-White-throated Sparrow

Apr 30
1-Red-tailed Hawk
1-Dark-eyed Junco
1-Forster's Tern

May 1
1-Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1-Yellow Warbler
1-Savannah Sparrow
1-White-crowned Sparrow

May 2
5-Wood Duck
8-Bonaparte's Gull
1-Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1-Nashville Warbler
45-White-throated Sparrow
6-Rusty Blackbird

May 3
3-House Wren
28-Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1-Gray Catbird
1-Blue-headed Vireo
3-Northern Parula
7-Yellow Warbler
1-Chestnut-sided Warbler
1-Brewster's Warbler
1-Magnolia Warbler
5-Black-throated Blue Warbler
95-Myrtle Warbler
7-Black-throated Green Warbler
5-Blackburnian Warbler
55-Palm Warbler
1-American Redstart
28-Chipping Sparrow
1-Grasshopper Sparrow
140-White-throated Sparrow
12-Rusty Blackbird (2 banded)

May 4
1-Black-bellied Plover
1-Chimney Swift
2-Least Flycatcher
2-Warbling Vireo

May 5
6-American Pipit
1-Rose-breasted Grosbeak
2-Baltimore Oriole

Season Banding Total

Season Species Total

Dan Derbyshire
Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station
Toronto & Region Conservation


Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird?
Published: March 30, 2008

Migratory songbirds are suffering mysterious population declines, and pesticides may well be to blame.

Click here for the full article in the New York Times.

Sights and Sounds at TTPBRS

Untitled from Dan Derbyshire (TTPBRS) on Vimeo.