Spring Migration Monitoring: April 30

Yellow-breasted Chat by Brett Tryon

Finally it is feeling like spring! Today was the first day for weeks that we didn't have to contend with rain, snow, fog or wind. It was calm, sunny and bustling with birds. The first Purple Martins of the season were seen, and the breeding birds were busily defending territories and competing for mates. It was as if the Red-Wing Blackbird championship was underway, the males taking turns battling it out in mid-air, their feet locking and causing them to fall in a flapping fury to the ground.

We had a steady stream of birds, the majority of them Yellow-rumped Warblers. There were some Western Palm Warblers as well, and the first Yellow Warbler of the season. I tend to forget how incredibly brilliant they are, until I have that first spring male in the hand. One of the volunteers aplty called him a little drop of sunshine.

Yellow Warbler by Brett Tryon

The most exciting capture of the day however, was a Yellow-breasted Chat. It was only our second time banding a chat, the first record in 2007. Someone reported seeing one at the base of the spit in the "wet woods" yesterday, so it was amazing that it made it up to peninsula D and ended up in one of our nets. We likely would not have seen it otherwise, since they are such secretive birds and we were too busy with banding to go bird the study area. This highlights one of the values of banding, as it can often reveal species which are otherwise not observed.


Spring Migration Monitoring: April 12 - 19

Ruby-crowned Kinglet by Brett Tryon

The cold, wet, windy weather has continued to keep the migrants in waiting - and us as well! Between the lack of bird activity and net closures due to weather, we only managed to band 70 birds all week.

The cold, wet, windy weather has not only stalled migration but nesting as well. Usually by this time the Red-winged Blackbird nests are well underway, but by the 19th the females were just starting to arrive.

The first butterflies made an appearance on April 14, with some Mourning Cloaks and Spring Azures flitting around. It felt like spring MUST be here, but the cold and rain has since driven them away.

Although it has been slow, there are always discoveries to be made. On We recaptured a Brown Thrasher that was originally banded in April 2007 as a after hatch-year, making it over 5 years old! Because the males and females of this species are identical, normally we cannot determine their sex. When it was recaptured in 2009 however, it had a brood patch - a bare belly which birds develop during the breeding season in order to transfer heat onto eggs. In Brown Thrashers (and most bird species) only females incubate the eggs, therefore the presence of a brood patch signifies a female. Since she was recaptured in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011, it is likely that she will be busy building a nest here some time soon!

Brown Thrasher by Brett Tryon

The Caspian Terns were the first terns to show up, with the Common Terns arriving on On April 15. On April 19 volunteer Ian Sturdee was doing census when he saw 2 terns flying high, and although they were too far to see distinguising details, he instantly recognized their calls and was able to identify them as Forster's Terns. There is a brief window in the spring when Forster's Terns might be seen migrating through Toronto, the earliest record at TTPBRS being April 18 and the latest on May 7. This is a great example of how valuable birding by ear can be.
On April 18 a beautiful male Purple Finch was singing over the station. We do see Purple Finches from time to time, however a singing male is a rare sight here.

Season Species: 85

New Species: Forster's Tern, Purple Finch, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Common Tern, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Swamp Sparrow, Bonaparte's Gull, Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Spring Migration Monitoring: April 9-11

Hermit Thrush by Brett Tryon

Lots of birds showed up over the last couple of days. Saturday was gorgeous, then Sunday and Monday brought rain and wind that forced us to shut down nets early. We did manage to get some banding in though, and the totals have been steadily increasing each day.

April 9

Birds Banded

Eastern Phoebe: 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 2
Hermit Thrush: 1
American Tree Sparrow: 1
Song Sparrow: 4


Eastern Phoebe: 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 2

Song Sparrow by Brett Tryon

April 10

Birds Banded

Downy Woodpecker: 1
Eastern Phoebe: 1
Brown Creeper: 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 13
American Robin: 1
American Tree Sparrow: 4
Fox Sparrow: 1
Song Sparrow: 2
Dark-eyed Junco: 3


Black-capped Chickadee: 1

New Species:

Chipping Sparrow
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Field Sparrow by Brett Tryon

April 11

Birds Banded

Eastern Phoebe: 2
Brown Creeper: 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 11
Hermit Thrush: 2
American Robin: 1
American Tree Sparrow: 2
Field Sparrow: 2
Fox Sparrow: 2
Song Sparrow: 7
Dark-eyed Junco: 13

New Species

Field Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Great Egret
Myrtle Warbler
Northern Shoveler
Blue-winged Teal


Spring Migration Monitoring: April 6 & 7

Golden-crowned Kinglet by Brett Tryon

April 6

Thankfully the weather forecast was wrong on Wednesday (no big surprise) and instead of strong winds and rain, we had a nice morning with some new migrants on our doorstep. Several new species were recorded:

Caspian Tern
Belted Kingfisher
Hermit Thrush
Pied-billed Grebe
Northern Cardinal
Lesser Scaup

Our banding total was our highest to date, with 18 birds banded:

Eastern Phoebe: 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 8
American Robin: 2
American Tree Sparrow: 4
Song Sparrow: 2
Dark-eyed Junco: 1


Black-capped Chickadee: 1
Song Sparrow: 1

April 7

Thursday was very foggy and although you would expect more birds to fly in the nets because of reduced visibility, we had a very slow day. It wasn't even possible to look at ducks on the lake until later in the morning when the fog cleared.

The highlight of the day was when I was taking a Song Sparrow out of the net. It was chipping noisily and suddenly some curious birds showed up. Something scurried past me along the ground, and by the way it was moving it seemed more like a rodent than a bird. Then it hopped up on a branch and I realized that it was another Song Sparrow, puffed up and doing a broken wing display! It was clearly trying to convince me that it was an easy meal in order to lure me away from its friend. This is something that we know parent birds do to defend their offspring, but not something you would expect from a bird that is not even nesting yet.

Birds Banded:

Brown Creeper: 1
American Robin: 2
Song Sparrow: 1

Birds Recaptured:

Golden-crowned Kinglet: 1
Black-capped Chickadee: 1


Spring Migration Monitoring: April 5

Eastern Phoebe by Brett Tryon

The ice has finally melted and the migrants are starting to arrive. With the arrival of our Golden-crowned Kinglets, it is starting to feel like spring!

Although banding was called off on Monday due to the rain and thunderstorms, volunteer Don Johnston was able to do the census. The rain miraculously stopped just as it was time to begin, and started up again soon after he was done! He noted 2 new species for the season: Eastern Phoebe and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Despite the bitter wind, today was productive. When we arrived this morning there were at least 4 American Woodcocks in the study area, which we could pinpoint by listening to their frog-like “peent” calls. It was too dark to see them at first, but by the time we started opening nets I was able to spot one up in the air doing its display, zig-zagging across the sky until finally fluttering back down to the ground like a falling leaf. One woodcock almost landed on a volunteer’s head!

There are still lots of ducks to observe, including Redhead, American Widgeon, White-winged Scoter, Common and Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup and Long-tailed Duck and Gadwall.

The census yielded 25 species, amazing considering the howling wind seriously hinders one’s ability to hear birds. We had several new arrivals today:

Tree Swallow

Black-crowned Night Heron

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Peregrine Falcon

Coopers Hawk

Winter Wren

We had to shut most of the nets by the second net check because the wind was too strong, but were able to keep a few open for the whole day. We did end up banding 2 Eastern Phoebes and 1 Song Sparrow, all second-year birds. The volunteers had a chance to learn how to see the difference between adult and juvenal feathers, an important characteristic to use in ageing birds.

Spring Migration Monitoring: April 3

Sunday was another gorgeous day, and it was great to see so many people out at the park enjoying nature. We had a few new species including Brown Creeper, Eastern Meadowlark, Canvasback, Glaucous Gull and Greater Yellowlegs. There were 2 Iceland Gulls still hanging around on the ice as well.

Birds banded:

Song Sparrow

Brown Creeper

American Robin


American Robin

Black-capped Chickadee

After banding was over we took a stroll over to Cell 1 to see if the King Eider was still there. It was quite close and with the scope we had excellent looks. It really is a beautiul bird. We also took a peak at the Long-eared Owls, and were able to make out the different generations of flight feathers by the different patterns of barring.

Hopefully when the weather turns, we will have another wave of migrants!


Spring Migration Monitoring Has Begun!

It is wonderful to be back at TTPBRS taking in the sunshine and fresh air. The Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows are singing and battling over territories, and the European Starlings and Mute Swans have already begun nesting.

The last of the snow was still melting as we set up the station on Thursday. When we were done getting the nets up, we headed over to Cell 1 to see the King Eider which has been hanging around. We also managed to spot 2 Long-eared Owls from afar, perched low in some willows.

Spring Migration Monitoring kicked off on Friday, and we got off to a record slow start. We didn't catch a single bird all day! There were very few passerines to be found, not a kinglet in sight. The census yeilded 191 individuals of 20 species, the majority being ducks. The highlight was 2 Iceland Gulls sitting out on the ice.

The following species were recorded on April 1:

Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
American Wigeon
Greater Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
White-winged Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Trumpeter Swan
Iceland Gull

The pace picked up a little on Saturday as temperatures warmed. We captured 5 Black-capped Chickadees - 3 new and one which was already banded during a previous season. There were several early arrivals including Osprey, Turkey Vulture and 3 Sandhill Cranes which circled over the station a few times. Other new species were Northern Flicker, Brown-headed Cowbird, Rusty Blackbird and Wood Duck.

Sandhill Cranes taken by Juan Zuloaga

With such a long winter it is no surprise that migration seems delayed for our songbirds. Now that spring is here, we should expect a new wave any day now!