Back from the YOW, Part 2

I didn’t think I would have to write three parts, but I will have to!

Aug. 8: Today was our last day at the Tip, and we were all very sad to leave.

There are thousands of gulls at the very tip and Ana thought, as a last tribute, we should run all the way to the Tip and scare all the gulls. It was a plan, and that’s what we did!

On the boat ride back, we stopped at a very large sandbar, about half way between the Tip and Old Cut, with many Ring-billed Gulls, Common Terns, and about a dozen Caspian Terns. There were also a good number of shorebirds — Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Killdeer, one Semipalmated Plover, and one Ruddy Turnstone.

We all made it back to Old Cut in one piece, except one oar which came back in two pieces.

At the very Tip,

Thousands of gulls and terns at the sandbar,

Ruddy Turnstone,

Aug. 9: Today was the first day the YOWs were officially able to band. The first passerine I banded was a Swainson’s Thrush! The birds we caught in the nets today were excellent, and we banded 43 birds of 21 species. The most exciting bird we caught in the mist nets was a Common Grackle because of its size. Birds American Robin-size and bigger do fly into the nets but they are big and strong enough to get out, so it’s very exciting to get a large bird that stayed in the net.

When banding, there are usually two people at work: the bander who bands, takes the measurements, weighs, ages, and sexes the bird; and the scribe, who writes down the species, banding code, band size, measurements, and reminds the bander if s/he has forgotten anything.

Common Grackle,

Banding my second bird, a Blackburnian Warbler,

In late morning, Jody Allair took us to one of his field stations, where he does his species at risk work. Jody led us on an hour-and-a-half walk. He showed us three very special nests that past YOWs had never seen: There were two Louisiana Waterthrush nests, Hooded Warbler, and Acadian Flycatcher nests.

Hooded Warbler nest,

Acadian Flycatcher nest,

Louisiana Waterthrush nests,

While walking through the woods we heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and saw two Broad-winged Hawks. When we got back to the road we walked along it for a while and saw Indigo Buntings, Eastern Towhees, and a young Raccoon. In the afternoon we visited Bird Studies Canada headquarters and saw where Stu, Jody, and Liza work.

Aug. 10: Today was our Big Day! The weather wasn’t the best at the start, but we definitely made the most of the day! Jody was with us all morning and afternoon and drove us around. Without Jody, we probably would have had a very low total. We visited St. William’s Forest, Backus Woods, Townsend Sewage Lagoons, Bird Studies Canada, Long Point Provincial Park, and Big Creek National Wildlife area. We saw so many great birds but the best were Least Bitterns, Hooded Warblers, Great Egrets, White-rumped Sandpipers, and one Stilt Sandpiper! In total we saw 102 species, not the YOW record but we were all really happy with our total!

All the species we saw on our Big Day:

Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wood Duck, Mallard, American Black Duck/Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Wild Turkey, Pied-billed Grebe, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, King Rail, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, American Woodcock, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Forster’s Tern, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Kestrel, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Alder/Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Marsh Wren, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

Least Bittern,

Aug. 11: More banding this morning, but no particularly exciting species. Stu showed those of us who don’t already have them how to set-up eBird accounts, and Katie entered all of the numbers from our Big Day into eBird.

In the afternoon, Mary Gartshore came to teach us how to make study skins. We each had a bird, killed from a window strike or that had been hit by a car to work on. Most of the YOWs had Baltimore Orioles, and I had a Red-winged Blackbird.

Warning, some of the photos below, taken during the skinning bee, are not for the faint-hearted!

Mary showing us how to remove the skull (yes, that is yellow cornmeal, which is used as an absorbent),

The body, and other parts of my bird,

My blackbird on a stick,

Stay tuned for part three! I hope to get it up as soon possible too.

2 thoughts on “Back from the YOW, Part 2

  1. Well done Prairie Birder – getting to have a Big Day is so much fun – I had one when I worked at the ministry of Natural Resources here in Ontario, but you saw way more birds than we did on ours – and your skinning is very impressive. I have a black-billed cuckoo in my freezer that is supposed to go to Toronto to the ROM one day for the same thing… beautiful bird that hit my deck doors way too hard. A hawk was after it I believe.

    You have had such a great experience – looking forward to part 3.

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