Hillman Marsh, Leamington ,Ontario Bird Banding
Rob Cornies has been actively involved with banding at Hillman Marsh this Spring with HBMO. The following is a report from there for May 19 provided by Todd Pepper. If you have a chance, get out your Bird ID book and look up some of these specimens. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see what they have banded. One of the things you will notice is that many of these specimens are often not seen due to their allusive behaviour. They are little net treasures which banders often encounter in the Spring and Fall. Better yet take a drive out there and see what is going on.
An Unforgettable Visit to Tommy Thompson Park May 18, 2013
Located on the Toronto Waterfront, Tommy Thompson Park is Toronto’s largest green space and provides critical stopover habitat for migrating birds. There have been 314 native species, plus 10 introduced, recorded to date at the park! Where is TTP? Tommy Thompson Park is located at 1 Leslie Street, Toronto (at the foot of Leslie St, south of Lake Shore Blvd E).
After giving you a brief description of the park and its whereabouts I do have to describe this Saturday morning visit to the park. I left Mississauga at 8 a.m. allowing for enough time to find and get to the other side of Toronto to Leslie Street. By 8:30 a.m. we were already through Timmy’s, had a coffee and within minutes we were parked and on our journey. As we walked toward the entrance, I noticed two purple martin houses in a community garden: one a Trio Musselman model and the second a wooden 12 compartment house. There were no martins present.
Our brief Google on the Internet indicated that no vehicles were allowed into the park except bicycles so not having brought one really told us that we would be walking for a while. A round trip walk is 2.5 hours one way to the end of the park and another 2.5 hours out. My wife and I decided that we would try to make it to the banding station in the park since that seemed to be where all the action would be. Off we went hoping for the best with overcast, cloudy conditions, and blustery winds out of the east off of Lake Ontario. Once we got going we knew that the extra stuff we were carrying only weighed us down but that didn’t deter us. I scanned the sky and to my amazement there were dozens of swifts, barn swallows, tree swallows and bank swallows darting about in the prevailing wind snatching whatever morsels that could be found. To my dismay there were no purple martins among them. Who knew that this was just the beginning of a wonderful birding experience.
As I manoeuvered to snap a photo or two I was struck by the trails to either side of me dotted with tree swallow boxes, courting red wing blackbirds and stream after stream of double crested cormorants in the overhead sky. Little did I know that this area was home to over 6000 cormorant nests. My wife couldn’t believe that there could be so many cormorants in eye shot of Toronto skyscrapers.
As we hastened our pace to cover the distance, we were passed by cyclists, runners and a sundry of other folk returning after their morning ritual of exercise and fresh air. Ring billed gulls called out as we moved on to our destination. As we headed down the road to the banding lab, warblers, oven –the birds, orioles and tanagers crossed our road ahead. We couldn’t believe that this was the big week as fellow birders call it.
As we approached what we thought was the banding station turned out to be a boat rental station since it did have that look that lived in banding lab look I am accustomed to , weather beaten, worn and well used. We turned our gaze to an armoured building and wondered whether this was the place. After you look at the photo, you’ll understand my obvious surprise.
When we entered through a speckled windowed door, we saw several volunteers doing what they do best-band birds. Scattered across the counter were various prepared study skins of various bird species and specimen boxes as well. Barb and I were thrilled to see little treasure bags opened to reveal a bird of different colours. The volunteers quickly, measured , weighed, banded and identified each of these treasures and passed them on to a young red-headed girl, with a wonderful smile who quickly manoeuvered them into a bander’s grip. She appeared to be 12-13 years old but we didn’t ask. She brought the specimen over to show Barb and quickly indicated that it was a Magnolia Warbler.
I made myself known and identified ourselves and we were quickly introduced to the Master Bander , Nigel Cowan who went on to describe the days net catch and the total birds banded 1700. After spending a half hour or so with the group, we thanked them for their hospitality and departed on the same route that we entered, realizing that we would have to return another day.
As we travelled back up the route, we were intrigued by an oriole in the tree and a scarlet tanager who stood still long enough for Barb to use binoculars to get a close up view. We stopped at various lookout points to view the various birds. One of our stops included a Common tern nesting raft with 50-60 pair of birds on eggs. The male terns were busily engaged in bringing fish to their mates. The raft had inverted v shaped nesting boxes and circular drainage pipe for the young hatchlings. The eggs were laid directly on pebbled beach stone. Across the bay, we noticed swans, canvasback ducks and scaups floating in the calm water. The red wing males chased each other in the foreground as they defended their cattail reeds.
Moving on from the viewing peer, we were greeted by a Canada goose family and their 6 goslings. As I hurried to take a photo, I couldn’t overlook the sitting blue barred homing pigeon. When he stood up , his left leg turned up a blue rubber band, evidently the east wind had blown him off track and he was resting up before going on to his next way point.
The wind picked up so we decided to press on to finish our morning visit. Several more hundreds of cormorants flew overhead and killdeers and ring billed gulls could be heard all around us. From a distance we could see a group of fifty or so camera junkies surrounding a tree trying to catch that special bird photo as the group leader pointed up. We passed them as did the cylists and we made our way to the parking lot.
It was high noon so we decided to end the day with a picnic at Ashley park just a kilometer up the road. If you ever have a chance to visit Tommy Thomson Park, do so.
If weather permits we will make plans to visit the rest of the peers in this special gem of a park in the near future.
May 16-Heavy wind gusts today….lower the houses and secure the poles!
I posted a number of references for bird migration as we are seeing a lot of movement on all radar fronts. HBMO bird banders at Hillman Marsh indicated that they have banded over 1000 songbirds this season and yesterday’s results were outstanding. There is direct co- relation to the nocturnal migration and the daily banding results as most of the birds forage during the day before leaving on their evening migration.
The University of Houston Purple Martin webcam continues to give a sneak preview of what’s happening in the lives of this purple martin pair. Follow the life cycle of these birds and you’ll be astonished as to what may happen next.
If you are into social networking and like purple martins too, try the PMCA Facebook page. You’ll have to subscribe but it is free. There are lots of topics discussed and photos galore.
Last night was a wonderful night to view migration in full swing as the winds came out of the south. The radar image at http://tempest.aos.wisc.edu/radar/uscompjs.html was a wonderful display of this event. Adjust the time, or speed as you need and witness the migrants move north. Further information from the Detroit radar is also available: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/54200206/20130515/MI-KDTX-bv-20130515
This should be a great day for martin migration.
Winds will have turned southerly by Tuesday morning meaning diurnal migrants will be arriving throughout the day. This will continue overnight onto Wednesday so there should be an influx of new martins heading north to our region. Yesterday saw some subadults arrive at colonies so this trend should continue as the southerly winds increase. Hopefully, the martins will enjoy the warmer temps and increased feeding opportunities as insects return.
The temperatures on Mother’s Day will certainly be unfavourable for martins due to a cold front which continues to dominate the Great Lakes. Ontario temperatures will hover in the freeze zone so landlords are advised to monitor their martins closely as the temperatures dip near zero degrees Celsius Sunday overnight on to Monday. Brief episodes of sleet, rain and snow are expected throughout the region. Please refer to previous posts on emergency feeding.
Migration was pretty much non-existent in Ontario on Sunday overnight once again as forecasted due to the strong winds out of the North/North-west. Weather conditions will slowly improve over the next couple of days but the cold will cause martins to huddle in single compartments to stay warm. Check door entrances to ensure that they are not blocked due to wing entrapments or dead martins. Get those meal worms, crickets, eggs out and consider supplemental feeding. By this afternoon, martins may consider this alternative food source.
After our meeting on Saturday at Al’s, it is apparent that martin numbers are down as much as 50%, so it is important to preserve or save those martins at your colony that have arrived. This May has been one of those exceptional weather phenomenon that can wipe out entire colonies if extra steps are not taken to monitor them. Lower your housing if needed to check their status. If the martins fly out, they may be coaxed into feeding. If they remain inside and do not leave, they are stressed and may require rehabilitation.
More Cold Martins in Wheatley
Have a look how these martins at Carol Taves site are trying to stay out of the prevailing wind and huddling on their respective porches. Tonight will be a cold one! Thank you Carol for sharing these unusual Spring photographs.
Cold Martins at Harrow, Ontario
Some of the martins we saw at our Saturday meeting under inclement weather conditions.
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Today’s Migration- May 9
There’s plenty of regional updates on the satellite migration update link so if you’re interested in what’s going on in your area, try them out. I have yet to find a similar migration map for Ontario but have included an Ontario weather satellite map . If anyone does find a migration one, please let me know. There have been no Ontario reports on the PMCA forum since April 29. Sub Adults have been reported in Ohio!
Migration is still heaviest in the southern part of the U.S. suggesting that the Upper Midwest will have a big influx of Neotropical Migrants! Wind directions are changing from day to day so continue to monitor your Ontario area for these wind flows. The Ontario wind flow is really not favorable for an influx of martins but who’s to know what they are thinking.
Wind direction maps indicate that during Wednesday night, winds will be quite variable but they’ll probably be from the south for at least part of the night, favoring the arrival of many more martins on Thursday. During Thursday, according to current forecasts, winds will swing to the west and back to the south, with a good southerly flow Thursday night, so on Friday the 10th one should see a major arrival of birds. It’s likely to rain Thursday onto Friday also, but in between showers martin migration should be excellent.
We have some Good News to report to all of our martin friends. Alex S. and Mary Anne A. have reported that they finally have martins at their colony sites. They are sooo…excited. We hope that these martins will be a new beginning for these new martin landlords.
Lyle’s Winch Extender
Lyle has been busy converting his three gourd racks to a safe raising and lowering device which prevents the gourd rack and gourds from hitting your head when you want to access the rack. Lyle says that this type of system can be adapted to any type of housing system if you are looking for a safe alternative. It really saves on bending and stooping to get out of the way of the rack. The pictures below show more about his new addition. Thank you Lyle for sharing your idea. I’m sure other landlords will consider your suggestions.
A Visit to Queen Elizabeth School, Leamington-Mary Wilson
The Next Purple Martin Meeting
9:00 a.m. ……May 11, 2013
Al and Anne Hamill’s house, 2643 County Rd. 20, Harrow, On, N0R1G0
Come out and see Al’s new colony site additions !
Starling Resistant Entance Breaches
One of our members reported earlier that they were having difficulties with starlings breaching the entrance hole on their T14 housing units. The manufacturer of the entrance plate commented that he/she was on their own to solve the problem and that they were not 100% starling proof. This problem has been discussed at length on other purple martin forums and it seems that the best solution is to try to adjust the entrance plate as a first measure to determine whether the starling with its long legs can still enter.
I’ve always maintained that a smaller starling can enter any SRE if the entrance is not properly installed. The SRE plate must be installed flush to the floor or 1/8-1/4 inch above.
It seems 1/2 inch or more above the floor allows the starling enough stretch space to push himself in. See how this crescent SRE has been placed too high on this entrance plate.
If ever you’ve had this dilemna and the starling has already started a nest, that starling will do whatever it takes to enter the hole including twisting and sliding to further the cause. If they continue to enter, consider an alternative entrance like the crescent invented by Canadian born Charles McKewan.
Consider this next story as a precaution to manufactured doors and plates. When you buy from a manufacturer you would hope that the quality has been assured but it is not always the case. Last week, one of our members installed a brand new crescent door on his housing unit and a starling entered from the outside. He was flabbergasted because these doors don’t come cheap. Once it got in, he noticed that the starling could not get out. Why? He had installed a sub-floor lowering the entrance the extra 1/4 inch or so on the inside and this prevented the starling from escaping. Too bad for the starling?
The height of the entrance above the floor is very critical so don’t install an entrance plate until you measure or cut the plate to fit the door entrance. Use a set of calipers or other measuring device to ensure that the height of the hole is 1 3/16 inches. Anything larger will allow the starling to enter freely and anything smaller will prevent your martins from entering. Sometimes purple martins cannot enter these entrances but given time, they will learn how to configure their body to enter. I’ve mentioned to potential landlords who have this problem to adjust this hole to the particular martin.
I believe Dr. Dellinger conducted a study on this hole a few year’s back and indicated that it would not prevent starlings from entering even though they are 1 3/16 inches high. He also discovered that oval holes have more area than do the crescents; they can gain additional clearance by turning their bodies and compressing their muscles/rib cages by as much as 1/4-1/2 inch; and they can propel themselves into these holes if they have a porch floor. So if starlings enter, you now know why.
There are ways to adjust the crescent by allowing the top portion to guillotine. The theory surrounds the shape of the hole which can be moved up and down to allow for the martin to enter when it has difficulty.
The two images from Amish Gourds show how the crescent plate has been opened to allow a larger martin enter. This is a great idea if you already have crescent entrances and want to modify them.
Ron Seekamp came up with a very good idea using two screws and wing nuts, and a modified crescent plate for a Trio door which can be adjusted for the size of the martin. The hole on the Trio has been cut to the proper crescent size and adjusted so the top height of the crescent hole can be made taller by adjusting the two screws on either size of the plate.
Now if the theory is sound then any SREH can be adjusted accordingly.
Migration Forecast Provided Courtesy of Nemesis …Check it out!
Regional Overview from the Nemesis Bird Migration Site
Inland locations that have been plagued with several days of limited migration should have gotten a very nice influx of birds last night. Central Pennsylvania finally got some birds showing up on the radar but it still looks like we are going to be waiting another day for a huge night of migration. The Ohio Valley exhibited the strongest migration and once again, Magee Marsh should be bubbling with migrants. The days of double digit warblers are here and some people will soon be racking up 20+ totals!
Looking across the country, there is a very interesting storm heading our way. We may see very heavy migration before it reaches us with a sharp cutoff where fallout could occur, depending on what time it moves through. That system is already bringing crazy overshoots to Pt Pelee where birders have found Painted Bunting, Dickcissel, Henslow’s Sparrow and Kentucky Warbler in the last few days.
Northern Dipper Gourd Farm May 3, 2013
This morning I decided to take an hour drive up to Cookstown, Ontario and pay a visit to two entrepeneurs who run Northern Dipper Gourds on County Road 56. The day was filled with many sights and sounds of the country side: numerous songbirds, neo-tropicals and wonderful cherry trees in bloom. Along the way, I passed Vaughn and could see the farmers already out in the Holland Marsh working the field. I stopped briefly in Cookstown for some directions and found the locals very quaint and friendly.
As I arrived at the farm I could see the friendly tree swallows darting about as two friendly ladies approached me: Linda Bond and Carolyn Cooper. They quickly introduced themselves and Carolyn led me to the treasure chest of gourds. Thousands of gourds of all sizes and shapes were heaped up in a large shed-like structure-a testament to their statement that they are the largest gourd suppliers in Canada.
After spending a good amount of time discussing the gourds as well as their suitability to martin housing, I chose two prizes to bring home for another project for the martins. I wanted to thank both of them and in particular Carolyn for her sharing her stories and for her generosity. I strongly encourage you to visit their website Northern Dipper Gourds and see what they offer.
At Northern Dipper, you can find high quality gourds, gourd seeds, gourd supplies and gifts at affordable prices right here in Canada. Say goodbye to high shipping and handling costs, hassles at the border and post office fees. Northern Dipper is Canada’s largest gourd supplier of both dried hard-shell gourds and the smaller versatile dried ornamental gourd.
Their mission is simple: to bring Canadian artists, crafters, musicians and retailers gourds, seeds, supplies… and inspiration.
Purple Martin Migration Update, May 3, 2013 According to the wind direction map, it appears that winds will be generally from the southeast over the next few days, with slightly cooler temperatures after Friday and an increasing chance of rain on Sunday and Monday. More arrivals of migrants in the area should continue through next Monday, and then winds will shift to the north-northeast may slowing things down . Still, there will be enough purple martin migrants moving into the area to increase colony sizes.
Purple Martin Educational Programs
The Purple Martin, the largest of the North American swallows, is a popular tenant of backyard birdhouses in the immediate area and in many parts of North America . This species has typically nested almost exclusively in nest boxes for more than 100 years. They provide enjoyment to backyard hosts, and are beneficial as aerial insectivores. Elementary schools, high schools and senior homes could benefit from learning about the purple martin .
The OPMA is offering an educational program to residents who would like to learn how to attract, maintain and enjoy the company of the Purple Martin. If you are interested or you know an institution which would be, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. We would like to “Keep the Martin Flying in Ontario” so don’t let this opportunity go to waste.
Migration of Sub-adults is Underway May 1-7
Word has it that the winds will be favorable out of the south for a major influx of martins this week. This large influx of martins will contain the beginning of a large influx of sub-adults from the Gulf Coast according to the Migration Map.
I spoke with Lyle Papps from Charring Cross and he indicated that there were many more martins at his location. ASY males were in full courting and defensive mode with a lot of fighting going on. One of his male martins was pinned in the door and received the wrath of another male inside the gourd. Severe pecking of his head occurred but Lyle was able to assist this martin so that it could rejoin its colony. Lyle is also working on a new winch system for his colony which I will detail when I receive further photographs. This will prevent landlord head injuries when lowering the housing units.
Dale Huber from Tavistock, Ontario sent us this photo of his T-14 setup equipped with gourds and a special speaker to coax the first martins of the season. Dale has followed all the requirements for hosting a martin colony. He has several tree swallow boxes occupied already and can’t believe how tolerant they are of each other at such close quarters. He has a movie of his tree swallows below.
Holiday Beach Public Site News
At 3pm today, April 28, a large group of martins surrounded the housing rather drenched after the days’ rainfall. Whether this is a migrating group or just the current sites’ members is difficult to ascertain although there are a few in view of their entrance holes. I thank Claude Radley for this incredible photograph.
Move over, it’s very crowded on this perch!
Must be Canadian Purple Martins coming to Ontario!
Click on photo.
April 21,2013 Emergency Light-heat Source
Carol Taves, one of our members shared two photos of her martins on inclement weather days. One of the photos shows their installation of an emergency heat source: a red, brooding light installed on her Trio castle. Great idea, Carol!
April 18th, 2013-9:00 a.m.-Favorable Winds
I was just looking at the wind direction map and it seems that the winds are right out of the south at the present moment and very favorable for martins to head to Ontario. The storms that blew through last evening out of the west should be heading east before the next new weather front comes through. I spoke to one landlord last night who said that he had hurried to lower all his houses last evening to half mast because of the storms that were about to come through. (Check the latest satellite link about the current weather fronts approaching from Weather Underground.) He was right because the winds were very strong and the gourds took a bit of a beating. The conversation that I had brings up three quick reminders:
- Remember to lower your housing during severe weather so your poles don’t suffer the consequences;
- Make sure that your gourds are very secure and do not swing out of control hitting the pole or other gourds.
- Be sure to check your housing after the storm to ensure that nest trays do not block entrances thus preventing the martins from exiting.
Getting out of the Purple Martin Hobby…..What do you do now?……. Some tips for dealing with a sad situation
Purple Martin Spring Reports
Some of Bob Tanner’s cold martins on April 13, 2013…….Brrr. There are two tree swallows with the martins. Thanks for sharing Bob!
Loretta Mousseau just emailed this happy photo of her first martin from Cayuga, Ontario, April 15,2013. Yippee!
A typical early arrival scene of a Spring martin investigating a house. Carol’s martin house in Wheatley. Thanks Carol!
Explore the 2012 Purple Martin Bird Count Results for North America under the Backyard Bird Count.
Martin House |Down
I just received an email from a wonderful lady this morning saying that she saw that one of our Trio martin house systems was down at Holiday Beach Park near Amherstburg, Ontario. She came across it with her husband while walking their dog.
It seems that the winds were severe enough to snap the pole. What was more interesting about her discovery and email was that she saw a martin positioned just beside the house looking at it as if to say, “Heh, let’s get that fixed.” Tomorrow will be a fix up day!
NOW WHAT IS THE CORRECT POLE SIZE FOR A TRIO CASTLE? email@example.com
Thanks to Rob and John for resurrecting the house. All is well now and we look forward to a full house of purple martins!
A Note From Mary Wilson, Our Secretary
Martins are in Essex County
What was initially perceived to be as an April Fool’s joke was not but indeed a report from Barb S. of Harrow,Ontario that she has a male martin at her place. Tonight, April 2nd, Al Hamill reported four martins flying around his colony site.
I am partially ready now, at least a couple of houses up with some openings available with nest material inside.
Barb is located on the 4th conc. of colchester north, I think. I will check it out.
This email was interrupted by Rob Cornies. He and I went over to Holiday Beach and set up the nests this afternoon. It was cold and windy but we got it done. I will be checking the nests over the next couple of weeks as Rob is going in for a knee operation.
It was good to see how Rob fixed up the nests. I was being too particular. ” Al
Tree Swallow Sighting
A Tree swallow was sighted on Good Friday, March 29th by Gilles Breton at Woodland Hills Golf Course. It’s time to get the swallow boxes ready!
John Tautin speaks to his audience at the Walpole Island Purple Martin Conference.
Don Bissonnette asked me to post his Bluebird Newsletter on our website. Please have a look at the 2012 Essex County Field Naturalist 1) Bluebird Newsletter 2) Bluebird Nesting Data 2012. Download both parts.