MAPS Visit 5-Rock Ridge

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Yellow-billed Cuckoo (S.Leckie)

Fieldwork for the Frontenac Breeding Birds program is still rolling along with the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship program. Since our last reports on visit three to each of the sites we have also completed rounds four and five at MABO and RRID. This summary reports on visit five to Rock Ridge (RRID), a site situated in rock barren habitat in Frontenac Provincial Park.

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Sunrise over Big Clear Lake (Leckie)

Our pre-dawn entry to the site featured a spirited concert by Whip-poor-wills and Common Nighthawks and this sunrise on Big Clear Lake captured by Seabrooke Leckie. It was an enjoyable paddle-not too buggy and calm.

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180 degrees of Rock Ridge goodness (click to enlarge)

I hope I’m not boring everyone with these pan shots from the RRID banding station but it continues to dazzle us with its scale and perspective:) This spot is extremely active first thing in the morning with loons diving and calling below, vultures and osprey soaring just overhead and a dizzying number and variety of birds moving between and along the cliffs. Post-breeding dispersal of adult and young birds is well underway and this is without a doubt the best spot to sit and watch. There were the usual suspects dispersing here on July 20, lots of Yellow-rumped, Pine and Black-and-white Warblers, Field and Chipping Sparrows, Purple Finches, phoebes, sapsuckers and towhees among others. There were also some new faces including a singing male Northern Parula about 50m from the banding station and several Vesper Sparrows, all of which sadly avoided capture.

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Adult Hermit Thrush (Leckie)

We finally captured a Hermit Thrush at RRID! A male had been singing inside the perimeter of our station since May and had eluded us until visit 5.

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Hatch-year Hermit Thrush (Leckie)

Its territory must have been neatly tucked inside our station boundaries as two youngsters were captured on this day, indicating that an active nest was present. Oddly, this was the first juvenile thrush we have captured so far this season (not including robins), despite that a much higher number of thrushes occur at MABO. In fact, the overall proportion of youngsters sampled thus far at both stations has been quite low, which may reflect low productivity-perhaps due to cool and wet weather. We still have two visits to MABO and RRID left in 2009 so we will reserve judgment for later.

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Brother or sister HY Hermit Thrush (Leckie)

A second young Hermit Thrush captured in the same net on the following net check (All birds were later reunited).

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Hatch-year Black-and-white Warbler (Leckie)

Black-and-white Warblers were equally sampled as three were banded on July 20, which included two young birds and an adult. Together, Hermits and Black-and-whites comprised almost 50% of the birds captured at RRID on this day. Capture totals at RRID have been considerably lower than at MABO thus far. Our point count surveys in the region indicated that the density and diversity of breeding birds in mixed-forest and rock barren habitat is lower than deciduous woodland. Still, the RRID site was partially selected for its potential to sample a large dispersal in late summer, which has yet to happen. We are hopeful that the remaining visits will yield an increased capture rate of birds dispersing from surrounding areas.

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Spoon-leaved Sundew (Leckie)

Seabrooke was itching to check a nearby fen for carnivorous plants and wasn’t disappointed with what she found-plenty of Pitcher Plants and Spoon-leaved Sundews! The RRID site is positively teeming with biodiversity.

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Seabrooke nest checking by canoe (Derbyshire)

There is usually some time between net checks to sit and watch birds from “the balcony” seat at the banding station. During one of these sessions I spotted an Eastern Phoebe entering a small cut in the rock at the water’s edge on the opposite cliff. I suspected a nest was present given their repeat visits to the same spot and the frequency with which adult phoebes were observed catching moths and other insects over the water.

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Eastern Phoebe nest

I ‘radioed’ to Seabrooke about these observations and she was able to confirm the presence of a nest with three young positioned on a ledge underneath the cut in the rock wall. This is the second nest of an Eastern Phoebe recorded in non-manmade structures this summer. Despite how quiet the banding can be at times, there is never a dull moment at Rock Ridge!

Rock Ridge Results-Visit 5 of 7

New birds banded (15 of 8 species)

American Redstart-1
Black-and-white Warbler-3
Red-eyed Vireo-1
American Robin-4
Yellow-billed Cuckoo-1
Field Sparrow-1
Hermit Thrush-3
Blue Jay-1

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