It’s always nice to end on a high note. The Rock Ridge MAPS site finally lived up to the potential I thought it possessed for sampling post-breeding dispersal. Waves of birds were observed during our final visit of 2009-to and fro from the rock cliffs, along edges of outcrops and overhead. Tanagers, grosbeaks, warblers, vireos-all the familiar species that breed locally in Frontenac Provincial Park. Eastern Towhee, Chipping and Field Sparrow and Yellow-rumped Warbler seemed to be the most numerous of the species on the move. Most of the birds captured and banded were young birds such as the hatch-year (born summer ’09) male Rose-breasted Grosbeak pictured above.
We ended up banding four Yellow-rumped Warblers during the morning, a small sample of the overall number that went through.
This hatch-year Eastern Phoebe was the first of the species that we’ve caught this summer and may well be one of the nestlings reared on the opposite cliff face from the banding station. Note the ‘gape’ evident at the corner of this bird’s bill, a temporary vestige of its recent life as a nestling. Also indicative of hatch-year individuals is the presence of distinct buff coloured wing bars (tips of greater, median and lesser wing coverts) as seen on this bird.
It is safe to say that I’ve not ever seen so many towhees in one place as during this last visit to RRID in early August! Both young and adults were calling and flitting from everywhere and it is remarkable that only two were captured by day’s end. This is an adult female as indicated by the red-eye colour and brown upperparts (males have black upperparts).
A hatch-year individual for comparision. Note the pale brown iris and streaked underparts indicating juvenile age.
White-throated Sparrows were very common at the site during the first two visits and then slowly moved out until just a single male was heard on visit 6. The hatch-year bird pictured above was the first individual captured since mid-June. We will need more consecutive seasons of experience at RRID to know whether the exodus of adults and dearth of young birds in 2009 was just an anomaly reflective of localized nest failure. Another possible explanation is that the adults present at the site were “unfit” younger males occupying substandard habitats for the species.
Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to have fared better in 2009 as a decent number of young birds were captured at our sites in July/August.
A total of 24 birds were banded during visit 7, the second highest result of the season for the RRID site. Our first summer on the ridge was a very special one. Each of seven treks to the site brought new discoveries and a deeper appreciation for its ecology. The scenery is stark and dramatic, a vivid backdrop to a long list of memorable finds such as the Whip-poor-will and Common Nighthawk nests, an adult Broad-winged Hawk, carnivorous plants and otters to name but a few. I plan to revisit the site in the fall and winter and of course will return in late spring for MAPS season two at RRID.
Rock Ridge–Visit 7 of 7
New birds banded (24 of 13 species)
Yellow-rumped ‘Myrtle’ Warbler-4
Recaptures (2 of 2 species)