M.A.P.S Visit 1 – 2011

Eastern Towhee at Rock Ridge (Seabrooke Leckie)

In addition to all the stream hopping, nest searching, colour banding and biothon-ing, we are also well into our third consecutive season of the Monitoring Avian Productivity & Survivorship (MAPS) program. Our three stations have been a wellspring of data and ideas for the FBS program and a fundamental monitoring scheme for measuring the health and viability of local breeding bird populations. We launched the stations in 2009 and were pleased to find high numbers of adults at the sites. However, unusually wet and/or cold conditions in late spring/early summer of that year and again in 2010 appeared to contribute to low productivity (nest success) for two consecutive breeding seasons. This has been backed up by an apparent high nest failure rate detected by our nest searching efforts in both years. We hoped that things would begin to turn around in 2011 but unfortunately our results from the first of seven visits this year indicates record low numbers of adults – not unexpected given the lackluster output of young birds into the population in the preceding two years.

Blue Lakes (BLAK)

We began the season on June 4 at BLAK and found a mostly quiet woodland – far from the exuberant activity of even a year ago. We ended the day having captured just 10 individuals, although four of these were returns from previous years, which gave us some encouragement. For comparison we captured 24 individuals here during visit 1 on June 8, 2010. Numbers were down for most species with Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Veery being the most lacking.

Big Poplar down at Net 8, MABO (S.Leckie)

Rock Ridge (RRID)

On the following day, June 5, 2011, we made our way to Rock Ridge in Frontenac Provincial Park. Once again, overall bird activity was considerably lower than in previous years, especially in the forest interior. A total of 10 birds were captured – again with 4 returns. This total is identical to that for visit 1 in 2010 but significantly lower than the 25 recorded in 2009. Black-and-white Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager and Field Sparrow are the species that seem to have declined here most heavily.

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at BLAK (S.Leckie)

Maplewood Bog (MABO)

Our final stop for round one was to Maplewood Bog (MABO), which tends to be our busiest of the three stations. We captured 26 birds here during visit 1 in 2009, followed by 21 in 2010. After six hours of banding we arrived at, remarkably, yet another tally of 10 individuals!! We banded just four new birds and recaptured six returning individuals from previous years. The woods, once so abundant with thrushes, vireos and tanagers, were very quiet indeed.

Chestnut-side Warbler at BLAK (S.Leckie)

Our data from the MAPS program and our other studies appear to indicate a widespread downward trend in forest bird populations in the FBS study area since 2009. Factors driving populations are highly complex so we won’t be sounding any alarm bells or hitting the panic button just yet. Also, we know that populations are subject to periodic highs and lows in sync with naturally occurring but variable weather phenomena. We expect (and hope) that bird numbers will be gradually restored following breeding seasons with more favourable weather. Speaking of weather, the MAPS program is very well positioned to shed light on effects of climate change on breeding birds at the landscape, regional and even broader scales. It is unfortunate that there are so few MAPS stations in Ontario as it would be instructive to compare regional patterns and trends in vital rates in anticipation of shifting climate “normals”. All of this being said, there is still six more visits to each station in 2011 and a great deal more to learn.

MAPS Visit 6 – Blue Lakes (2010)

Pileated Woodpecker (Seabrooke Leckie)

This monster of a woodpecker was a an exciting bird to band – a first for FBS! As I emerged from some dense pines en route to net 7 this Pileated Woodpecker began to struggle its way out of the net before I quickly corralled it into my hands. It left twelve small puncture wounds on my fingers before I could free its tangled feet and put him into a carrying bag – a very swift and powerful avian hammerhead! Seabrooke was delighted to receive it back at the station, it was the first she’d had in-the-hand for banding.

The rest of the morning was very much a continuation of the last visit on July 14 – dreadfully quiet! A total of seven birds were captured during the visit, one less than the previous record low of 8 at Blue Lakes on July 14 of this year! The site is so contrastingly empty of birds compared to our first few visits in June. The once common Yellow-throated Vireos, Chestnut-sided and Black-throated Blue Warblers, Veerys and Ovenbirds are all gone and the area is not attracting many dispersing birds of any kind. We remain undeterred by this curious development as it is vitally important to monitor both the highs and the lows.

Our last visit to Blue Lakes in 2010 will be held in early August, which should coincide with the peak of post-breeding dispersal for the region. Perhaps our first season at the station will end with a final flourish? Either way, we’ve had some fantastic birds there and will have better breeding seasons to look forward to….

MAPS Visit 5, 2010

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Seabrooke Leckie)

I have no idea where the last two weeks went! We’ve completed visits 4 and 5 to all of our MAPS sites and not a word was posted here about it – until now. Our fourth round of visits were done during the heat wave when the ghastly humidity forced to shut down a bit early at Maplewood and Rock Ridge. Temperatures were more moderate during visit 5 but we ended up with even lower capture totals despite logging more net hours at both stations!

I’ll start this summary of round five with the Rock Ridge (RRID) station in Frontenac Provincial Park. The weather was perfect and post-breeding dispersal was evident for the first time in 2010. Our first Yellow-billed Cuckoo of the year was banded along with small numbers of the usual suspects.

Early morning along the ridge (Derbyshire)

The day started off well with lots of young birds moving along the ridge – primarily Eastern Towhees, Yellow Warblers and Pine Warblers. The first half of the morning was quite productive, which was followed by the latter half ending with five consecutive empty net rounds – a record for us! We finished the visit with 17 total captures – 3 less than visit 4 when the heat and humidity were extremely high. On the bright side, we’ve somehow eclipsed last year’s pace at Ridge Ridge in terms of total birds banded and recaptured.

juv Pine Warbler (Seabrooke Leckie)

This juvenile Pine Warbler is the first we’ve captured at any of our MAPS stations! Pine Warblers nest in the tall pines on either side of the ridge near the banding station but they never seem to come down low enough to be captured. It makes sense that our first would be a dispersing youngster, which are less tied to the canopy foraging.

Adult Veery in moult (Derbyshire)

Our fifth visit to the Blue Lakes (BLAK) station was somewhat shocking as it ended up being the slowest day we’ve had since we started MAPS in 2009! The Black-throated Blue Warblers that were abundant earlier in the summer had vanished and the morning had this eerily quiet feel to it. The Veery, like the Black-throated Blue Warbler, was a dominant species earlier in the season but were noticeably missing during visit 5. We did recapture one Veery during the morning, an adult male in the midst of basic moult.

Chestnut-sided Warbler (Seabrooke)

Always nice to find Chestut-sided Warblers in the nets. This male was recaptured for the first time since it was banded in mid-June. Fortunately there are still a number of these holding territories on the shorelines of lakes and ponds in the area. We ended visit 5 with 8 birds captured in six hours of sampling – REALLY quiet. I’m looking forward to getting back there to see how the season unfolds.

Scarlet Tanager (Seabrooke)

We can always expect birds at Maplewood (MABO)! This is the most consistent station of the three in our MAPS network. At the end of the day we tallied up the results and noted that 22 birds were captured, which is a quiet day for MABO. We sampled the first real wave of young birds at the station in 2010, which included this juv Scarlet Tanager as well as American Redstart, Hairy Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Other noteworthy records included our first captured Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the year and two more Scarlet Tanagers! Multiple Wood Thrushes are still singing at the site and at least one Wood Thrush youngster has been banded in 2010. The exodus of Veerys at Blue Lakes is being echoed at MABO where the species was not encountered at all during visit 5. The Veery is normally an abundant species at MABO but our results in 2009 and 2010 have suggested widespread breeding failure. The weather conditions in both years have been atypical and likely a factor impacting nest success for at least some species. It will be exciting to begin analysis of the data after a few more seasons, preferably with more ‘average’ conditions. I will be particularly interested in statistics on survivorship, productivity and recruitment for Veerys.

MAPS Visit 3 – Maplewood and Rock Ridge (2010)

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

As we are already into visit 4, I thought I’d better wrap up visit 3 to MABO and RRID in one summary. The visit to Maplewood Bog on June 29 was a unique MAPS experience for me because for the first time I was all by myself! Our first priority is to perform net checks at frequent and regular intervals of no more than 25-30 minutes, which is a challenge without multiple personnel. I was able to do this during visit 3 but felt the fatigue of near constant motion for the six hours of the fieldwork!

The weather was damp and cool with intermittent drizzle, keeping bird activity low and giving me some extra time to race around the net circuit. I was somewhat shocked that I’d processed 27 birds that morning – a not too shabby total considering the conditions. I had no time for photos with the exception of an irresistible Spring Peeper that clung to the stem of a shrub near net 6. As usual, an excellent variety of birds were captured including a female Scarlet Tanager, the first juvenile Wood Thrush of the year and a second-year Veery that was banded as a young bird in August 2009!

Maplewood Bog – Visit 3 of 7

New birds banded (19 of 11 species)
American Redstart – 1
Northern Waterthrush – 1
Red-eyed Vireo – 3
Song Sparrow – 2
Wood Thrush – 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Scarlet Tanager – 1
Gray Catbird – 2
Eastern Towhee – 1
American Robin – 5
Blue Jay – 1

Recaptures (8 of 6 species)
Northern Waterthrush – 1
Red-eyed Vireo – 1
Gray Catbird – 1
American Robin – 1
Veery – 2
Wood Thrush – 2

Black-throated Green Warbler (Seabrooke Leckie)

Our first ever Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens) was banded at Rock Ridge during visit 3 this past week. Black-throated Greens are regular breeders in Frontenac Provincial Park, particularly in areas with mature conifers and dense canopy cover. Overall, things are moving along nicely at this site as young birds are beginning to appear in numbers. Another male White-throated Sparrow was banded (below) while a tan-morph individual was spotted carrying food in an area of juniper scrub at the north edge of the station.

Red-eyed Vireo (Seabrooke Leckie)

Red-eyed Vireos are more commonly heard and captured than seen at Rock Ridge. There are a few pairs occupying young deciduous patches of Sugar Maple-Oak. Growth rates are very slow here so it might be more accurate to describe the forests as ‘low’ instead of young as many of the trees are probably 50-80 years old but appear much younger. Blue-headed Vireos also breed in this conifer dominated eastern edge of the park but we’ve not encountered any so far at Rock Ridge.

White-throated Sparrow (Seabrooke Leckie)

A total of 25 birds were captured during visit 3 – a very good sample of what is present. We captured several young birds including individuals of Eastern Phoebe, Black-capped Chickadee, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow and American Robin – all early nesting temperate migrants. There has been little sign of productivity so far for any neotropical species at the three stations. The extraordinary amount of rainfall in the month of June may be influential to productivity indices in 2010 – visits 4-7 should be instructive.

Rock Ridge – Visit 3 of 7

New birds banded (17 of 12 species)
Black-throated Green Warbler – 1
Common Yellowthroat – 1
Field Sparrow – 2
Black-capped Chickadee – 1
Chipping Sparrow – 1
Eastern Phoebe – 1
Red-eyed Vireo – 1
Song Sparrow – 2
White-throated Sparrow – 1
Hairy Woodpecker – 1
American Robin – 4
Common Grackle – 1

Recaptures (8 of 6 species)
Common Yellowthroat – 1
American Robin – 1
Red-eyed Vireo – 1
Chipping Sparrow – 1
Black-capped Chickadee – 2
Eastern Towhee – 1

MAPS Visit 3 – Blue Lakes

Yellow-throated Vireo (Seabrooke Leckie)

Visit three to Blue Lakes happened late last week. A definite highlight of the day was the capture of three adult Yellow-throated Vireos (2 new and 1 recap) and the discovery of a nest with young in the crown of a large Red Oak near net 1! We’ve banded the male and female tending the nest but also captured a new gravid female (carrying egg) in net 1 around mid-morning. We suspected at least a couple of pairs were in the area but the appearance of a gravid female so close to the nest of another pair seems rather curious. Very cool to have this species around and in numbers too!

Juv Downy Woodpecker (Derbyshire)

The morning’s work went smoothly and a steady trickle of birds were handled over the six hours. Despite that multiple territories of Black-throated Blue Warblers are present within the station boundaries, we have only managed to band and recapture the one male and female individual. We are starting to wonder if the other singing males are unpaired.

We’ve now completed nine visits to all three stations combined and are not even halfway through the season! The remaining visits to each station will be interesting as adults move or reestablish territories and this season’s crop of young birds begin to disperse. The month of June was extremely wet and it remains to be seen how this has affected nest success for landbirds in Frontenac County and beyond….

Blue Lakes – Visit 3 of 7

New birds banded (18 of 12 species)

Field Sparrow – 1
Red-eyed Vireo – 1
Ovenbird – 1
Swamp Sparrow – 1
Yellow-throated Vireo – 2
Veery – 1
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Song Sparrow – 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak – 3
American Robin – 2
Blue Jay – 1
Common Grackle – 2

Recaptures (6 of 5 species)
Black-throated Blue Warbler – 2
Yellow-throated Vireo – 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Ovenbird – 1