Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BIRD BANDERS IN TRAINING

A male Yellow Warbler waits in the nets to be banded.


And with a flip of the calendar page, spring migration has come to an "unofficial end". All the spring migrants have passed through now, and are setting up summer residence to mate and raise a family before heading back south in the fall. Bird migration really is an amazing wonder of the world. Some of these birds have come from as far away as South America, and some of them have made that trip a few times. How do I know that, bird banding.

Rob and I have had a great May with the birds, we got to visit Point Pelee National Park for the first time, and have seen so many new birds this spring, it's been amazing. But the best thing to come out of this migration for us, was learning that we could take this passion of ours to another level without having to give up our jobs and go back to school.

Last February we visited Ruthven Park for the first time while on an organized tour trip. After we arrived home I wanted to find out more about the park and turned to my good friend, "Google". After reading about the park I discovered they had a "Bird Banding Station" that you could visit during migration and made a note for us to do that while on vacation.

We visited the banding station twice in May. The first time we didn't know what to expect and we were kind of in awe when they let us release some birds that we never dreamed we see so up close or ever get to hold. We both banded one bird (under guided supervision) that first trip and after that I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Monitoring and reporting are essential to our understanding of the health of migratory bird populations. Bird banding is a basic monitoring tool, informing studies that assess the effects of environmental contaminants, protect endangered species and set hunting regulations. The birds really keep us in the know! If you ever find a bird with a band on it, please report it here.

The second trip I had lots of questions. You see, to become an "official licensed" bird bander, you have to have one take you under their wing so to speak. You have to find a banding station and master bander to volunteer with. When he thinks you know your stuff, you have to apply to the government for a sub-permit and be sponsored by two master banders! There's even a "Bander's Code of Ethics".

I've found both for us at Ruthven Park. The master bander there, Rick Ludkin, is willing to let us join his flock. (Sorry, I can't help myself) We have so much to learn! We'll be going to the station about once a month, more during migration and right now we're really working on our id skills.

When you band a bird you have to know with 100% certainty what it is, you have to age, sex, and weigh it, along with measuring it's fat and muscle content. You have to know what size band to put on it's leg and record all the information. I find it amusing that there is a Yellow Warbler out there somewhere with my initials attached to it's band number.

I'm really excited about this next journey of birding we are going to attempt together. It's going to take us a while, years probably, but we're both fine with that, as long as it's still fun. And who knows, maybe we'll start our own banding station one day!

Rob banding a Tennessee Warbler.

Getting ready to release her.

Now what am I suppose to do with this?

Me releasing the beautiful Yellow Warbler I banded.

Releasing a male Baltimore Oriole on our first trip to Ruthven.

Rob releasing his mate.
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