May 10, 2008 The Pied Piper of Ruthven or International Migratory Bird Day at Ruthven or the Official Opening of the New Banding Lab

It was a Big Day at Ruthven – our annual banding open house plus the official opening of the new banding lab (the renovations made possible by a generous grant from OPG – Ontario Power Generation). The reason we choose this day – the 2nd Saturday of May – is that it has been deemed International Migratory Bird Day and this is our way of showing solidarity with the need to highlight the plight of neotropical migrants. It’s also one of the best times to expose people to the beauties of the outdoors: birds are in their brightest plumages and singing vociferously; the woods are carpeted with wildflowers and the leaves are just emerging; and the mosquitoes, which can be plentiful in the woods at Ruthven , have, as a rule, not emerged yet.

We were NOT expecting though the mass of visitors – over 100 – that attended. Some showed up as early as 6:30. Although there were visitors of all ages, I get a kick out of the kids most. We had a particularly energetic and knowledgeable array of them helping out today. At one point I felt a lot like the Pied Piper must have felt – I looked around to see ~20 kids dutifully following behind on the path from one net to the next. And if there was one in the net then watch out – 20 sets of eyes were riveted on my hands making sure I was not hurting the bird in any way and then 20 voices were clambering for the opportunity to carry it (in a bag) back to the banding lab – where 20 voices would clamber for the chance to let it go. And so it went for most of the morning. It was lots of fun.

The official opening of the banding lab was fun as well. Marie Trainer (Haldimand mayor) and Kim McFarland (representing OPG) joined Ruthven president Betsy Smith in saying a few words about the importance of the banding program in popularizing the natural history of the area. And then the Hamilton birding “whiz kids” Giovanni and Ezra Campanelli helped us to cut the ribbon. It too was a lot of fun.

Although we had an influx of people, the birds did not seem as excited about the new opening. We banded only 28 – in fact, we had more retraps (32) than new birds. Still there were enough to keep everyone happy and to let us demonstrate what banding was all about.

Banded 28:
1 Blue Jay
1 House Wren
2 Gray Catbirds
2 Warbling Vireos
3 Yellow Warblers
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
1 Indigo Bunting
2 Chipping Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
1 Eastern White-crowned Sparrow
3 Northern (Baltimore) Orioles
2 Orchard Orioles
6 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 32:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Tree Swallow
2 Blue Jays
1 House Wren
1 Wood Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
1 Yellow Warbler
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
2 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
6 Eastern White-crowned Sparrows
1 Red-winged Blackbird
4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
3 Baltimore Orioles
2 Orchard Orioles
3 American Goldfinches

Two of the White-crowned Sparrows were interesing: both were originally banded on May 2nd; one weighed 26.8 g at that time and weighed 33.5g today – an increase of almost 7 g.; the other weighed 30.2 g originally and went up to 40.6 g – an increase of over 10 g. These birds had lots of fuel for a very long flight.

ET’s: 57 species

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