09 August 2019
The goals of science may be noble, but there's no avoiding the fact that the practice of field biology can be terribly impolite to its subjects.
It was with a good deal of pleasure that several interested biologists and others gathered to observe our annual radio tagging of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) at SpruceHaven.
This year we were fortunate to be joined by several of Dave and Sandy's cousins from various parts of the continent, and by my daughter, Caroline, visiting from Ottawa.
As is our normal practice we strung a mist net in the barn, and in no time at all we had trapped our first birds.
We were delighted to enjoy the company of Julia Shonfield, who was a great help in retrieving birds from the net.
We received exceptional help this year from Megan Hiebert from Bird Studies Canada, who did the lion's share of the work in processing the birds.
She was at once proficient, quick and extremely adept at attaching the equipment to the birds. Furthermore she was as agreeable and pleasant as one might wish for. I certainly hope that Megan will consider SpruceHaven a haven indeed and visit us often. I cannot overstate her contribution to a successful day.
The tags are always checked to make sure they are functional before attaching them to a bird.
Greg Mitchell, the scientist from Environment Canada who spearheads this research programme, was as always, a consummate professional, always concerned for the welfare of the birds and working with precision, care and delicacy.
If only these birds could know the contribution they will make to the ongoing survival of their species they would surely endure their indignity a little more willingly.
There was not a person present, from veteran swallow biologist or bander, to those seeing the bird up close for the first time, who was not taken by the beauty of the bird.
Dave was attentive as Megan explained some of the finer points of her actions to him.
Technology advances apace and improvements in the life of the tracking devices and their miniaturization are a constant. Megan introduced us to a new device called a Life Tag, which is permanently attached to the bird, and has its own solar panel to generate energy. It requires two sets of hands to attach this one.
Would you say that Megan, Lorraine and Heather look pleased with the morning's activity?
Caroline was anxious to observe and absorb as much as possible and stuck close to Greg to benefit from his expertise.
Except when she was with Lorraine, that is!
Lee Fraser was happy to release a bird and seems to be a supplicant to favourable winds and good foraging to speed the birds on their way to their winter quarters in South America.
As always, it was a very agreeable day, in many respects the culmination of our year's work with the swallows and we appreciate the contribution that everyone made to its success.
We will look forward to receiving news of our swallows as they embark on their hazardous journey, and hope that we will welcome them back again next spring.