Thursday, 27 August 2015

Helping a Bird Bander

26 August 2015
Cambridge, ON

     Kevin Grundy and Ross Dickson are a formidable pair when it comes to bird banding,  having many, many years of experience between them, with a whole range of bird families. However, they can only band together on the weekends because while Ross, like me, is retired, Kevin still has to work for a living and is thus not available on week days.
     During the week Ross has been banding alone so I offered to help him (or perhaps it was hinder him) by acting as his scribe, walking the round of the mist nets with him, carrying the birds back to the banding table and in any other way that he saw fit. Miriam even added her contribution in the form of home-baked muffins.
     I am very grateful to Ross for permitting me to accompany him and I find it quite incredible just how much I am learning - and me a lifelong birder. A bird in the hand looks quite different from a bird viewed at a distance.

Tennessee Warbler Leiothlypis peregrina

Tennessee Warbler

Common Yellowthroat Setophaga aestiva
Common Yellowthroat

     Ross has been very accommodating and never demurs for a moment when I want to take a picture. He patiently, and carefully, holds the bird for me and rotates his hand or his body to permit different angles.

Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo
     As Ross examines the birds and records their fat levels, measures the wing chord etc. he points out to me various characteristics of moult and other subtle features not visible when the bird is in the field. Many of these characters are diagnostic in terms of sex and age. Certainly I don't remember everything, but gradually it starts to stick,  and soon I view the bird in his hand from a different perspective than even a capture of the same species an hour earlier.

Chestnut-sided Warbler Setophags pennsylvanica

Chestnut-sided Warbler
      New World Warblers are now in the full flush of their migratory cycle and, not surprisingly, many of the captures were of representatives of this family.

American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
American Redstart

American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia
Magnolia Warbler

     The next time I can get down to help Ross again will be on Monday of next week, but I am looking forward to it with great eagerness. Ross is a very patient teacher and I have no doubt that before this banding season is over I will have a store of new facts about species I thought I knew well.


  1. For several years I took students to stay out at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Obsevatory at Cabot Head, where we got to see the mist nets and help the bander with his work. It is fascinating when you see how they do it up close. A nice new opportunity for you!

    1. You have obviously had, and continue to have, a varied and interesting life.

  2. Good Evening Mr G. It is heartening to see you have found a worthwhile outlet for your enthusiasm to learn more about birds. Obviously if you decide to become a trainee British ringer you will need to prove your credentials by sending a me a package of Miriam's blueberry muffins beforehand. Please send by Express Transatlantic Post to P. Slade c/o Manchester Airport whereupon I will collect asap before deliberating and deciding upon your application.

  3. Far fly the birdies .......................

  4. Hi David,
    Although I know it is important to ring a few birds for info on the rarer species, I still have mixed feelings abour banding ;-)
    Those birds or very beautiful and unknown to me!
    We are going to see Richard and Lindsay beginning of october, can't wait to meet them!
    Un montón de abrazos para ti y Miriam :)

  5. Wow, these are awesome photos and great birds. It must have been a great experience to be part of the banding. Happy birding, have a great weekend!

  6. Beautiful photos, David. A workshop bird banding for birders, it's nice to read about what it you learn, the difference between a bird in the hand or in the sky.
    These birds seem very calm considering the situation they're in. They must feel that no harm shall be done.
    Gr Jan W

  7. My word, David, you really are a convert! I find it fascinating that a life-served birder is able to suddenly find himself in a position that he's learning so much more detail about a large number of species. I look forward to further accounts!

    Have now processed all my photos taken during your visit - finished just today! Guess what! I found another bird in my photos that we all three missed! Will advise separately.

    Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

    P.S. Lindsay (and me too) is most impressed by Miriam's take on the patchwork. Now that statement will get the birders guessing!

  8. Beautiful collection of birds, and everyone ringed, thanks David.

  9. Hi David,
    great that you went along with this man to see the birds and counting. You'll learn when birder indeed very much because they can tell you about how the bird will look and what to look for. Beautiful pictures and a nice report :-)

    Kind regards

  10. Hello David, this is a great way to get closer to the birds and learn all about the details of it. Love the photos of those pritty birds. All in all a great blog. Thank you.

  11. Magnificent bird, beautiful pictures you made of David.
    Greetings Tinie