Saturday, 8 October 2016

An Educational Day at SpruceHaven

08 October 2016

     Cara Poulsen, a student in the environmental studies programme at the University of Waterloo, recently came out to Sprucehaven to help us with tree planting and other chores. She is keen, committed and anxious to learn more about birds, and to add practical knowledge to the theoretical base of her curriculum.
     It was a great pleasure, therefore, when I received an email from Cara asking if she could participate in our weekend bird banding. 
     She was willing to get up early and Miriam and I picked her up at 06:20 this morning on our way to SpruceHaven.
     Very quickly, she was put to work, making the circuit of the nets with us, to see first hand how the captured birds are carefully extracted from the mist nets.
     Here she is with her first batch of birds, safely ensconced in the bags used to bring them from the nets to the banding station.

     In for a penny, in for a pound, as the old saying goes, she settled down to scribe for Kevin, recording all the pertinent details as each bird was measured, weighed and banded.

     In no time at all she had the various codes down pat and was working with fluid efficiency.
     A couple of weeks ago we trapped a White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis but Kevin had released it before I thought to photograph it. No such absent-mindedness with this individual this morning!

     By now Cara was really in the groove and looked entranced with the process of recording the banded birds.

     A tiny Winter Wren Troglodytes hiemalis was a new capture for the year.

     In addition to Cara's participation this morning a group of children from our naturalists club offshoot, Waterloo Region Nature Kids, were visiting, and as you can see the children and their parents were very interested in seeing the bird banding take place.

     Cara was unfazed by the crowd surrounding her.
     Dark-eyed Juncos Junco hyemalis have been arriving from the north over the past week or so, but I had not seen one this fall before capturing this individual in our nets this morning.

     The white outer tail feathers, so diagnostic of this species, are clearly visible.
     Various interpretive undertakings were carried out for the visiting parents and children, but we neglected to take photographs at various stages of the two hours the children were there, and the following images were all captured at the bird banding station.


     Sandy, as ever kind and considerate, had potted seedlings of Red Osier Dogwood Cornus stolonifera, and each child went away proudly bearing their gift of a native species to be planted in their gardens at home.
     It was a successful morning of banding, part of which I missed while conducting the children on their tour of SpruceHaven, but here is Kevin closing up the nets after another fruitful session. 

All species banded 08 October:  Blue Jay (1), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2), Winter Wren (1), Tennessee Warbler (1), Nashville Warbler (1), Common Yellowthroat (1), Song Sparrow (6), Lincoln's Sparrow (2), Swamp Sparrow (2), White-crowned Sparrow (1), White-throated Sparrow (2), Dark-eyed Junco (1)
Total individuals: 21 


  1. I don't know what the world is coming to Mr Gascoigne. Letting a young lady carry your bags is not a gentlemanly thing to do is it now? Fortunately she seems to have taken it in good spirit.

    A good turnout for your session and those kids look suitably engrossed as do the parents. Well done to you and yours for sharing your expertise and time to introduce banding to the kids. Much better that they are out in the fresh air learning about nature. let's hope they all avoid becoming part of the Look Down generation.

  2. In answer to your questions David.

    At Oakenclough we use just 2 x 40’ nets as most of the habitat is unsuitable, either too short in growth or too wooded. With the use of bird feeders and call playback we generally catch enough birds to keep the two of us busy.
    You should try call back via MP3s (if your ringing scheme allows). There are strict controls on playback here e.g. not in the breeding season, too loud, bringing down birds into unsuitable habitat.

    It works well on some species and families but not on others e.g, finches and pipits and Redwings are suckers but warblers less so. Only by experimenting with calls and song at differing times of year have we learnt the ones that work best, the species to target and when to use the method.

  3. A beauty, in fact, lots of them.

  4. Hi. Stunning to look at. Beautiful little birds. Viewers seem to like.

  5. Hi David, you always appear to be surrounded with pretty ladies, how do you do it. That aside another good post with some interesting birds, the Winter Wren looks very interesting. Also fascinated with the youngsters obviously engrossed with the banding and birds. Well done. Regards to you both. John

    1. Hi John: Always good to hear from you. Winter Wren is very similar to the wren you have in Britain. In fact at one time they were considered the same species.

  6. OK....
    children learn to love and protect birds like this :))
    Hugs David

  7. At the risk of being controversial, David, I think your birding banding programme is possibly more important in that it engages the youngsters in nature, than it is through its contribution to our knowledge of the birds.

    Your White-throated Sparrow is a super little bird!

    Love to you both - - Richard

    1. There is not a doubt in my mind, Richard, that this educational component is very important indeed.

  8. I think it's great that you work with children that way! Hope for the future. That one tiny wren looks like it wanted to sleep until the giant released it! Anthropomorphism, I know, but the child in me wonders what the birds tell their friends after their banding adventure. (And thank goodness through efforts like yours today's children are better educated!)

    1. These are bright kids too, Sallie. As members of a young naturalists club they have a keen interest in nature and were very attentive. Not only that they posed good questions and revealed very inquiring minds. It was a great pleasure to have them visit us.

  9. Great post David. Beautiful pictures and good to see that you've inspired these youngsters.
    Gr Jan W

  10. The shots of the white throated sparrow are just lovely, what sweet birds! Love all of the shots you got, and your posts are always so interesting. Halloween over here in the UK is a bit more toned down but it's gained popularity over the years - I think people enjoy it as another excuse to throw parties and have get togethers. I just love doing all of the DIYS and crafts as I'm a big kid at heart at 26! - Tasha

  11. Felicidades por vuestro gran trabajo, la educación medioambiental es fundamental para las generaciones venideras. Enhorabuena y un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  12. Poor birds!!!!!!!
    At least they are bringing joy to many of you!!! LOL!!
    I believe we should reduce drastically our night lights, our pesticides and herbicides, keep our rivers and lake clean and we wouldn't have to catch the birds and band them... It stills remains a trauma whatever anyone can say ;-)
    Warm hugs David and abrazos to share with Miriam :)

    1. Cutting the human population by about half would be a good start"

  13. Hello David, still a lot of banding of birds to do I think. Good to see that so manny young people are interested in birds, they are the future. Also I agree with Nouska that we also must take more care of our environment so more birds and all living creatures have enough space to florish.

  14. Great to read that there are still people like Cara who would like to help with the rings and counting the birds. You leave then really again see beautiful pictures of birds. I see there is a lot of interest from other people to watch. Good job :-)

  15. It's great to see the young getting involved,banding is very in portent,stunning birds.
    John. for the well being of birds