When I arrived at the Marsh at close to 10am on Sunday morning and saw that people had already arrived a half an hour before me, I should have realized we were going to have our largest Family Day banding event ever. The smiles on our guest’s faces were matched by ours as we excitedly greeted so many folks and their families, to share with us a brisk sunny day in the boreal homeland. We estimate that about 150 individuals bundled up to observe how we band birds in the winter. The only flaw in our plans for the day was that very few birds showed up for the occasion this year.
Every year, birders look forward to getting the winter finch forecast, which is based upon eye witness reports across the province on the abundance of various berry and cone producing bushes and trees. This year’s reports attested to the abundance of seeds of every description, particularly birch, which is one of the favorites of redpolls. With such a seed bounty, the northern finches have stayed further north and are not coming to local feeders much due to the availability of wild food. Though some local feeders are being visited by goldfinches and purple finches, the finches have not deigned to frequent the feeders at the Marsh, despite having kept the feeders full in anticipation of Family Day. We were only visited by a handful of chickadees, a few woodpeckers and one white breasted nuthatch. On the Family Day weekend, we managed to catch 8 previously banded chickadees and 2 new Hairy Woodpeckers. The oldest chickadee retrap was from 4 years ago, with the others having been banded at the Marsh two weeks previously on World Wetland Day.
For me, one of the highlights of the day was the arrival of Joanne Goddard, who showed us how to band Lapland Longspurs. She was able to capture and band 9 Lapland Longspurs in connection with the research that we are doing with the Canadian Snow Bunting Banding Project. Lapland Longspurs, and occasionally Horned Larks, can be found in mixed flocks with the Snow Buntings. So far this year, we have banded over 600 Snow Buntings and 60 Lapland Longspurs , and we were excited to introduce our guests to these wonderful birds.
It is always a pleasure to see the faces of young kids when they see a bird up close for the first time, and to have so many of these new faces on a chilly brilliant day was a special treat indeed. Guests were able to warm up by an open fire with some delicious bannock cooked, by Kim Adair, and some hot chocolate attended to by Mark Milton. As well, volunteer Gisselle Bradley cooked 100 hotdogs for our visitors, and for one happy Marsh dog (Chewie), who was occasionally rewarded either for her advanced mooching skills or by gravity having its way with “mitted” kids.
Every great day at the Marsh happens with the help of volunteers, and we would like to thank the following: Giant Tiger for providing the food that was prepared by Gisele Bradley and Kim Adair; Colin- James Hibbs and his grandfather Tim, for shoveling the deck (AKA “the launching pad”) and the path to the outhouse and fire pit; bird extractors Jacob Lachapelle, Andrea Curran, and Jason Grant; and
finally directors Mark Milton, Serge Gendron, Mike Werner, Shelbey Hearn, and Joanne Goddard for helping make this day run so smoothly.
But the biggest “Thank You” must go to the many visitors who ventured out with their families to share the great outdoors with us, and to those individuals who financially support days like this by purchasing memberships or sponsoring tree swallow boxes. Seeing so many who value their connection to nature and the need to pass those values on to their children will continue to be our inspiration for making the Marsh accessible to more people in the future.
Our next banding event will be a St Patrick’s Day celebration on Sunday March 16th. “Top of the morning to you…. And the rest of the day to you!” Hope to see you in March, and remember to wear green!