It is always nice to reflect on the banding work we have been doing at the marsh and writing an article in The Wren gives me the perfect chance to do that and to thank all of the people that help make banding possible. I have to admit I had some anxiety about this banding season as it was our first without terra students. It is not just the banding that the students helped so much with but it is the need to take care of 20 to 30 visiting students we get every weekday day in the spring that was keeping me up at night.
This was our 19th spring we have banded at the marsh and approaching this banding season we had banded 54,730 birds at the marsh representing 139 different species. Our first banding season we caught 427 birds and managed to catch 46 different species. We were only using 8 nets and I only had 2 students helping me at the time and we had no visiting students coming to the marsh.
The main question I had going into this banding season was how many nets would we be able to run? Putting up nets requires us to have trained volunteers, and training volunteers takes time and dedication to learn how to “extract” birds without harming them. Usually we can prepare for the spring by training folks to take birds out by learning to take redpolls out of the nets in the winter. Many of you might recall we did not have any redpolls this past winter at the marsh and very few anywhere in our area. So we could not train people before the spring. The other challenge that many of you may well remember is that the spring came so late and the snow load was so heavy we physically could not get to the area where we have our “feeder nets”. Each step in the heavy snow caused us to sink so it was exhausting to try. So training happened in a bit of a rush on weekends in the late spring. Normally we are well on our way in the first weekend of April but this year we were just starting the first weekend of May. The marsh journal entry for April 19th read, “banded 10 birds today still tons of snow!!!!”
Fortunately for our banding research we had some very fine volunteers who were quick learners and had great patience and finger dexterity. We also were very fortunate to have Chris Sukha help out. Chris is a licensed bander so having his help to band while I took care of visiting school groups was a blessing. Chris was returning for his second spring of volunteering at the marsh so he is very familiar with our routines and he was happy to help assist with training volunteers to extract and band birds as well. We were also very fortunate to have the help of Giselle Bradley who took a week off work to help out at the peak of the migration and we also had the help of Ceyline Fournier and Kate Richards. We were also bolstered by Shelbey Hearn every Wednesday as that was her day off. We were also very fortunate to have Brodie Neil helping out on many mornings. Brodie is now going into grade 9 and I tell everyone that he is like the Gretzky of the banding world. He is extremely competent and learned to take birds out of the nets faster than I have ever seen. So with a limited number of extractors we decided not to run the “river” nets this year which is a shame as they are such productive nets but the welfare of the birds is our number one priority so we ran the nets near the birdhouse and had a great time documenting the spring migration at the marsh.
We were able to run the nets for 34 days and banded 2299 birds covering 70 species. Our best day of the spring was May 28th when we caught 221 birds. Highlights of that day included a staggering 57 Wilson’s warblers and 56 yellow warblers as well we were able to catch and band our second ever olive-sided flycatcher which was taken out of the nets by Brodie Neil. Thank goodness Shelbey had that day off as well because we were constantly at the nets and needed all of the fingers we had to take birds out. Other highlights of the spring included a few records. We banded 194 Wilsons warblers previous high was 155 in 2014 this was only the third year we have banded over 100. We also banded 5 black throated green warblers our previous high was 3 in 2000 and many years we do not catch any. We banded 6 Blackburnian warblers just passing 5 banded in 2004. We banded 162 American redstarts passing an earlier record of 136 in 2006. We also banded four Species at Risk: 8 Canada warblers, 8 rusty blackbirds 1 bobolink and the previously mentioned olive–sided flycatcher. It is important to note that a special permit is required if we are targeting species at risk, however if they are caught through normal banding operations we can band them. Our banding records are totals for spring and fall so we may yet improve upon these numbers when we start banding at the marsh again. Hopefully we will be starting soon after The Wren goes to print so if you are interested in helping with our bird banding research please get in touch. As we are now sitting at 57,029 birds banded you can help us get to the 60,000 threshold perhaps that is something to save for our 20th season.