At the end of April, earlier this year, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Carl and Rachel, the operators of the Native Territories Avian Research Project (NTARP). Several members of Lambton Wildlife attended and volunteered during the two day bird banding session. They were at Canatara Park for the first time and they spent two full days, on two separate weekends, banding the local and migrating species.2016-april-30-29

It was very fascinating to watch, listen and participate in the process from start to finish. It started with setting up nets early in the morning. The perfect locations are along regular flight routes for birds in the area. After a bird has is found in the net they are carefully removed and placed in a soft cloth bag. Carl or Rachel then determine the bird’s age, sex and health using a variety of indicators. Each bird is then weighed, measured, banded and released.          2016-april-30-11

Carl used a lit magnifier to get a better view of this female Yellow-rumped warbler.2016-may-01-6

He looks at the colours of the feathers and their condition to determine how old the warbler is. If most of the feathers appear worn then that tells him that this female is young, maybe even in her first year. 2016-april-30-14

After all of the data is entered into a spreadsheet and Carl or Rachel put a very small numbered band on the bird’s leg, they would sometimes come out of the tent to talk to people who were watching or passing by. People got up-close to the birds, asked questions and took pictures.2016-april-30-18

Sometimes he would let people release the birds. He would take the person’s hand in his and gently place the bird on their hand, upside down.2016-april-30-27

He explained that birds rarely find themselves on their backs and will often quietly lay there in a person’s hand for a moment. People spoke of how amazing it was to feel the feathers on their hand and the tiny movements made when the bird breathed.  2016-april-30-40

The bird soon flipped itself over and flew off to the forest. Everyone gathered watched as the bird flew off and sounds of awe where always heard.2016-april-30-32

NTARP is a non-profit organization that applies for grants and accepts donations to help them buy necessary equipment, supplies and to pay for their travel expenses. A fundraiser that they use, which was particularly successful, was “adopting” a songbird. Donors are given a certificate specific to the bird species, gender and the bird band number. If the bird is ever caught again, an email is sent out to the donor letting them know when and where it was caught. I adopted a Downy Woodpecker and even got to release it! What a fantastic experience.

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One of the most beautiful birds that was banded was this female Red-winged Blackbird. Did you know that the female has peach on its wings and its throat? I had no idea but check out those colours?2016-may-01-1020315

Carl said that this was one of the most beautiful and brightly marked female Red-winged blackbirds he had ever seen. The colours were unbelievable.

Throughout the two days, Rachel and Carl spent time teaching and sharing their knowledge with anyone willing to listen. They are knowledgeable, patient and highly passionate individuals who love to share their expertise through hands on learning experiences. Volunteering  with them was not only educational, it was an opportunity that I will never forget and few get a chance to have. Being able to learn about bird identification, seeing each bird up-close and having the chance to release some of them was indescribable.

If you ever get the chance to volunteer with this couple, I highly recommend it. They are extremely interesting, welcoming and inclusive. They are eager to share their knowledge with anyone interested. I learned so much about teaching and about birds at the same time that I hope to have the chance to work with them again.

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Tricia McLellan-Dath

Tricia is a nature photographer and blogger, as well as an outdoor enthusiast. She is currently on the board for Lambton Wildlife and the Lambton Wildlife webmaster.

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