Questions from a class from Cayuga that recently visited the banding lab:
1. Have you caught hummingbirds before?
Yes. Often the little hummers will go right through the mesh of the nets but now and again one will get caught. We don’t band them but sometimes we’ll take them back to the banding lab and weigh them. They weigh only 3 grams (about the weight of a nickel!). Imagine that a bird that small will fly all the way from Mexico to get here.
2. Do you band lots of blue jays?
We see lots of Blue Jays but we don’t band a lot of them–maybe 10-20 per year. They’re pretty smart birds.
3. Do you catch crows in your nets?
No. We have never caught a crow. I’m not sure the nets are strong enough to hold them anyway. Crows, like jays, are very smart and would be VERY hard to net or trap.
4. What kind of hawks do you see at Ruthven?
Over the years, we have seen a wide variety of hawks at Ruthven: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel. We have caught and banded Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Kestrels. We also see Bald and Golden Eagles. I don’t think our nets would hold the larger hawks.
5. What time do the nets go up and down?
We try to open the nets a half hour before sunrise and then keep them open for 6 hours. So, it’s dark when we start opening them. The first hour is magical as the birds begin to wake up and start singing. At the height of the Fall migration, you will hear migrating birds overhead giving their call notes in the dark. As the sun begins to rise they will head for earth to rest and feed.
6. What is your favourite bird?
That’s a tough question! Golden-winged Warbler and Snow Bunting would be two of them.
7. Do you see snakes and mice at Ruthven?
Yes. We often see Garter Snakes and Little Brown Snakes. Some Milk Snakes spend the Winter in the basement of the Mansion. I don’t know how they get in. A rare Ribbon Snake was found this year on the Ruthven property. Mice (which have long tails) and voles (which have short ones) are pretty common.
8. Do you see raccoons at Ruthven?
Yes. Lots. Some live in hollow trees in the forest around the banding area.
9. Has a bird got away in the banding station?
Every now and again a bird will squirm out of the bander’s hand or get out of the weighing tube. They usually fly to the window where we are able to catch them again.
10. How many birds does Ruthven band in a year?
We usually band between 3,000 and 4,000 birds per year but sometimes we will get more than 4,000. We band about twice as many birds in the all than we do in the Spring.
Author: Rick Ludkin