January 18th – Odds and Ends

The Fox Den Trail might more appropriateley be called the Shagbark Hickory Trail. - A. Klaus

Education Co-ordinator, Natalie Campbell, doesn’t let any grass grow under her…..she had a class of grade 10’s visiting Ruthven, ostensibly to go through the Mansion but “could I please open the banding lab” just in case. Sometimes all I need is an excuse…

It wasn’t a good day for nets – cold and VERY windy – but these conditions had raised an appetite in the birds so I put out some traps. It didn’t take long as the feeders, having been in place for a long time and, therefore, well-known to the local avifauna, have been drawing large numbers of wintering species. When the hanging feeders get too crowded, many birds forage beneath them and readily check out the copious food offered in the traps. So I didn’t have any trouble catching “demonstration birds”.

Rick's Rill winds its way along the Fox Den Trail. - A. Klaus

The class was from the W. Ross Macdonald School in Brantford. This is a residential school for youth with a sight impairment. I was a little concerned about how these kids would handle the birds (they were all keen to touch and hold the birds) without sight to guide them. Impaired vision wasn’t a concern! They have compensated with a heightened tactile sensitivity to the point that I felt much more confident in and comfortable with these kids handling the birds than I usually feel with students with vision. They were amazing and it was wondrous to me to watch them experience these marvellous creatures so gently with their fingers and hands. One young man, on first entering the lab, heard the twittering of an American Goldfinch and right away identified it correctly. He had an amazing ability to make a variety of bird calls (and obviously recognized many others). When I do the Forest Bird Monitoring Counts in the Ruthven forest in June, 95% of the birds identified are picked out by ear. What an asset this guy would be!!

Middle of January...and the Grand River is still wide open! - A. Klaus

Although the title of this entry says “January 18th”, I am, in fact, writing it in the early morning of the 19th. And while doing so, I’m listening to the CBC Radio 2 morning show. The weather report just mentioned that the prairies are experiencing a real cold snap with record lows being recorded in many communities. What an odd Winter, eh? Anne Klaus, who was out yesterday working on the Fox Den Trail, sent me a couple of pictures. One shows the Grand River running wide open and ice-free….in the middle of Janaury!? The Snow Buntings are hard-put to find any snow.

American Tree Sparrow - D. Maggiocomo

Banded 11:
3 Mourning Doves
2 American Tree Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco
5 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 12:
2 Mourning Doves
1 Eastern Tufted Titmouse
3 American Tree Sparrows (2 were originally banded last February -they’ve returned for the Winter)
2 House Finches
4 American Goldfinches


2 thoughts on “January 18th – Odds and Ends

  1. Thanks so much to everyone at Ruthven for a great trip! We’ll be back for sure. The kids absolutely loved the bird tagging/releasing. You and Natalie were great with them as well.


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