Banding stations exist to generate high quality data on birds and bird movement. For most, that is the primary end. At Ruthven, while we produce high quality data, the generation of that data is secondary to the experience of gathering it.
Now, let me qualify that. We have a pretty explicit protocol and we follow it fairly rigourously…..fairly rigourously. But if Peter Thoem wants to spend a little more time on the census, then so be it. Or if we don’t get the nets up and down within a six-hour window…then that’s the breaks. We try to follow the protocol but we’re not driven by it. But for the most part, we’re right on….or, at least close.
For us though, the generation of the data is the vehicle that we use to turn people on to the wonderful world of birds – which are all around them – and, through birds, to an appreciation of the larger natural world. And this is for people of all ages, although I must admit that our bias is toward exposing children and youth to this world. After seeing 1000’s of kids come through the lab in the last couple of years (thanks Natalie!!) I’m convinced that the idea of a nature deficit is a serious problem.
So, we tend to concentrate on kids and I think we’re good at it. Enabling. Encouraging, Empowering. Exposing. We want people, and especially kids, to come away from the experience excited and more aware about birds. And I think we’re achieving that. I’ve pulled together a bunch of pictures taken over just the past week and forwarded to me that show just this.
Ezra and Giovanni Campanelli, Caleb Scholtens, and James Furber have been regular visitors at Ruthven for many years now (despite their tender ages). All are interested in birds and all are quite capable at idnetification, net extraction, and banding with all that entails. And a couple of them, Ezra and Caleb have branched off into photography. It’s neat to listen to the two of them discussing the relative merits of various settings, etc. and then going out together to try things out. A lot of the pictures you will see today were taken by them.
And then we get the annual “pilgrimmages” – kids coming once a year to celebrate a birthday or a special event or just because it’s “that time of year”. Lexie has been coming out on her birthday for several years now, brought by her Grandfather Ken. It’s interesting to see how they grow up.
And now Ken has brought out two new kids that have expressed an interest in birds: William from Hamilton and Alexander visiting from Nanaimo – both boys are exactly the same age (7) having been born on the same day. You can see the zeal in their eyes.
And then Hannah and her family came out early in the morning (around 6:00 AM) on a school day in order to get a good look at some migrants. They had been out on the weekend but had had to put up with a crowd and so took advantage of the school day. They helped out for an hour and a half and then it was off to school! (But not until Hannah had banded her first bird.)
So data collection is a big thing, but I think that getting people involved, especially kids, is bigger…..