Those who have had the opportunity to participate in the bird banding process at Ruthven know that the master bander, Rick Ludkin, creates an excellent environment for learning, and generally having an enjoyable experience. Earlier this year, Peter Harris, a master bander and founder of the environmental stewardship organization A Rocha, visited Ruthven. He was so impressed with Rick that he sent the following letter to Betsy Smith:
Dear Ms. Smith,
I had the great privilege of visiting your bird banding lab on October 19th with a number of colleagues from the conservation organization that I helped found in the early 1980’s. You can read more about that at www.arocha.org if you wish. I personally have been involved in bird banding schemes across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East for almost 30 years and have handled over 100,000 birds. Even so, it has been extremely rare in my experience to experience anything comparable to the educated welcome that I and my companions received when we visited the Ruthven lab. It was a truly exemplary experience and I wanted to congratulate you on the excellent work being done there.
Rick Ludkin, the master bird bander, has created a remarkably calm and warm atmosphere for visitors – almost unique in my experience of visiting many bird banding operations around the world. You may feel that this is a normal part of the experience at Ruthven Park, but it is more normal for bird banders to be taciturn or even frankly elitist. While their scientific studies may be important they often neglect the human element and show little interest in enthusing or educating visitors. Visiting banders are usually met with suspicion too.
Rick Ludkin has broken down those barriers and allows everyone to participate. While still banding birds in a professional manner, he brings visitors in and includes them in the banding experience. I saw everyone, from grown men to young children, encouraged to learn about the birds, banding, feathers, ageing, and migration patterns. Rick and his fellow banders have a quite remarkable ability to engage people while they band birds. To see young and old allowed to learn about, band, and release birds was a wonderful experience.
I am not only a bird bander, but also a conservationist at heart. I want to see people changing their lives in relation to the rest of creation. The conservation organization that I am involved with works in 20 countries around the world. We know that, when one gets down to it, it is necessary to work with people to change their hearts. That is the only way to change how people treat the world. I want to affirm thee work that your banding lab is doing, and congratulate Rick Ludkin and his fellow banders for how they incorporate people into their conservation work.
Also, some may recall that Rick Ludkin was the 2012 Grand River Conservation Authority Watershed Award winner. Here is a video that was created by the conservation authority to celebrate that award.
(Posted by Joanne Fleet and Jeff MacLeod, not Rick Ludkin, as it may appear if you notice the username under the title).