Written by Joanne Fleet. (Posted on the blog by Jeff MacLeod).
Have you ever been putty in the palm of a transformational leader? Probably not. Transformational leaders are a rare machine. They are the leaders who don’t require authority to lead. Instead, transformational leaders have the ability to lead by inspiring those around them. They are the individuals we follow, not because we have to but because we want to. Rick Ludkin is a shining example of a transformational leader. He started banding alone at Ruthven Park over nineteen years ago. Over the years he has collected, what Betsy Smith has called, “Rick’s band of merry volunteers.” We are a group of dedicated volunteers who return, season after season, not because we have to but because we’ve been inspired to.
My own story is further evidence of Rick’s transformational leadership. Two years ago, I thought that the word “sparrow” was a synonym for the word “bird”. And I would have guessed that all birds were mostly brown. I’d never really noticed them. Now, whenever I look at a bird, my heart overflows with love. This love affair of mine, despite being in its infancy, is entirely fulfilling and was born from a single visit to Rick Ludkin’s banding lab. Ralph Beaumont said it perfectly, “Rick’s enthusiasm for birds is contagious.”.
This past week, I’ve spent quite a lot of time staring (and then staring some more) at my recently hard won banding permit and I can’t help wondering, “How on earth did I get here?” Well, this achievement required a village of help, starting with Rick’s magic and encouragement and impossibly high expectations; Nancy Furber’s gentle and patient instruction and her ability to coach over and over again the finer points of ageing; Matt Timpf’s imposed ten point grading system for banding accuracy and excellence; David Brewer’s endorsement; Bev and Carol’s warm guidance regarding incomplete data; and the company of Faye and Liz who are compatriots on the steep curve of ageing and sexing passerines. Indeed, in order for me to earn my sub permit, it took a village comprised of Rick Ludkin and his merry band of volunteers.
Rick often writes about trajectories; where we’ve been and where we’re going. This September, I’m excited go in a whole new direction. Eight years ago, to enjoy stay-at-home motherhood, I stepped out of my job teaching Language Arts at Fern Hill School, a beautiful private school in Burlington. This September, I will return to Fern Hill School as the Field Studies Coordinator where I’ll be implementing a program that I’ve developed based on the Ruthven model. Over the past year, I have been working hard to install a Bluebird trail which is currently active with our first pair of nesting Bluebirds and host to numerous Tree Swallows. The native plant butterfly meadow has been prepped and is begging for those student propagated plants. And I’ve recently sewed fifty bird bags to stock my very own, fully functional, bird banding laboratory – which I call, with fondness, The Rick Ludkin Lab of Inspiration and Conservation.
Rick’s work has had such a profound impact, and it is so exciting to be able to extend his vision. I too, will use birds to inspire our next generation of scientists and conservationists. For in the end, we will only conserve the things that we love, and we can only love the things that we know and understand.