Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting an educational bird banding station run by the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory at Barr Lake State Park, just northeast of Denver. Meredith McBurney and her team of volunteers do a fantastic job of engaging school groups, bird club trips, individual birders, and passers-by (the banding table is along a popular hiking trail.) Meredith is amazing at explaining what's going on with each bird to anyone from pre-schoolers to folks with decades of serious birding under their belts. Birds in hand catalyze discussions ranging from the esoteric to expressions of delight and amazement. During my visit I compared and contrasted subtle Dusky vs. Hammond's Flycatcher features and pondered why silent fall "Western" Flycatchers in Colorado should be left at that instead of putting Cordilleran or Pacific-slope tags on them. But equally cool topics included shared retinal wonderment at the vivid azure hues on a Blue Jay or amazement at the impossibly tiny bundle of migratory energy wrapped up in a MacGillivray's Warbler.
I've been to many banding stations throughout my birding life and always come away knowing more than I did before the visit. My last trip also reminded me that bird banding is also a potentially good hook for beginners. As a follow-up to the outstanding Pledge 2 Fledge initiative, perhaps you'd consider bringing a new birder to a banding station near you!
Seeing what Peter Pyle says about determinging age & sex of Townsend's Warblers.
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