Preserve offering bird’s eye view of banding

Autumn is here, which means the bird banding station at Rushton Woods Preserve is open for "birdness."

A male Blue-winged warbler is banded at Rushton. Photo by Blake Goll
A male Blue-winged warbler is banded at Ruston Woods Preserve. Photo by Blake Goll

The public is welcome to observe bird-banding every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 6 to 10:30 a.m., weather permitting, from now through the first week of November.

During autumn migration, 20 billion birds are burning through the night sky with the big dipper at their backs as they navigate the stars on their way to the tropics, said a press release from the Willistown Conservation Trust.

A tiny warbler – weighing no more than a third of an ounce – can fly 200 miles overnight. These amazing animals can accomplish such feats by cover of darkness because the nocturnal atmosphere is cooler and more stable, guarding against overheating and overexertion.  Flying by night also allows songbirds to avoid diurnal birds of prey like hawks, the release said.

In addition, night commuting gives small birds, like American redstarts that must replenish diminutive fat reserves often, the opportunity for daytime foraging in stopover sites like Rushton Woods Preserve. Finding a suitable stopover site can mean the difference between life or death for an exhausted migrant. And the Willistown area's conserved lands offer an important refuge.

Bird banding provides valuable information for the study of dispersal, migration, survival rate, reproductive success, and population growth.  At Rushton Woods Preserve, bands help document the seasonal and long-term population patterns of migratory and resident species.  Through banding, individuals can be tracked, which is important in determining survival, migratory stopover rates, and longevity.

Additionally, banding birds allows Willistown Conservation Trust to examine bird population response to the various initiatives undertaken by the trust, many of which impact bird habitat.

These initiatives include further protection of land from development; creation of native wildflower meadows and grasslands; sustainable farming; streamside tree planting and riparian restoration; promotion of the use of native plants; promotion of reduced mowing; and reduction of the local deer herd via our deer management program.

Rushton Woods Preserve is located at 911 Delchester Road, Newtown Square. Park in the farm parking lot and walk east through the hedgerow, then south (right) along the mowed paths to the banding pavilion.


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