A Great Day at Runge Nature Center

by Tami Courtney 
“We do what we do because we love birds!”  -Ethan Duke, Assistant Director, MRBO.  Yes, we do!
On Saturday March 3rd, we were at Runge Nature Center, Jefferson City.  This is a magnificent, educational facility owned and operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Folks, it is  in Your Backyard!  Many MDC facilities are amazing and this one does not disappoint. 
The stars of the day – Chickadees –
accounted for 18 of our 31 captures
at Runge Nature Center.
photo from Steve & Regina Garr.
We had the great fortune of a balmy (yet windy) early March day to share with the visitors of Runge Nature Center the amazement of holding in hand some of our most prolific birds:  Chickadees.  For those who may believe we only host the Black Capped Chickadee – beware!  Saturday saw an overwhelming abundance of our friends from the South, Carolina Chickadees.  We also experienced a couple “Hmm?” moments and had to give the Chickadee up to a hybrid.  Yes, indeed.  Those southern belles and northern gents or northern gals and southern gents get along just fine.  We also had the pleasure of visiting with a few Tufted Titmice – because you cannot have a bird party without them!  They are a fearless little bird weighing around 17 grams, give or take a half gram or so – approximately the weight of a couple nickels and a penny.   The starship Enterprise, for those of you who are Trekkie fans, would have done well to have these brave little winged adventurers with them – because, when no other bird will venture out, the Titmouse will go where no other (small song) bird has gone before!  Hence a few of these little guys received honorary Star Trek names.  However, one was so annoyed by the banding process he was dubbed “Angry Bird”.  We also banded a couple White-breasted Nuthatches.  Fun!
A very unusual second-year female Downy Woodpecker showing a
 few red feathers.  Photo from Steve & Regina Garr. 
To everyone’s delight, we had the opportunity to band a Downy Woodpecker.  At first there was a befuddled and baffled examination of the small bird, as it exhibited a few (i.e.  two, three, Okay – maybe four) red feathers at the back of the nape, not on the crown.  Ethan Duke and Dana Ripper eventually concurred that this was a female.   If this individual shows up again in the next few years, hopefully, it should become apparent whether the sexing was correct. 
MRBO had the pleasure of talking with and demonstrating mist-netting and banding to several visitors of Runge Nature Center.  The visitor center reported over 300 visitors Saturday.  We had a particularly interested young man, A.J., age 10, who had visited with us in the past, take an avid interest in the catch, banding, identification, and release of birds.  He excitedly shared and demonstrated through knowledge and action; he would like to be a bird biologist when he grows up!  Yahoo for science!  Kudos to his parents.  A.J. was the proud recipient of a pair of Bushnell Binoculars which MRBO keeps aside for just such young individuals:  those who show an avid and ongoing interest in the learning and preservation of our avian friends.
Finally, we  had the pleasure of hosting folks from the River Bluffs Audubon Societies who had sponsored MRBO’s event at Runge…and they expressed an interest in helping even more with our education and outreach!  Thank you! 
On a personal note, I will get to work with Missouri River Bird Observatory this spring on their inaugural work with Missouri River Wetland species.  Wow!  It has only taken me 35 years to get here!  That’s story for another day….
(editor’s note:  A big welcome to Tami, who will be our Missouri Marsh Bird Technician for summer 2012!)

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