Did you know that birds have growth bars? Or, that you can determine a bird’s gender by blowing on its private bits?
That is, if it’s over a year old. And, that you can tell if it’s first year or ‘hatch year’ bird by looking at the contrast between the primary and greater coverts?
Neither did I.
There is a place that exists however where you learn loads of bird facts and more.
My visit to Oak Hammock Marsh, just 20 minutes outside of Winnipeg, left my head spinning with all sorts of new found details and even greater curiosity about birds. I didn’t even know that was possible. But its true, my obsession is even more magnified than before.
Oak Hammock is home to 36 square kilometers of reclaimed wetlands, making it a serious oasis for birds and hotspot for bird lovers. If you can believe it, during the migration season the number of waterfowl using the marsh can exceed 200,000 daily!
On top of that, 300 or so birds travel through and nest around the area — that is about half the bird species found in Canada!
The marsh is also home to 20 species of mammals, various reptiles, invertebrates and amphibians. I will never forget the amphibians.
**Word of warning – there are frogs and toads everywhere. You literally have to watch every step, as they will find themselves under your feet!
There is ample opportunity for those who want to learn all about birds and other marsh resident’s onsite, at the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. There you will find a good mix of seasonal educational programming for all ages that range from day programs, such as guided walks and canoeing, to workshops, such as bird banding, available year around.
For me though, it was all about the banding. I just wanted to hold the birds and have the ability to look closely at them, and then release them. I am so fascinated by the minute differences between birds, especially withing the same families, such as sparrows for instance.
If you want to be up close and personal with birds … this is your place. Band a bird. Oh yeah.
While there I was able to check out how they catch the birds, identify them, weigh and measure them and then release them again back into the marsh. It was ENTHRALLING. I had the opportunity to hold and release three species: a common yellow throat, a song sparrow and a barn swallow.
I was so thoroughly absorbed in the experience that it was actually hard for me to leave. Really hard. Knowing all of these great little birds were there, quite a few that would have been new species for me, made it extremely difficult to walk away. I did manage to add a few to the list before leaving though.
Oak Hammock Marsh made a huge impression on me.
I am already planning my return back. This time though, with my kids. They will love the hands-on approach to many of the activities like critter dipping or counting frogs for that matter. And, I am sure they are certain to learn a thing or two.
I will never forget how great it was to do this. It has actually inspired me to pitch in more at home and become more involved with local banding and counts.
You must go birding at Oak Hammock Marsh.
GO and visit this centre if you are the least bit into birding. Even, if you aren’t, there will be something there that peaks your interest. I guarantee it.
Admission Rates for Oak Hammock Marsh
- Adults – $7
- Youth (3 to 17) – $5
- Seniors (55+) – $6
- Family (2 adults and their children) $24
For more information, visit http://www.oakhammockmarsh.ca.