The Powdermill Avian Research Center offers banding workshops throughout the year for individuals wanting to be trained in bird banding or to brush up on skills they already possess. We offer at least one workshop in the spring (mid-May) and one workshop in the fall (mid-September) annually. We offer two types of workshops: our “Extraction Workshop” focuses on extracting birds from mist nets and banding methods while our “Ageing Birds by Molt Workshop” focuses on ageing birds via molt limits and other reliable techniques. Our workshops cost $750 per person and include both housing and breakfast/snack food throughout the morning. We offer a discount rate of $450 for a limited number of students or early professionals (i.e., ≤2 years post-school) each workshop.
The Extraction Workshop is designed for individuals with little or no banding experience, and focuses on banding ethics, banding methodology, safe handling of birds and extraction of birds from mist nets. Participants will be introduced to molt terminology, learning to age passerines using molt limits, the Pyle Guide (Identification Guide to North American Birds by Peter Pyle), and molt cycle terminology.
Participants in the Molt Workshop are expected to be proficient in handling and extracting birds from nets. The workshop focuses on molt terminology, learning to age passerines using molt limits, interpreting the Pyle Guide, and using molt cycle terminology. This workshop is an excellent primer for the NABC (North American Banding Council) Bander Certification as we will cover topics in the NABC banding handbook and study guide.
Our workshops are approved by the North American Banding Council and are taught by NABC-certified trainers.
If you are interested in attending a workshop please fill out the workshop Google Form. Submission of the google form does not guarantee a place in the workshop. Space is limited, therefore priority will be given to those with opportunities to continue to utilize the skills we teach through work or volunteering.
Our upcoming workshops are:
Extraction/Banding Workshop – May 13-17, 2020
Ageing Birds by Molt Workshop – September 23-27, 2020
What to expect once you are registered
We will send reading materials in advance of the workshop start date. Included are papers on ageing and sexing songbirds, molt terminology, North American Banding Council publications, and Powdermill banding procedures. For an idea of what species you might expect, please visit the banding summaries page on our website.
Workshoppers should plan to arrive the evening prior to the workshop. Lodging is a furnished house or cabin near the banding lab with internet access. The first workshoppers to arrive can pick up the key from the operations coordinator at Powdermill Nature Center, approximately 0.25 mile from the banding lab area (1795 Route 381, Rector, PA 15677).
Workshop activities and instruction will revolve around the normal daily banding operation at Powdermill. The workshop begins with the opening net round which is 30 minutes before sunrise. Workshoppers who want to assist with opening the nets should be at the banding lab five minutes prior to the opening round. Coffee will be ready and we will have food available throughout the banding day. If conditions are safe for banding, the nets will remain open for six hours and be checked every 40 minutes.
Workshoppers will begin by observing instructors during the banding process, rapidly progressing to hands-on practical experience. Participants in the Extraction workshop will be taught safe handling practices the first day and in subsequent days be given one-on-one instruction on extraction at the nets. Later in the course, as time and advancement allow, they will have the opportunity to band birds and discuss criteria used to age and sex birds. Participants in the Molt workshop will initially be shown molt limits in the hand but will progress to ageing birds on their own, and will be “quizzed” by the final days of the workshop. Participants may ask to join in on net rounds or banding, and are encouraged to observe and participate, as time allows, in the parts of the banding operation that interest them.
*The safety and well being of every bird is our top priority, so every workshopper will not handle every bird. However, every effort will be made for workshoppers to see interesting molt limits/strategies or interesting species.
Much of the workshops will be spent in the field with live birds; these sessions will be complemented with afternoon or evening presentations and discussions. Participants are encouraged to ask many questions and engage in discussions about the banding or ageing and sexing process. Similarly, the afternoon presentations are meant to be interactive – participants who ask questions and make it into a discussion rather than a lecture often benefit more.
Participants may find it useful to relax after each banding day and presentation. Many spend the afternoons birding or go into town for meals or drinks. Let your brain process the information passively. Many participants feel a little overwhelmed by the information on the first day, but find that the material becomes easier to understand each day and “clicks” relatively quickly.
About the area
Powdermill Nature Reserve is somewhat remote and sits in the valley between two ridges with a lot of surrounding state park and forest lands (i.e., lots of opportunities for hiking, exploring, etc.). Barb’s Country store in Rector (3 miles) is the closest place for a few essentials (milk, eggs, etc) or a delicious deli sandwich. Ligonier, about 8 miles away, is the closest town and has plenty of shopping, restaurants, and a grocery store where you can get supplies for lunch and dinners. A short drive farther west on Route 30 (~15 minutes) will take you to Latrobe, the nearest city with large shopping centers and medical facilities. Places worth visiting during your downtime include Linn Run State Park (4 mi), Forbes State Forest (5 mi), Laurel Summit State Park (10 mi), Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (25mi), and Ohiopyle/Ohiopyle State Park (30 mi).
What to Pack
• Layers (warm/hot days can start with considerably cold mornings)
• Sleeping bag or sheets, pillowcase, blankets, towels and washcloths (the cabins do not come with linens)
• Soap and personal items
• Boots – come prepared for mud! Many people like rubber boots for the net lanes
• Notebook and pen/pencil
• Books, reading material, binoculars, hiking boots, etc. Expect to have some free time in the afternoon and at night
• Banding equipment (for Molt Workshop) – this is not a necessity as we have everything needed on a daily basis but you may have a pair of pliers you are comfortable using and we’ve found you can never have too many wing rules during a calibration session. Please mark your own equipment!
• Water bottle
• Drinking water (OPTIONAL – tap water is tested and good to drink, but smells a bit metallic)
Still have questions?
Please read through the FAQ's from past workshops. If you can't find your answer there, please email our Bird Banding Program Manager, Annie Lindsay at LindsayA@carnegiemnh.org.
Banding Workshops FAQ's
1. How do I sign up for a workshop?
Fill out the workshop google form to express interest. Our Banding Program Manager will contact you within a few weeks. Invitations to sign up, along with instructions, will be extended a few months in advance of the workshop dates.
2. What is the cost for the workshops?
The cost for each workshop is $750 per participant. We have limited space in our workshops for students or early professionals (i.e., ≤2 years post-school) at the cost of $450 per participant.
3. What does the cost of the workshop include?
The cost includes: five days of instruction with live birds in the field with NABC certified trainers, afternoon discussions and presentations, lodging (with kitchen), and breakfast and snacks.
4.Where will I be staying?
Lodging is in a house or cabin close to the banding lab. Participants may be required to share bedrooms with one another, but there will be individual beds for everyone. Participants will need to bring linens. The cabin has a common living area and kitchen, and many participants choose to cook meals on site.
5. How is registration decided and confirmed?
Space is limited, therefore priority will be given to those who signed up earliest (google form above) and have opportunities to continue to utilize the skills we teach through work or volunteering. Approximately four months in advance of the workshop (January for spring, May/June for fall) our Banding Program Manager will send an email invitation for you to participate in the workshop. All you have to do is email to confirm that you are still interested in attending and send payment.
6. When is payment due?
Your invitation to register will include a “register by” date. We will hold your spot until then but if we do not receive payments by those dates we will invite people on our waiting list.
7. Can I be refunded?
If you are not able to attend due to unforeseen circumstances we will refund your money in full if we are able to find another participant to take your place. In the event that we cannot find another we will refund half of your payment under reasonable extenuating circumstances.
8. Is there a waiting list?
Yes. If there are openings, the Banding Program Manager will contact those on the waiting list until all spots are filled. This could range anywhere between three months and a few weeks before the workshop date.
9. How do I get to Powdermill?
Once registration is confirmed, we will email each participant written directions to Powdermill and a map of the property. Participants are responsible for their own travel arrangements. Some participants choose to drive, others take a bus, and some arrive by plane. The nearest major airport is Pittsburgh International which is approximately a 1.5 hour drive to Powdermill. There is a smaller airport in Latrobe, PA (Arnold Palmer Regional Airport) that is about a 30 minute drive to Powdermill, however flights are limited and the only carrier that operates out of Latrobe is Spirit Airlines. Unfortunately, public transportation between these airports and Powdermill is non-existent, so some participants rent a car, some carpool, and occasionally someone may take a greyhound bus. The nearest bus station is in Latrobe, PA. Alternatively, a ridesharing company may be used.
10. Who are the instructors?
Annie Lindsay, Bird Banding Program Manager and NABC-certified trainer, has been banding birds since 2000 and coordinating and teaching workshops at PARC since 2014. Luke DeGroote, Avian Research Coordinator and NABC-certified trainer, has been banding birds since 2001 and teaching workshops at PARC since 2012. Mary Shidel, Banding Assistant at Powdermill, has been banding birds since 2007 and training volunteers and workshop participants since 2010.
11. What about internet access?
There is wireless internet in the house, cabins, nature center, and at the banding lab.
12. How about cell phones?
There is very little cell phone reception on the reserve, but you can connect by driving a short distance (<1 mile) away. The phones in the cabins make local calls only; you may want to bring a calling card if you wish to use the cabin phone for calls out of the area.
13. May I bring a guest?
Yes, they may observe all portions of the workshop but will not receive any training unless they are registered as an attendee. If your guest wishes to stay on site, housing will cost $200 (5 nights) for the duration and is contingent on availability.