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. Annually we offer one Beginner (mid-May) and two Advanced (mid-May and Mid-September) Bander Workshops. We are interested in adding a MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) workshop in the summer if there are enough candidates. Our workshops cost $750 per person and include both housing and food throughout the morning. We offer a discount rate of $450 for a limited number of students or early professionals each workshop. Our workshops are limited to a maximum of 6 (beginner) to 9 (advanced) participants to maximize one-on-one training with bird in-hand experience.
The Beginner 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, and the Pyle Guide (Identification Guide to North American Birds by Peter Pyle).
Participants in the Advanced 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, and interpreting the Pyle Guide. 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.
The MAPS workshop is appropriate for intermediate- to advanced-level banders who currently operate a MAPS station or who would like to establish and operate a MAPS station. Topics covered will be the same as in the advanced workshop but will also cover MAPS protocol.
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.
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 pictorial highlights link on our website, or check out our daily totals here.
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 the 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.
Participants will begin by observing instructors during the banding process, rapidly progressing to hands-on experience. Beginners will be taught safe handling practices the first day and in subsequent days given one-on-one instruction on extraction at the nets. Later in the course, as time and advancement allow, beginners will have the opportunity to band birds and discuss criteria used to age and sex birds. Advanced participants will initially be showing 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.
The majority of time in the workshops will be spent in the field with live birds, and these sessions will be complemented with afternoon or evening presentations. 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 – please ask questions and make it into a discussion rather than a lecture.
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 (beyond the snacks provided) 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)
Blankets/Sleeping bag/Towels **The cabins do not come with linens
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 advanced workshop). This is not a necessity, we have everything needed on a daily basis but
you may have a pair of pliers you are comfortable with and we’ve found you can never have too many wing
rules during a calibration session.
Still have questions?
Please read through the FAQ's from past workshops. If you can't find your answer there, please email our Workshop Coordinator, Annie Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banding Workshops FAQ's
1. How do I sign up for a workshop?
Fill out the workshop google form to express interest. Our Workshop Coordinator 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 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 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 Workshop Coordinator 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?
We will hold your spot until March 1st for our spring workshops and July 1st for fall workshops. If we do not receive payments by those dates we will invite attendees 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 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. For the spring workshops, if there are openings, the Workshop Coordinator will contact those on the waiting list in mid- to late-March with invitations to sign up.
9. Who are the instructors?
Andrea Crary, Workshop Coordinator and NABC-certified trainer, has been banding birds for more than 15 years and coordinating workshops at PARC for the past two. Luke DeGroote, Avian Research Coordinator and NABC-certified trainer, has been banding birds for the past 15 years and supervising the banding effort at PARC for the past five. Mary Shidel has been banding birds for the past nine years and training volunteers and workshop participants for the past six. PARC’s workshops are NABC-approved.
10. What about internet access?
There is wireless internet in the house, cabins and at the lab.
11. 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.
12. Can 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.