Quarry Hill Nature Center

Janet and I participated in a family-friendly event at Quarry Hill Nature Center last weekend. They offer a monthly program on bird banding, in which they demonstrate the process and allow visitors (especially kids!) to participate. Here’s what we saw.

We’ve been to Quarry Hill several times, and observe it’s a great  place to bring kids for out door fun. The parking lot was nearly full, and it was clear that the majority of visitors were there to ski, snowshoe, or hike. We saw a couple outside doing a photo shoot for engagement pictures, and then there were plenty of folks inside enjoying the animal displays. For a mere $2 ($1 for kids), we signed up for the bird banding presentation.

quarry hill nature center
Quarry Hill Nature Center

The program began and the naturalist wasted no time getting the visitors involved she explained how we’d be setting traps at the bird feeder stations surrounding the Nature Center, then we’d check on the traps to see if we caught any birds. There were enough traps for each family present to set one out. Janet put our trap out at station number 13.

We returned inside, and the naturalist brought out a saw-whet owl and spoke to us about it and its behaviors. A saw-whet owl is among the smallest you’ll find in Minnesota. This one was particularly photogenic.

saw-whet owl
Saw-whet owl

Before long it was time to check our traps. Sure enough, one youngster had caught a chickadee. The smile on his face was priceless! Our cage was still empty. The naturalist explained the purpose of banding, and walked us through the process. She showed us that you could safely hold a bird by pinching its neck between two fingers, and gently cradling the body. The bird’s neck anatomy is such that you can’t really choke it, so you can pinch fairly firmly there, but you mustn’t squeeze its body with much pressure at all. She used a crimping pliers to place a band on the bird’s leg, and her assistant recorded the band number in a log book. The boy who caught the bird had the privilege of releasing it. The naturalist showed the boy how to hold the bird and keep it calm, resting the bird on its back in the palm of his hand. When the boy released his grip, the bird was so relaxed it didn’t seem to want to take off at first. Finally, the bird flew off with much applause from the assembly.

Other visitors caught a sparrow (which had been banded previously, and was located in the log book), and another chickadee. We didn’t catch anything in our cage, but we had fun all the same. We finished our visit with a quick walk through the center where there are aquaria with native fish and reptiles.

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Quarry Hill Nature Center is another of Rochester’s many treasures. Be sure to visit!

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