One of the coolest things you can do this summer is to attend a hummingbird banding demonstration at either Montauk State Park or Onondaga Cave State Park. No matter your age — from tiny tot to senior citizen — the opportunity to have a hummingbird lie on your palm and then take off in a buzz of flight will stay in your memory forever.
Hummingbird researcher Lanny Chambers will be visiting these two parks on selected weekends from now through September. He and his helpers will capture, measure, band and study the ruby-throated hummingbird. The goal is to track the movement patterns of hummingbirds in Missouri.
Visitors are encouraged to bring cameras, and will get a chance to take a close-up look at the tiny birds. But visitors will be instructed to keep an adequate distance from the researchers for the safety of the birds.
After each bird is tagged, Chambers will select one person at random from the onlookers to hold the hummingbird in his/her hand until it flies away. Not everyone will experience this magical opportunity, but even those who watch will be thrilled. The look on the face of the hummingbird holder is priceless.
Chambers, of Fenton, has been studying these amazing little flying machines for decades, and has banded more than 3,000 hummingbirds. He’ll be banding the birds from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays on July 4, Aug. 8 and Sept. 5 at Onondaga, and from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on July 5, Aug. 9 and Sept. 6 at Montauk. The demonstrations are free of charge and open to the public.
While each event offers a good chance for visitors to see a lot of hummingbirds, Chambers notes that, “August is a peak month for hummingbirds. September can be really good, too.”
Chambers studied with other banders before earning his license to capture and band the birds. He and his wife, Linda, volunteer their time for the banding demonstrations. His pay? “The looks on the kids’ faces, no matter if they’re 80 – that’s what I’m there for. I have the same goose bumps every time I hold a hummingbird in my hand,” he says.
Chambers has a website, www.hummingbirds.net, which is packed with information. The website has a link to a YouTube video showing Chambers letting a young girl release a banded bird that will give you an idea of the experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eldOWWZ50ts&feature=youtu.be.
He’s been doing the banding at Onondaga since 1999, and added Montauk about five years ago. The parks are close to each other and he can do them back-to-back on a weekend.
At Onondaga, the event will be held at the lower level of the visitor center. At Montauk, the demonstration will be at the Hummingbird Garden in front of the Dorman L. Steelman Lodge.
Onondaga Cave State Park is located seven miles southeast of the Leasburg exit off of Interstate 44 on Highway H. Montauk State Park is located 22 miles southwest of Salem on Hwy. 119 in Dent County.
For more information about the event, contact Onondaga at 573-245-6576 or Montauk at 573-548-2225, or visit mostateparks.com.