For Judy Richardson, the forest is her church. When she was young, she remembers walking by a pond on her property and seeing a bird crash into a bridge. Her father, a naturalist, told her the bird may have broken its neck and not survived.
But the bird did survive, and she and her dad placed the barn swallow in a shoebox and left it overnight. "I remember racing downstairs the next morning, and I could hear its wing beat in the box," said Richardson, who then took the bird back to where they found it. "That was a defining moment for me."
Richardson began bird monitoring when her son was taking a bird-banding class at the Connecticut Audubon Society's Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary in Fairfield. She said to her son, "You're so lucky this is what I want to be doing." Two weeks later, Richardson jumped at the opportunity to volunteer with the class. And for the past nine years, she has been bird banding in Fairfield and Costa Rica. She recently received an International Cooperation Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for her contributions to the establishment of a Network of Bird Monitoring in Costa Rica.
Richardson monitors the birds in a secondary forest in Costa Rica during our winter months with the San Vito Bird Club with Alison Olivieri, who runs the club. Richardson's dream is to find a bird in Fairfield that she banded in Costa Rica. That would mean the bird traveled about 2,500 miles a four-and-a-half-hour airplane flight. Richardson said some of the birds travel all the way to the tundra, while others go to Florida. In the tundra, birds find long summers and plenty of bugs and water.
In Costa Rica, Richardson also helps teach young locals to identify, handle, weigh and measure birds. She said bird banding provides information about the lifespan of birds and where they go. Bird banding can also monitor whether a population has decreased or increased.
"Because of hawk banders, we found that DDT is bad for the environment. They ate fish that ate bugs. They ingested the largest amounts and couldn't produce strong eggs," said Richardson.
The birds typically live one to four years, but Richardson found one hummingbird that was banded 10 years ago and a Kentucky warbler that has come back each year for five years.
"Without birds it would be very buggy and very quiet. I don't think we'd like it at all," said Richardson.
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