Local Hero: David Lamble with a saw-whet owl at Luther Marsh.
David Lamble: One of our 2012 Local Heroes
Master Bird Bander
Ask David Lamble if it’s fair to call his interest in birds an obsession, and he responds, “Oh, yes!” in a way that comes from the soul. Astonishingly, this retired high school teacher and current singer, actor and television host has banded more than 150,000 birds, every one of them meticulously documented over a period stretching back to 1978 – more than 15,000 in 2011 alone. A large proportion of those were at Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area, north of Grand Valley.
Bird banding has three primary goals. “Number one is obvious,” David says. “It’s to find out where they go. But by now that’s generally known.” Number two is to determine site fidelity. “Do they return to the same place or not? Tree swallows, for example, always return to the same nest year after year, but their children never do. They disperse anywhere from one to ten kilometres.”
The third reason has to do with measuring the birds’ longevity. “We had a black duck with a band recovered 36 years after it was banded. In another case, there was a red-tailed hawk that was 25 years old.” Banding has also revealed, for example, that osprey live an average five years less in Southern Ontario than in Northern Ontario, a curiosity still unexplained.
The high-quality basic science provided by banding “opens up a range of things for research,” David says. He urges anyone who finds a banded bird to file a free report at 1-800-327-BAND.
Why is David so compelled personally? “I really like hunting but can’t stand killing anything. So this is the ultimate hunting, with no killing.”
David achieved his Master Bander permit in 1986, a designation held by only about a hundred people in the province. He uses a variety of techniques to catch the birds without harming them, depending on the size and type of bird. Some are banded while still in the nest. Fibrous “mist nets” are used to catch smaller species, while non-harmful traps are used for larger varieties. Some are caught with the aid of a “lure tape,” a recorded call that draws the bird in so it can be caught in a net.
David spends as many as 200 days a year pursuing his banding activities. About a hundred of those are at Luther Marsh, where he also holds demonstrations for students and others on a regular basis. But lest anyone think it’s just a pleasurable retirement hobby, he points out, “It’s owl season. I’ve had four hours sleep in the last 48 hours.”
A man of diverse interests, David is also a solo singer who performs throughout the region, including monthly all-request shows at Lord Dufferin Centre in Orangeville. His acting resumé includes both stage and film, and for the last 20 years he has been host of Lions Club TV Bingo in Guelph, where he incorporates trivia into the show.
As for his avian affliction, he has no plans to stop anytime soon. “I think there are 286 species in Ontario,” he says. “I’ve banded 190 so far. There are lots of areas in which I can still experience something new.”
For more information: Ontario Bird Banding Association, visit ontbanding.org