The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Remembering June Ficker

Posted by | February 11, 2016 | Filed under: Culture

It was a blow, that message last Friday.

  • From: Paul Dest
  • To: All Staff
  • Sent: Fri 2/5/2016 11:05 AM
We have lost a committed conservationist, a lover of birds and of all things wild, a master bird-bander and masterful birder, an excellent teacher and an enthusiastic life-long learner, and one the greatest friends one could ever have.
June lived an extraordinary life — 91 years of active and engaged living. Her presence will continue to be felt here for years to come.

Master bird bander June Ficker holds a northern waterthrush during a demonstration at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm.

June Ficker loved birds. In childhood, she attempted to catch red-headed woodpeckers by shaking salt on their tails (her father's sly suggestion) and tucked in her pet canary beside her at bed time. For a long while after, though, she gave birds only passing thoughts. Then she went all in.

At 40, June got involved with Audubon. Then she studied ornithology through Cornell, got trained to band at Manomet, and set up her own study sites in Maine. As she told it:

Maine Audubon asked me to monitor least terns and piping plovers at Goose Rocks Beach. It wasn't long before I received a letter from Jonnie Fisk, "grandmother of least tern protection," asking me to tell her about the terns at Goose Rocks.
I met Jonnie at a gathering where beach monitors reported their results. I asked if she could teach me how to band birds. Jonnie recommended I contact Kathleen Anderson at Manomet.
I was thrilled to be accepted and spent three fall sessions checking 50 mist nets from sun up to sun down. By 1979 my application was sent to the Bird Banding Laboratory. I received my Master Permit from George Jonkel.
By 1987, after years of running a banding station at my home, I decided to see if Laudholm Farm would like to have banding demonstrations as an educational tool for the public. (In this way, I would honor my mentor, Jonnie Fisk, who had done the same at Wellfleet.) The Wells Reserve manager was very enthusiastic, so we opened in 1988 at the Laudholm Trust office. In 1989 we moved up the hill and have been here ever since.

June banded more than 3,500 birds here and welcomed thousands of observers to her work station under the copper beech. Untold numbers of captivated kids and awestruck adults learned about birds from June, heard the heartbeat of a little bird she held to their ear, or experienced the thrill of releasing a banded bird back into the wild.

Birds never got old for June. "They are adorable. They're such fun. They're really such extraordinary little critters," she said in a recent interview. And birds kept her young. Anyone who met June was taken by her verve and pluck. It was easy to believe she would be setting out her mist nets forever.

June Ficker Day

June Ficker shows off the plaque that dedicates the Saw-whet Trail in her name, May 2015.

Last May, on International Migratory Bird Day, June was both honoree and star attraction. The nets worked well that morning! June had so many birds to band, so many people to teach, she barely had time to join the ceremony recognizing her decades of accomplishment. After accepting accolades from the Bird Banding Laboratory, Manomet, and the reserve, June was presented with a plaque dedicating the Saw-whet Trail in her honor. With a quivering smile and glistening eyes, she showed off the brass plate that now welcomes visitors to the patch of woods she patrolled every autumn for those charming little owls.

In Memoriam

Visiting Hours will be held February 25, 2016, from 5 to 7 pm at Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer Street in Kennebunk.

A Memorial Service will be held February 26 at 11 am at South Congregational Church, 2 North Street in Kennebunkport.

As per her wishes, donations honoring June may be made to:

Recommended Stories About June

June's favorite bird was one she would never catch in her Wells Reserve mist nets: the red-capped manakin. We can understand why she'd love this bright bundle of energy.

Photo of red-capped manakin by Dominic Sherony. CC BY-SA 2.0. Text overlay 'Remembering June Ficker

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