Thursday, September 16, 2004

Introvert's Lucky Day
I didn't have to alphabetize my spices. The Knitting Meetup was cancelled due to the leader being called out of town. I was going to make myself go just to prove that I could do it. Now that I've been given this reprieve, I'm not sure that I'll sign up to attend again.

Bird Banding
This morning I attended a bird banding session at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Eight of us met in the parking lot and our bird-banding guide took us on a hike to check the mist nets in the marsh. We walked uphill, downhill, and in the mud for over an hour. Then we hiked back to the barn where they do the actual banding. The session lasted two and a half hours. When I got home, I ate lunch and took a nap.

The nets are called "mist nets" because they look like mist. There's a good picture of a mist net at this web site. It also has a good overview of the basics of bird banding.

Our banding guide was an enthusiastic young lady who has been banding for six years. From the end of August to the end of October sixteen nets at different locations are rolled out at dawn each day that weather permits. On a good day, about a hundred birds are caught, banded, and released. The nets are checked frequently. The birds are untangled and put into fabric bags for transporting to the banding barn.

The banders all appear to be very conscientious about keeping the birds safe, as calm as possible, and getting them processed and released as quickly as possible.

It's especially important to get the birds out of the nets before something happens to them. Deer and chipmunks will munch on birds caught in a net.

A storm moved through the area last night. The front took the migrating birds with it so there were not many birds in the nets this morning. A few goldfinches, warblers, a catbird, common yellowthroats, and a yellow bellied flycatcher.

Seeing the birds up close I was surprised at how small and delicate they are. They look much tinier in captivity than they do when they're sitting in a tree.

The warblers accept their fate passively. The chickadees struggle and peck. The catbird bit, but wasn't strong enough to do damage or create pain. Our guide has gotten blood blisters from grosbeaks and cardinals. They have very powerful beaks and they don't let go once they bite.

I'm still processing everything that we saw, trying to sort out my feelings about bird banding and wondering if I want to volunteer to help next year.