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Thursday, August 5, 2010

June 13, 2010 Bristol Audubon, Bristol RI Misty 70` 9-11 am

Me releasing an American Robin

Steve removing a Grey Catbird from a mist net

Today was the day! The day we were going to see our first bird banding!

We arrived slightly late or maybe every one else arrived slightly early because when we stepped out of the car they were bringing up the first group of birds in small cloth bags. One by one the bander leading the program, Steve Reinert, noted their wing length and body length. He weighed them by stuffing them head first into a clear plastic cone shaped instrument and attached a vertical scale. He checked if they had an incubation patch by gently blowing their feathers up on their bellies where a belly button would be on a mammal. The small bare patch of skin which would mean they were females or if they had no incubation patch which would mean that they were males (or a non-nesting female).

He banded them with a metal bird bracelet using a pair of pliers made especially for bird banders. Of course the birds hated the whole ordeal but they lived to tell the tale. He banded and released 8 birds: 5 catbirds and 3 robins by the end of the program. I got to hold and release an American Robin. Seeing them up close was really different then seeing them in the field; the birds seemed so much smaller and frailer. It was a very enjoyable experience.

Mist nets are nets that are used for bird banding. You spread them out in a clearing not unlike a badminton net and hope that something gets caught. It is called a mist net because when you look at it its practically invisible. Steve had set up two this day. It was really horrible watching the birds be extracted from the tangled up mess of legs, wings, beaks and net. My mother really wants to redesign the system so that the birds are not as stressed out. Her plan is to use a funnel of non-shiny, soft plastic material that the birds will fly into and practically bag themselves with bags that will automatically close from their minor weight.

In addition to the banded birds we had a fairly large list of birds that were not caught in the nets including: Song Sparrows, an Osprey, a Blue Jay and 4-5 Northern Flickers!

Thanks Steve for memorable experience!

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