Summer Bander Training Class – seven students, several hundred birds, and one awesome time!

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August 18, 2013.  BBBO launched its newest educational initiative this summer, holding its first ever Summer Bander Training Course.   The six registered students came from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New York, and they were joined by our summer intern from Ohio.

Danica, Jessica, Nichole, Robert, Pam, Amy, and Megan.

Danica, Jessica, Nicki, Bob, Pam, Amy, and Megan.

During their 7 days at Braddock Bay, these students were challenged to learn the basics of passerine banding including net-picking, banding, aging and sexing.  They learned to use Pyle, to age birds by skull and molt limit, and to recognize brood patches.  They learned to set up a station, discussed ethics and the scientific basis for banding, and took three written exams (plus a field test) to demonstrate what they had learned.  And somehow, in between, they found time to enjoy each other’s company.  (Personally, I think I should have stayed at the house with them.  Their dinners sounded AMAZING!).

Megan and Nicki's first day of banding

Megan and Nicki’s first day of banding

Amy and Pam try to figure out how to manage a wiggly bird, a tiny band, and a pliers all at the same time.

Amy and Pam try to figure out how to manage a wiggly bird, a tiny band, and a pliers all at the same time.

Katie observes as Nicki tries to identify a Song Sparrow, while Gayle supervises Bob as he bands a Gray Catbird

Katie observes as Nicki tries to identify a Song Sparrow, while Gayle supervises Bob as he bands a Gray Catbird

Amy gives data to the scribe, Megan tries to identify a Common Yellowthroat, and Danica checks to see if a band is properly closed

Amy gives data to the scribe, Megan tries to identify a Common Yellowthroat, and Danica checks to see if a band is properly closed

Thanks much to all the fantastic volunteers who helped to make this week a success!  Claire, Virginia, Jenna, Gayle, Katie, Ann, Sue, Leanna, Pat (who turned student in the afternoons!), Tom, and Aggie gave their time and talent to nurture these new banders, and Barb, John, Gayle and Pat generously loaned us fans to help keep us cool.

It was a great week overall!

Teen Camp a Success!

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Sunday, August 18.  BBBO held its second Teen Bander Camp this summer in early July.  While we lacked the number of students we were hoping for, the students we had were fantastic!!!  Jessica (our summer intern from Ohio) and Martha (a student from the Honeoye Falls area) learned the basics of banding, measuring, aging, and sexing birds as well as the difficult skill of removing birds from mist nets.  While they performed well the first four days of camp, their mettle was tested the fifth day when the two of them, plus Andrea and Emily, managed to safely and efficiently process approximately 100 birds!   They did a remarkable job, and we’d be happy to see either student back in our lab.

Jessica and Martha

Jessica and Martha

Jessica and Martha did a fantastic job learning to band in just 5 days.

Jessica and Martha did a fantastic job learning to band in just 5 days.

Using Birds to Build Bridges

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Thursday June 27, 2013:  Today, Emily and I headed down to Baker Park in Canandaigua to participate in their “Animal Exploration” summer day camp.  The day camp supports Bridges for Brain Injury, a local organization that raises awareness of and provides services to people affected by brain injuries.  Today, thirty children between the ages of 6 and 12 were at the camp, and they were treated to a walk through the woods to see the nets, close-up views of birds in the hand, and the always-popular kid-friendly “beanie baby net.”  The kids were fantastic, and asked many excellent questions such as “why do people band birds?” and “do the bands ever get too small for the birds?” and “Do birds remember where their nests are?”.

Emily bands a Cardinal as eager campers look on.

Emily bands a Cardinal as eager campers look on.

We set opened five nets at 9:30 and closed them at 11:30, and captured a total of 7 birds . . . one adult American Robin, four juvenile Robins, and two male Northern Cardinals.  While these birds may not be terribly exciting for banders or for birders in NY, they were great for the kids.  They see these birds in their yards, but it is a completely different experience to see them up close, and in some ways I think it is more meaningful to the kids.  Emily and I were really hoping we’d catch one of the four woodpecker species we heard (including a Pileated that sat just  a few feet from a net, flew toward it and then veered off as we watched!), but overall we counted the day a success.  Andrea Patterson



Once again, Pat Lovallo created a wreath for display and auction at the Eastman House in November.

Another Beautiful Wreath Created by PatPhoto by Ryan Kayhart

Another Beautiful Wreath Created by Pat
Photo by Ryan Kayhart

2012 Holiday Wreath Designed by Pat LovalloPhoto by Ryan Kayhart

2012 Holiday Wreath Designed by Pat Lovallo
Photo by Ryan Kayhart

Spring 2012 Education Events

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At the 7th ANNUAL COOL KIDS! ECOFEST held Saturday, April 14, 2012 at Genesee Community College representing BBBO, Pat Lovallo operated a display table and interacted with attendees to bring awareness of our organization and the work we do.   The ECOFEST is a very big and well attended nature festival and it is the second time BBBO has participated in it.

On April 21 and 22 of 2012 she also manned and presented our traveling education displays at the Braddock Bay Raptor Research BIRD OF PREY DAYS festival.   Our participation has been a yearly event for at least the past decade.

On May 18, 2012 BBBO was invited to be a guest science presenters at Rochester’s Charles T. Lunsford School 19’s DISCOVERY THROUGH SCIENCE DAY where several classes of 4th and 5th graders were scheduled one at a time for our BBBO presentation.   It was a successful and rewarding experience with the students responding well and asking very thoughtful questions.  This is the third time that BBBO has participated in this annual school event.  Pat Lovallo

Teen Banding Class Comes to an End

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The first Teen Bander Training Class has come to an end!  Collectively, the girls banded 71 new birds and processed 21 recaptures, including Blue-winged Warblers, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Traill’s Flycatchers, American Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-eyed Vireos, Warbling Vireos, Swamp Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, Gray Catbirds, and American Robins.  They net-picked around 125 birds, scribed for each other, and learned the basics of aging and sexing birds (including how to use Peter Pyle’s identification guide!).  All eight girls show remarkable promise, and we suspect we’ll see several of them at our station this fall as volunteers.

Emily and I would like to thank Tom, Kathy, Cindy, Chita, Gayle, and Ann for helping us this week.  We could not have done this without you, and we are so grateful you gave up a morning or two (or three!) to nurture the next generation of banders.

Thanks to everyone!

By the way – we believe yesterday’s mystery warbler was a Cape May.  We were able to determine it was a hatch year (juvenile) bird based on a partly pneumatized skull.  While the yellow feet initially had us thinking Blackpoll, we ruled it out based on the weak wing bars and the strong streaking on the breast.  None of the other juvenile warblers looked quite right for this bird, and the hint of yellow going up the neck sold us on Cape May.  Careful reading of both Peter Pyle and the Peterson Warbler guide lent support to our ID.  It’s an unusual sighting in Rochester at this time of year, and it was great for the kids to see that even the grown-ups have to think carefully, consult reference books, and ask each other for help.

Quiz Bird Stumps the Teen Banding Class!

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I’m not quite certain why anyone tries to predict the weather in Rochester.  When I woke up at 4:00 Thursday morning and checked the radar and weather forecast, I was certain the entire day would be a washout.  Nevertheless, we headed up to Braddock Bay because we had told the students class would go on, rain or shine.  BBBO must be located inside some sort of weather bubble, because our entire day was rain-free.  While we didn’t get an overwhelming number of birds, we got enough to keep our young banders busy.  Pictures will best tell the story.

For the first time this week, there were birds for all!

The students continued net-picking, scribing, and banding.

Brenna measures the wing of a Red-eyed Vireo

Anna skulls a Common Yellowthroat

Cici prepares to band a Tufted Titmouse.

Emily quizzes Bethany, who uses the field guide to correctly identify a Warbling Vireo (as did all the students!).

And then . . . we got an unfamiliar bird.

Bella extracts our Quiz Bird

Emily is stumped! (So is everyone else.)

Here are two views of the bird . . .

Quiz bird!

Quiz bird!

I’ll tell you tomorrow what we think it is.  Any guesses?

The Teens Start Banding!

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It was a beautiful day at BBBO – a welcome change from the hot and humid weather of the last few days.  The birds are still not cooperating, but we had just enough to keep our teens busy as they learned to band birds.

We set up a banding table outside in the shade, and each of the students banded several birds.  They learned the entire banding process – from putting on a band, to taking measurements, to aging and sexing the birds.  Skulling the Yellow Warblers proved to be a challenge, but the students quickly learned to spot the obvious differences between juvenile and adult Gray Catbirds and Red-eyed Vireos.  The afternoon was spent discussing bird development and how to age birds by plumage, skull, and several other criteria.

While many of the birds escaped before the entire process was complete, we still managed to band 39 birds of 10 species, plus 4 recaps.  Gray Catbird was bird of the day with 13 new bands, but it was followed closely by Yellow Warbler with 12.  Particularly lovely was a juvenile Wood Thrush, which had light buffy streaks all over the wings and head.  The weather tomorrow looks dicey at best, but we are still optimistic!

Claire bands a Cedar Waxwing, her favorite bird! Photo by Andrea Patterson

Raelena and Cici band Yellow Warblers as Bethany scribes. Photo by Andrea Patterson


Teen Banding Class, Day 2

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Day 2 of the Teen Bander Training class was a complete success, despite another morning with few birds.  The students spent the morning net-picking, scribing and learning bird topography.  I was thoroughly impressed with their ability to remember unfamiliar terms like ‘furculum’ and ‘lores.’  After a break for lunch, we had a great discussion on ethics.  The students drew “what should you do if . . . “ questions out of a hat, and we were delighted with their astute and well thought out answers.   We had a brief discussion about why people band birds, followed by an overview of the scientific method and how banding can contribute to our pool of knowledge.  The next item on our busy agenda was an activity on noticing field marks and using them to identify birds, and we closed the day by practicing with the banding tools.  The students held a rolled-up bird bag in one hand (to simulate an actual bird), and then practiced opening the pliers with the other hand, using and reading the ruler and calipers, massing the bird, and releasing it safely.  Tomorrow will be a big day as most of the class will band their first birds!

Today there were 35 new bands on 10 species, and 15 recaps.  We were not yet overwhelmed with Yellow Warblers, but there are signs that migration is underway.  Yellow Warbler was bird of the day with 10 banded (up from 3 yesterday), and one of them had a fat score of “4” which means it was fueled up and ready to go.  With winds from the north tonight, perhaps tomorrow will be a busy day!

Bella scribes as Gayle bands an American Redstart. Photo by Andrea Patterson

School is out but the learning has just begun at BBBO!

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Monday July 23, 2012

Eight girls from 12-15 years old are taking a week-long version of the Bander Training Class.  The format is very similar to the adult class, with hands-on practice in the morning and discussions in the afternoons.  Since this week is traditionally a high point in the Yellow Warbler migration, the students should get plenty of practice handling birds as they will learn both net-picking and banding.  Discussions will cover topics like field marks and species ID, aging birds (including by molt), and the ethics of banding.  Since banding is a science-oriented activity, the girls will also be collaborating on a research project during the week.

We got off to a great start today, despite the heat and the lack of birds.  We started by practicing the grips most commonly used by banders, and then the students began net-picking.  Each student had the opportunity to pull two or three birds from the net, and – based on what we saw today – they will soon be handling birds like old pros.  After lunch we watched a gruesome slideshow on all the diseases and parasites of birds, and then we discussed nets and traps.  Based on that discussion, the students picked a spot to put a new net.  Emily and I think they are after Cedar Waxwings, because the proximity of honeysuckle featured prominently in their choice of a perfect location!

Overall today we banded 34 birds of 14 species, including a young Wood Thrush, a Mourning Dove, and a Swainson’s Thrush.  The thrush was quite a surprise, and we initially assumed it was a Veery.  When we looked closer, we noted that the coloration, breast spotting, buffy lores, and wing morphology all matched Swainson’s Thrush and excluded Veery.  When we looked on ebird, we discovered that no Swainson’s Thrush has ever been reported in the Rochester area in July, and only one has ever been reported in August.  Gray Catbird was the bird of the day, followed closely by Common Yellowthroat.   There were only three Yellow Warblers, leaving us all to wonder where they are!  Maybe tomorrow???
Andrea Patterson
Claire, Bethany, Brenna, Cici, Anna, Bella, Raelena and Sonya at the end of their first day of Banding Camp!Photo by Andrea Patterson

Claire, Bethany, Brenna, Cici, Anna, Bella, Raelena and Sonya at the end of their first day of Banding Camp!
Photo by Andrea Patterson