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

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