It was a rather cold morning when a local cub scout pack came out to Dahlem this month for their Blue and Gold awards outing. For their program, they brought in Allen Chartier, who is a Michigan bird bander.
Earlier in the week Allen had come out and set up mist nets around our bird feeding station, and had put out three traps, in order to acclimatize the birds to these unusual structures. The birds readily adapted to the new items at the station, so that morning, the nets were opened and the traps set, and soon we had birds to band.
Mist nets are very fine nets that the birds cannot see. When they fly in to feed at the feeders, they hit the net and fall into a “pocket” or drape in the netting. Once caught, they usually lie there pretty still, waiting to be rescued. As quickly as possible, Allen was out there untangling the birds,
pulling them out of the traps,
and popping them into cotton bags (one bird per bag). Being in the bag usually calms the bird down and keeps it from hurting itself. Allen was surprised at how many birds we caught and how quickly. In about an hour we had 39 birds and had to close the nets and traps.
The bagged birds were brought inside and hung up on hooks to await their turns at being recorded for posterity.
Blowing gently on the head, Allen would then age the birds based on the ossification of the skull (had the sutures on the skull closed or not). He’d also check the bird’s sex, if possible.
Wing and tail measurements were taken,
each bird was wrapped up in a bag and weighed,
and all the data were recorded in Allen’s records, to be sent on later to the bird banding authorities.
After each bird was successfully banded and recorded, it was carried outside and released. Staff and visitors got to help release some of the birds, which were more than happy to get back to their routines.
We will have Allen out again at the end of March for a public bird banding program. Look for it in our March/April issue of PawPrints. He will also be out during the annual Birds, Blooms and Butterflies Festival in August, when he bands hummingbirds.