My Time with Birds

July 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

name="caption"  A recently banded male Black-and-white Warbler.

As many of my regular readers know, I was the head bander at Innis Point Bird Observatory earlier this spring.  This gave me an excellent opportunity to take some time to start a documentary project, showing the details behind the bird banding process.  While this is just the start of a project that I will likely continue with for at least another year, I want to share a few of the preliminary results.  Unlike my usual blog format, I'm not going to give technical details of the photos.  Instead, I will have short captions under the photos.  For anyone who is interested, these photos were taken with my Leica M3 and M4-P, Olympus OM-1n and Canon 5D, with various lenses.  The film photos were taken with Kodak Tri-X and Arista Premium 400.

The primary method of capturing birds at most bird observatories is using mist nets.  Mist nets tend to be 9-12 meters long, with 4 or 5 panels, which the birds get caught it when they fly into the net.

me="caption" A close-up of a mist net, showing the mesh in detail.  There are different sizes of mesh, designed to capture different types of birds.  These are standard 30mm nets, which are primarily used to capture warbler and sparrow sized birds.

A recently captured Chipping Sparrow waits for extraction.

It is also possible to catch larger birds in nets that are designed for small birds, such as this Common Grackle.  Most large birds tend to just sit in the pocket of the net, and don't actually get tangled, allowing for a fairly easy escape if they put enough effort into it.

After a bird is extracted from the mist net, it is placed in an appropriately sized bag, which gives the bird a quiet, dark place to rest in before the banding takes place.

Specialized pliers are used to place the band on the bird's leg.  Because bands come in sizes that fit everything from hummingbirds to eagles, multiple sizes of pliers are needed.  A ruler that is used for measuring wing chord can be seen in between the pliers.

Some of the various tools used in bird banding.

0A bands are the smallest size band that is regularly used at most bird observatories in Ontario.  They are placed on birds such as kinglets, creepers and some small warblers.  Size 3 bands are one of the larger sizes that are regularly used, for species such as jays and thrashers.

A recently banded Gray Catbird.  After a bird is banded, an attempt is made to check the bird's age and sex.  Fat and wing length are also recorded.

A banded Gray Catbird.

The final step before release is weighing the birds.  Here, an American Redstart weighs 7.9 grams.

 After a bird is weighed, it is released.  Here, an Eastern Kingbird takes flight as it is released.

At the end of the banding period, the nets are closed and tied, preventing birds from being caught while the nets are unattended.


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