By Vanessa and Olivia Merritt (Young Naturalists)
On Saturday, June 1st, John Gerwin took some members of various NC Audubon chapters, as well as a few Young Naturalists from Wake Audubon, to bird band at Prairie Ridge Ecostation. It was about 7:30am, because birds are most active in the early morning. Earlier that morning, many nets had been set up and opened by Keith Jensen, a research technician with the Museum of Natural Sciences. The nets are like volleyball nets, with very small holes and made of fine material. Two groups went out to check the nets, in different areas, during the morning hours. Olivia and I, as well as the other Young Naturalists went with John so that he could teach us how to take the birds out of the nets. Since it was windy, the birds could see the nets more easily than usual, and we only got a few birds on the last net we checked that first round. We got a few goldfinches, and two juvenile starlings. The first step to get birds out of the net is the feet. One male goldfinch didn’t struggle, but it was difficult to get the fine strings untangled with the claws. This starling’s feet were very strong, but once getting the hind claw free, the grip loosened. Next is the tail, wings, and head. Each case varies, but the tail and head are usually the easiest to get free. The wings are harder, because if the bird struggles, the wing’s individual feathers get more tangled. After the bird is out of the net, he/she is put into a cloth bag to be taken to the banding station.
Juvenile Starling caught in the net
John Gerwin showing the young naturalists how to untangle the bird’s feet
Female goldfinch being taken out of the net. She was already banded; that’s important because we can see how she has changed since the last time she was caught. Recaptures are vital, because scientists can find out more information pertaining to the species.
At the banding station, more goes on than just the banding. We have to weigh, measure wing length, check body fat, brood patch (bird may be breeding), cloacal protuberance (to check the breeding status), age, sex, and molt.
A male goldfinch’s wing being measured by Olivia Merritt. To measure the true length, we do not spread the wing open, but instead gently place the slightly open wing on the ruler without any pressure.
A female goldfinch being inspected, while the scribe in the back writes down the bird’s band number, weight, sex, etc.
A male goldfinch being banded.
A male goldfinch being checked for molt and fat on the stomach (we blow through a straw to part the feathers).
Juvenile bluebird actually getting weighed.
An orchard oriole having its wing measured.
The orchard oriole getting weighed.
A huge Comet Darner dragonfly that was caught in the net (we didn’t have small enough bands to band it, though!).
This was a wonderful experience for both young naturalists and Audubon members. Everyone was so nice, and we had a lot of fun!