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My Bird Banding Experience


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The Georgia Ornithological Society had the annual Fall meeting this past weekend. There were many field trips to sign up for, but a lot of them filled before I could register. I did get to go to a restricted access site on Saturday, which didn't net me any new birds personally, but was still a cool place.

Sunday and Monday I signed up to help with the Jekyll Island Banding Station. I loved, loved, LOVED it. I'm hooked.

The first day, they started me off by having me ferry bags from the nets to the banding tent. After the first round, they taught me how to hold the birds. Started with the first hold, which is easier, called a bander's hold. My first bird to get to hold was a little American Redstart. After that, they taught me the photographer's hold, which is a little trickier, but I got lots of practice. After a while of helping with everything and showing I could hold the birds in both poses in both hands, they decided to teach me to extract birds from nets. They had me observe while they talked through it, and then there was a time it was my turn! It was SUPER nerve wracking. It was a Palm Warbler, and you don't realize how small and delicate they are until you are trying to untangle one from a net. With some coaching, I successfully got it out! On our next run, I found a Painted Bunting, and the person with me went "You've got it!" and walked off and left me there. I kind of went ? but I was successful! (And actually, figured out it's a lot LESS stressful when people aren't watching you. I bungled every extraction with people watching, but whenever I was on my own, I did fine.)

The next morning I showed up, they had me just jump right in unsupervised. I ended up doing 6 or 7 completely solo (no one watching) extractions. They even had me help brand new people practice their holding technique. At one point, on a net run, I even extracted three at once, so got to deal with wrangling birds in bags while trying to free another one. I extracted a catbird, two or three cardinals (it got reeeeally busy so it's kind of a blur), painted bunting, and common yellowthroats. People had warned that cardinals have a reputation for being fierce and very bitey, and I found that to be true. I also realized if you just let them latch on to a pinky, they are easier to get out of the net. ? Their bites hurt, but it wasn't a big deal. My last bird of the day was a hatch year male that was super bitey, and you could see the mark for a solid twelve hours afterward. I loved it, though! I can't wait to do it again!

Photo dump: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1eipu14ehoyecxg/AADQJm4XkyQL9iTAkpnulvCla?dl=0


P.s.-if anyone ever finds themselves on Jekyll Island during the month of October, the banding station is open every day it's not raining from 7:30-noon. (From 10:30-noon it's pretty slow birdwise.) They accept walk in volunteers, and will teach you a lot!

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