- Julia's milk and juice prepared in the fridge
- Julia's morning banana on the counter
- Julia's shortbread cookies on the counter
- my lunch packed, Phil's lunch packed
- camera bag packed
- boots and warm clothes laid out and ready to go
As you know, I love being outside with the birds, but nothing quite compares to being able to study them up-close while banding. I first met Bob Placier a little over a year ago while banding saw-whet owls at Buzzard's Roost near Chillicothe. Bob is quite a guy!! With the patience of a saint and the knowledge of an encyclopedia, he is always willing to guide and mentor anyone with an interest in the natural world. I am so appreciative of his generosity! I've learned a lot just by watching him interact with the birds and listening to his stories and experiences of years past.
Bob graciously invited folks out to his property where he routinely sets up about four mist nets to capture and band birds (mostly songbirds). I could not pass up his invitation, so I arranged for my parents to babysit a few hours so that Phil and I could head to the woods.
My goal was to arrive at Bob's around sunrise, which is typically the most active time for birds. Our timing was just right. The Sunday sun was poking its glorious head just above the treeline as we prepared to make our final turn towards Bob's place. Of course, I had no choice but to ask Phil to pull the truck over so that I could snap a few quick photos, which only delayed us about 90 seconds. The sun rises FAST and a photographer can't waste even a second of precious time. The entire sky will change color in a matter of seconds, just like looking through a kaleidoscope. And then it's over.
We were greeted by Bob with bird-in-hand. He had already banded a northern cardinal before we arrived and had a tufted titmouse and american goldfinch in his netted bag, as we got out of the truck. We followed him in the house as he prepared to note the important stats on the birds. Each bird's wing and tail feathers are carefully measured and recorded, as well as the birds' weight and body fat. Once the stats are taken, Bob attaches and teeny tiny, numbered band to the bird's leg. The band is so lightweight that the bird doesn't even notice it. Finally, after a few short minutes of data collecting, the bird is released back to the wild.
|Bob recording data for a carolina chickadee|
|last year while banding, preparing to release an american goldfinch|
I even applied a band to an american goldfinch. I was so nervous!! But with Bob's patience and guidance, I was able to steady my hand and find the confidence to close the grip on the tiny band. It was amazing!
|tufted titmouse - most likely a female based on the short wingspan, but tufted titmice must be recorded as "sex unknown" in the banding records|
|female american goldfinch|
|dark-eyed junco, previously banded by Bob. This junco is FIVE years old! WOW! Bob determined at banding that it had been born the previous year (2006), so although it is five years old, bird banders would refer to it as a "sixth year" bird|
|the tiny band placed on the junco's leg FIVE years ago!|
It was a beautiful day in the woods, but the winds kept the bird count low. Even a slight breeze can cause the mist nets to sway enough to make them visible to the birds. However, we did band a carolina chickadee, american goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, and tufted titmouse, all before Phil and I headed back home. We also saw lots of woodpecker varieties including a hairy and downy side by side! FINALLY, I can tell them apart from each other!
My favorite bird of the day was the brown creeper that kept creeping around the trees. That's what brown creepers do best! It is a bird that I don't get to see often, and if you look at the photo below, I think you'll understand why! He is perfectly camouflaged!