Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bird Banding at SFBBO

SFBBO - San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory works on conservation of birds and restoration of the bird habitats. For tracking and studying the birds, their features, population and ensuring their wellness the volunteers of this organization catch the birds and band them(i.e put a ring having a serial number around their feet). Sometimes they catch an already banded bird in which case they examine the bird (like a check-up!) and make note of the birds statistics like molting, wing span etc.

The program that we attended was for families to see how the birds are caught, examined and banded. Since the area where the banding is done is a restricted conservation area, it is inaccessible for public. A special permit is issued to Audubon Society to do these programs couple times a year and that is how we could be part of this learning experience.

All the families met at McCarthy Ranch and we carpooled to the bird banding station at Coyote Creek (4-5 min drive). Various birds can be found here and you really need a binocular for this trip. We were taken for a walk about 20-35 minutes through the dense overgrowth to see the nets where birds are caught. There are about 50 nets and are operated only on certain days. The nets are very delicate and almost invisible to a flying bird. There is always someone walking past these nets to check if a bird is caught (Since the bird banding process is very intimidating for the birds, the volunteers want to keep it as short as possible). We were lucky to see an actual bird, song sparrow, caught in the net. It was removed from the net and put in to a cloth bag. On our walk we came across jack rabbits, a gray fox, and many birds like turkey vultures, kites, finches etc.

Back at the banding station, we watched 3 birds, a song sparrow, a common yellowthroat and a Bewick's wren which got caught in the nets. These were previously banded birds(on their legs), so the volunteer examined the birds, measured their weight and then let them go. The entire process took about 10-15 minutes for each bird. When the birds are caught they need to be held in a special way, so as to not hurt them as well as not to allow them to fly. Volunteers are trained in this technique.
The volunteer then showed us the bird skin displays of birds like the barn owl, red tail hawk, kingfisher, starling, blackbirds, house sparrow, wrens... and told us some interesting facts about these birds. The entire process of bird banding was very interesting and novel experience for me and my daughter.

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