We woke up extra early this morning, 5:30 a.m. to be precise. We got dressed, tucked our pants into our socks, hopped in the car and drove 7 km south. We arrived at a 450 acres reserve that has been donated by a local family to be used for research. This area is not open to the public, but we were allowed to enter under the guise of volunteers.
The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory has set up a bird banding station on the reserve, and hired a guest bird bander to conduct the research. Lucky for us, their guest bander has been staying at our bed and breakfast for the last month. There hasn’t been much banding going on due to the cold and rainy weather, but now that the sun is out, the banding has begun!
We were the only volunteers this morning so we had a close up view. There were 5 foot high bird nets set up amongst the trees, that looped at the bottom. When a bird flew into the net it would fall into the bottom of the net. It doesn’t hurt the birds, it’s more like a wee bird hammock. The nets get checked every 20 minutes. Lucky for us, there was an adorable Chipping Sparrow caught in the net on our first net check. I tend to categorize all small, brown and black birds as chickadees. It falls in line with my lifelong belief that all dogs are male and all cats are female. Even though their junk may look different, I am still convinced that both species are monosex.
We gathered up our little Sparrow and brought it to the makeshift banding station. His wings were measured, weight documented, age determined, and leg banded. There is such a large variety of birds out there and therefore a wide assortment of sizes for bird bands to accommodate all leg sizes. The most adorable bands are those for hummingbirds. They have the tiniest legs, hence the smallest bands. They are so small that they need to be carried on a diaper pin.
After our sparrow, whom we named Cairo, did his part for research, he was placed on Wini’s hand. He so generously paused for a photo opportunity, and then flew away.
We all fell in love a little bit this morning, with Cairo, the early morning light, and with the hidden life of birds. We all agreed our trek was worth our shorter sleep. Our guest bander says she had heard 47 different bird songs on our property, and has made me a list on her chalk board in her room. We better start paying attention to our feathered friends. Spring banding is coming to a close, but there will be more to do late summer and early fall. And we’ll be there.