Monday, August 6, 2012

Bird Banding at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge

What an amazing morning of birds the Knoxville Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS) had yesterday at the final MAPS session of the season at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge.  
The beautiful male Blue Grosbeak above was one of the many gorgeous birds banded during the morning session that lasted from 5:45 a.m., when nets were put up in darkness, until closing at 11:00 a.m.
Mark Armstrong, above, examining plumage for wear and molt.

MAPS stands for the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program, a program conducted by The Institute for Bird Populations in Point Reyes Station, California.  The MAPS program is conducted from May to August during breeding season and has specific data collection requirements with a goal of analyzing data to understand how bird populations are changing over time.  The information collected and reported by MAPS banding stations helps scientists to determine causes and effects of environmental change.
Above, Billie Cantwell, President of KTOS.  Below, Billie Cantwell, Mark Armstrong, and Janie Kading.
Seven Islands's Wildlife Refuge, in Knoxville, TN, is a unique grassland habitat and conducts one of the few grassland MAPS stations in the country.  Mark Armstrong, a master bander with a specialist banding permit for hummingbirds, operates the MAPS station during breeding season and during other seasons of the year.  Over 3000 birds have been banded at the refuge over the past three years.
August is the time of the year when the area is filled with juveniles from the current nesting season and also birds that are post breeding and wandering in the area to feed before leaving for more southerly destinations in the fall.  Birds like the House Wren shown in the next two images often turn up in August.

And this is also the time of year for surprises, like the Blue-winged Warbler shown below, a first recorded at the refuge.  Mark Armstrong is shown below with the warbler in hand.
Below the Blue-winged Warbler female, showing a very spunky attitude as she alertly responds to the sounds around her, mostly the banding team's excitement.

Below, Janie Kading and Mark Armstrong study plumage details in reference guides as Mark determines the age and sex of the bird.
The juvenile Orchard Oriole shown below was also banded on Sunday.  Banding studies throughout the year help us learn more about the birds that visit the refuge.  For example, a male Orchard Oriole, recaptured in an April 2010 banding session, was known to have hatched in 2004 from previous banding records.  From this record and known migration patterns, Mark could speculate the following:  "Orchard orioles are listed as a canopy species wintering in the mountains of Mexico to Honduras.  By my calculations this bird has likely crossed the Gulf of Mexico 12 times so far."  Amazing to consider!
Two Worm-eating warblers were also banded during the session, along with four Ruby-throated hummingbirds, a Yellow-breasted chat, Common Yellow throats and numerous sparrows, Indigo Buntings, and others.  In all, 80 birds were process through the banding station in a morning's work.

In addition to the scientific information collected at these sessions, banding often offers an opportunity for children to experience the wonder of birds close up.  
Dawn Johnson, one of the banding team members, introduced her two son's to the banding station on Sunday.  In the images above and below you see her showing her young sons a sparrow that Mark is holding in his hand. In the images that follow she receives and releases the bird, delighting them.  


 Birds provide joy to all ages!
Worm-eating warbler.

Upcoming:
Getting Ready for Alaska!

Links and Resources:
My previous posts on bird banding.
Knoxville Tennessee Ornithological Society
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge
The Institute for Bird Populations
MAPs Program

4 comments:

  1. I think this would be such an exciting thing to do. Getting so up close and personal with the birds. What a treat to have them in hand.
    Can't wait to hear about your AK trip. One of my favorite places to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was so interesting...thank you for sharing it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What an exciting job! I just love little birds of all kinds. Lots we never see nor pay attention to as being something different or rare. That would be like a treasure chest of surprises. A little swallow flew in to my shop door this morning and it killed him. I was sad to see the beautiful little thing lying lifeless on the sidewalk.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It really was so interesting!

    ReplyDelete

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