Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Bird Banding Highlights Recent Field Trip
September 16, 2022
By Steve Grinley
I have written before about bird banding experiences, including one with saw-whet owls in Uxbridge with Strickland Wheelock. Strickland conducted a field trip from Drumlin Farm in Lincoln last week that included a stop at the banding station in Uxbridge and I share his report with you here:
“This Sunday morning, 2 vans of birders from Mass Audubon Metro West joined me at West Hill Dam in Uxbridge for banding. Following the banding, we toured/birded River Bend Farm and then the Uxbridge Community Gardens. Once the vans arrived at West Hill Dam, action started immediately as birds were being caught in the nets – first net had a female Black & White Warbler & Chickadee – others had a male Downy Woodpecker, a male banded Cardinal that was banded at this site in 2018 [still hasn’t learned where the nets are], and another Chickadee and later 2 Catbirds [one banded a few days back].
“Like I did with the children, I put the participants to work helping me to read the numbers on the length of the wing cord, examining certain feathers to determine if an adult or hatching year bird plus, then releasing the birds after being banded & all data booked. One thing that was fascinating for the participant was how short the woodpecker legs are to the other passerines, how stiff the tail feathers are – all things you can witness with the bird in the hand.
“While birding the area near the nets, we had Pileated Woodpeckers overhead, Wood Ducks & Great Blue Heron in the marsh, some warblers near the nets like Parula plus others. Next stop was River Bend Farm that started out slow as we walked the trails with only Kingfisher, several Flickers & Red-bellied Woodpecker, Phoebes, and Carolina Wren. But that changed dramatically as we hit a large pocket of migrants that included a female Summer Tanager, 3 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, American Redstart, Black & White and Pine Warblers along with several Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers, Goldfinches, Blue Jays and more – nice ending to that location.
“After lunch, we visited the Uxbridge Community Gardens – a lovely setting with expansive fields & all these individual gardens loaded with sparrow species like Chipping, Savannah, Field & Song, Goldfinches, Bluebirds and Mockingbirds. Mixed in were a Bobolink, a Dickcissal seen by a few, Mourning Doves, Killdeer, and Common Yellowthroats. Teed up in trees were Common Ravens, Merlin and a Red-tailed Hawk.
“Concluding our walk at the Gardens, we did the checklist and were stuck at 49 – you can’t end at 49, so we returned to West Hill Dam to pick up a few cars when the pair of Barred Owls started calling, and one flew over our heads. Now a nice bird for 50! On the ride home to Drumlin Farm, Canada Geese were added and a Common Nighthawk at Drumlin Farm. I am looking forward to doing this same trip next May with spring migration and the volume of species we will band, see and hear. It will be another great experience.”
Mass Audubon Metro West and Mass Audubon North Shore both conduct bird banding programs. I encourage you to check them out by contacting Mass Audubon directly.