July 9, 2012

Great Gull Island - Day 4

The last few days have felt like an intensive course in bird handling and processing for research. I've never been able to handle so many birds before. I've banded close to 70 common tern chicks of all sizes in just four days, and trapped and processed about 20 adults. To while away the hot afternoon hours, for "fun" we attempt to trap and band some of the other resident birds that toil around headquarters. This gave us the opportunity to learn how to color-band songbirds. Below I'm holding a gray catbird that we lured with raisins, and a song sparrow gets new band flair in blue.

This morning I was sent off to do trapping on my own on the east end of the island, which felt like a great honor since everyone else was in groups. Three of the nests were ones that I had found and flagged on yesterday's Chick Check (see earlier blog entry), and a few others I had to find based on rough directions from Helen Hays*, the director of the program here. I caught an adult in each of the six traps I set, and even caught the mate of one right after I reset the trap. All in all, I caught four breeding pairs, which is considered a great haul!

Below, I also have some pics of me holding "Orvilles": "elephants" that have lost some weight and have learned how to fly; these are likely around 25 to 30 days old. I've stretched out their wings to show how their primary flight feathers have grown in. You can also see their black caps starting to come in.

* I later found out that Helen had a hand in banning PCB production in the US!

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