Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shorebird Banding

Shorebirds have finished their nesting season in the Arctic, and are slowly migrating back both adults and juveniles to their winter grounds in South America, Central America and the Southern USA.
It is time for CT DEP, Division of Wildlife to start it's Shorebird banding program as
numbers of migrating shorebirds stop by and use Connecticut saltwater shores, freshwater inland areas, swamps and fields as feeding stops on their leisurely migration back to their winter feeding grounds.

Milford Point in New Haven County is one off the largest stop over areas in Connecticut for these hungry birds, as tidal areas abound with food, in this place where the Housatonic River meets Long Island Sound.
This point has numerous sandbars that are natural resting places for shorebirds at high tide, and it a great target area for capturing these birds for banding

It's not just a matter of capturing a bird, putting a ring on it and calling it a day, a whole lot of work by many people, mostly volunteers, goes into it.
Lead by, and at the direction of the CT DEP Migratory Bird Biologist Leader, a whole lot of things have to come together to make this all happen.
First is trekking the gear out to the capture area, which may be a half to three quarter mile walk one way carrying everything from the capture net, holding bins, biological testing kits, notebooks, chairs, tents, the incredibly heavy steel explosive gear, signs, spotting scopes, water, food, and the list goes on and on, hopefully with a dozen or so people, this all gets transported by hand in one trip.

The spot where the nets will be placed have been scouted out days in advance by a DEP Biologist, with great expertise in this field, this is not a crap shoot, they know exactly where the birds will land at a specific time, and tide level.

So here we go....

All the birds we netted were either Semi-palmated Sandpipers or Semi-palmated Plover, in the above photo, these are the sandpipers. Two hundred birds were banded this day, with five being recaptures.

The net was set, a flock moved into the expected area, and the black powder charges were detonated, hurling the net up and over the birds that were resting on the shoreline.

Of course many birds escaped without ever seeing the net, including two Oystercatchers and many others.

It is then a mass removal of all captured birds, ASAP! This was the very end when there were only a few birds left, that I was able to grab my camera and take a photo, before that it was all about getting the birds safely out of the net.

Each bird goes though a number of test before being released, in this case the length of this sandpipers wings are being measured.

It is then put into a cloth bag and weighed.

They are swabbed at both ends, mouth and cloaca, these test are monitored closely to see if anything like "bird flue" is coming back into the USA along with these highly migratory species.

Data, Data and more Data, all information on each bird is hand written on to (guess what) Data sheets in the field as each bird is processed.

Finally, preparing to band this tiny little sandpiper.
(I love the tee shirt with the cute little puppy dog checking this all out.)

A plover receiving it's band.

Sandpiper, the same.

"In Loving Hands"
Please click on any photo to enlarge.


  1. I've seen these birds many of times and always wondered what they were called. Never really understood how people caught the birds for banding until now. Must be tough doing.

    Great post in the end. Love learning new things everyday!

  2. Thanks to all for the comments,