Bird banding can be very fast-paced on a busy day, but oftentimes it can also be very slow while you’re waiting for birds to be caught in nets or traps. So what do banders do while they’re waiting for birds to band?
Most banding operations that use mist nets have something called “net checks,” which are often regularly timed rounds when they go check to see if their nets caught birds, which they would then extract and band. These net checks are usually every 30-60 minutes or so, depending on the type of banding you’re doing, what the weather is like that day (or night!), and other miscellaneous factors that might cause you to check the nets more often (predator in the area, lots of birds moving through, etc.). You want to leave the nets alone long enough that the birds can move around naturally and freely so that you hopefully catch some. Though you don’t want to leave the nets alone too long, with fear of birds becoming too entangled, warm, cold, or exposed to predation, all of which could possibly lead to injury.
Our net checks for owls are between every 30-60 minutes, depending on weather and owl movements for each night. Our nets are in two separate locations, just about a mile apart, so Nancy and I split up for each net check. Usually each night we switch which side we do, so that we don’t become too bored or frustrated with a set of nets! Sometimes we might catch 5-10 owls per round, in which case we’re processing them as quickly as we can so that we get out to the nets again in time for the next round. If we come back from a net check round with only a bird or two, then we have plenty of time until we have to make our rounds again. We often talk and hang out between net checks, or we read, do Sudoku and other such puzzles, eat lots of snacks, or most recently, we completed a puzzle! We’ll see what else we come up with to pass the time as the season goes on. Though hopefully we’ll stay busy enough with a lot of owls!
Though we were rained out the previous two nights, we stayed plenty busy with lots of saw-whets, and a surprise Eastern Whip-poor-will that was in one of our nets as we were just getting ready to close them around 7:00am. Hopefully we’ll have some more good weather and owl movements for the days to come. This brings us up to 143 saw-whets captured in 10 nights of banding! Here’s our banding update from the last couple days:
29th: rained out
30th: 33 saw-whets, and an Eastern Whip-poor-will
-Kandace Glanville, Assistant Owl Bander