Moving Forward

eggs in handI am happy to announce that I am officially bander certified by the North American Banding Council. The test took place in Ashland, OR and was a very rigorous, three-day exam consisting of four parts: a written, practical, specimen, and interview. We were tested on our ability to operate a banding station, set up/take down mist nets, identifying the common species, proper banding and adjustment, proper aging and sexing techniques, morphology measurements, the history of banding, correcting data sheets, bird morphology, avian first aid, and more. I can’t believe I’ve had to learn all of this in only two months! But It feels extremely rewarding to have accomplished it. In the beginning I didn’t know the first thing about banding and my songbird ID was limited. But now, I feel well equipped and confident with my banding, aging and sexing techniques and can no longer step outside without naming all the birdcalls I hear. It’s fantastic.

During the practical exam, I realized that this was the last time I would be banding in southern Oregon and the nostalgia kicked in. As I banded my last bird, which was a stunning northern flicker, I wondered, “What will a few days without handling birds be like? I can’t believe they won’t be what I’m surrounded by for half my day.” For the last few months, I’ve been working in the field, it’s been a busy time from the Oregon coast to Alaska and southern Oregon. Forest, tundra, ocean, and wild creatures have been what surrounds me. But now,I’m surrounded by quiet the opposite, cars, buildings, and many many people. After only three days outside of nature, it feels odd and its a big change… nonetheless it is a much needed break from the long hard working days in the field and the perfect time to spend with family.

So where do I go from here? To start, I plan on making a trip to my Peruvian home country during the winter or early spring. Not only am I excited to visit friends and family, but I’m also looking forward to participating in some banding outings with the Santa Eulalia Biological Station. Now that I have the bander certification, I want to take the next step in getting trainer certified, so that I can offer banding workshops while I am in Peru. Once I come back to the northern hemisphere, it will be the field season once again and I can’t wait to jump on some cool projects. Shortly after, I will be starting graduate school at Oregon State University. I will be involved in seabird telemetry, tagging and tracking petrels, fulmars, gulls, and more during the winter and breeding season. Not only this but I will also be in charge of vessel seabird counts and coordinating the reproductive success research on common murres out of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, OR.

I’m very excited for what 2015 has in store for me and meanwhile I will be enjoying lovely outings in beautiful Oregon for the rest of Fall.

Bird on!

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KBO on Conservation

Male Spotted Towhee

I’ve spent some time talking about my experience banding for Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO), but I have not yet explained who are they and what they do. So let me discuss. KBO is a non-profit organization that focuses on the long-term monitoring of landbirds in southern Oregon and northern California.

They impact the community around them by performing Decision Support Tools (DST) which deliver scientific information to those in position to benefit birds and their habitats, such as land managers. One of the most recent ones developed, was a guide for private landowners on restoring oak habitat. The guide explains the importance of oak habitat, the role of private landowners in oak restoration, highlights oak species in the region, and gives instructions on how to monitor bird species to document ecological benefits of oak restoration activities. This document has contributed to such an extent that with the help of the Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network partners, 6,000 acres of federal state, and private land were restored. This benefited oak-depended birds like the Oak Titmouse and it was highlight in the most recent State of the Birds Report as an example on how conservation does work!

KBO has also been actively involved in the Trinity River Restoration Program. This program works to restore salmonoid populations that have been impacted by dams in the Trinity River in northern California. The restoration involves creating more riparian habitat that will benefit both fish and bird populations. For this KBO has been monitoring bird populations in that area for many years. They have expanded the bird monitoring by implementing two additional methodologies: one to determine whether birds are nesting in the recently restored riparian habitat, and if so, whether the young is successfully fledging. The results will allow for a better understanding of the restoration response and influence the adaptive management framework.

In terms of the banding data I collect with my team of six biological technicians, that is part of the effort to track population abundance, reproductive success, and survival of birds in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion. KBO works in conjunction with the Humboldt Bay Observatory with whom together operate on 16 different monitoring stations, estimation 10,000 bird captures a year. Banding data collected in addition to point count surveys, also goes to the National Park Service Klamath Network which aids national parks in the assessment of ecological integrity of the parks at stakes. The network includes Crater Lake National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Whiskeytown National Recreational Area, and the Oregon Caves National Monument where mist-netting surveys are implemented.

KBO also performs environmental education. They have recently developed a Northwest Nature Shop, where kids in elementary and middle school can explore and gain a deeper sense of place by learning about to their local ecosystems and land issues. However they have long been involved with developing curriculum for interested teachers, performed classroom visits, field trips and camps, and visits to their monitoring stations.

These are only a few, of the many ways in which KBO is contributing to conservation in our local environment. I invite you to read their story or make a donation to save migratory birds at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/saving-migratory-birds

Last Night I Dreamed of Feathers

White featherLast night I dreamed of feathers, there were feathers everywhere, on my head, my hands, and in between my toes . Some were white with blueish-black dots and a rufous shaft, some were black and brown striped, others were blueish green, but overall they were white. I dreamed that I blew down the middle of a bird’ s body to expose their skin. There were no full images of this bird, all I could see were the white breast and belly feathers. I dreamed that there were many feathers floating in the air as I sat and watched, they were flying with the wind along the ocean and the forest.

You may wonder, why did I dream of feathers? Well, feathers have surrounded me for the last two weeks during my time with Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO). As I learn how to band songbirds in southern Oregon, feathers and overall plumage are one of the main characteristics we carefully observe in order to identify species, determine subspecies, age, and sex.

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Taking the wing length on a female Oregon junco

On a daily basis we either drive to or set up camp at the site where we will be banding. We arrive before the birds are up, while it’s still dark. We then get the banding table ready and fifteen minutes before sunrise, we start setting up mist nets. Nets are checked frequently, birds are quickly extracted, and then processed. Processing time should take no more than two to three minutes in order to minimize stress on the birds. During this time, the bird is identified, banded, its age, and sex are determined, and measurements such as wing length and weight are taken. Additionally, by blowing on the body and wing feathers, one can check if molt, fat tissue, brood patch, or cloacal protuberance are present and record their extent. After all data is taken, the bird is safely released and we move to the next bird.

This may not sound too hard, but one must study a lot to get good at it. Specially to handle days like last week, when we had 109 birds!  Such days can be stressful and require being very efficient. This means already knowing what bandsize the individual needs, as well as, knowing the species-specific morphological characteristics and measurements that aid in determining age and sex. Knowing such, reduces the time one might spent looking through the reference book and allows for a fast processing time which is in everyone’s best interest (humans’ and feathered friends’).

With all the close avian interaction I’ve had and with all the reading and studying I’ve been doing on my free time, it is no wonder that I dreamed of feathers. But dreaming of feathers isn’t bad, I appreciate the beauty in every feather and I find it harmonious to watch them float. I hope I dream of feathers again.