On Tuesday (5/17), the Birding Group went to Merrill Creek Reservoir in Harmony, New Jersey. We scheduled the walk there to coincide with the spring bird banding as part of the MAPS. Jim Mershon and Jane Bullis were in the middle of banding when we arrived and we were able to watch them band a number of birds. This photo was taken by Virginia Derbyshire. It is a prairie warbler, notice the chestnut markings on its back. You can click on the photo for an enlargement.
Their banding day starts at 5:45 a.m. when they unfurl the mist nets. (We arrived at 8:30.) Then they check the nets every half hour. Each captured bird is examined, and information concerning species, age, sex, etc is recorded on the data sheet. They then put on tiny aluminum bands, numbered and recorded, before releasing them back to the wild. The information is kept for their own records, but also sent to a national data base.
We were able to follow them as they checked the nets and watch them process the birds. Jane and Jim were wonderful at answering questions and pointing out interesting facts – all while they were taking measurements and jotting down important information. It was fascinating. It isn’t often that you get to see warblers staying this still. Besides this common yellowthroat (photo by Bill Roehrig) we watched them band magnolia warbler, house wren, and several catbirds.
Bill also took this photo of this genus Empidonax flycatcher. This quote taken directly from Roger Tory Peterson’s Eastern Birds: "Five small flycatchers in our area share the characters of light eye-ring and 2 whitish wing bars. When breeding, they are readily separated by voice, habitat, and way of nesting. In migration they seldom sing, so we are forced to let most of them go simply as Empidonax flycatchers." Even in the hand where one can measure wings, tail feathers, etc, they are difficult to identify, so Jim let this flycatcher loose without a band.
My thanks go out to Jim and Jane who were wonderful. Linda Klopp sent me Merrill Creek’s banding dates, so I could schedule this walk to coincide with that. Bill and Sharon Roerig scouted the area the day before, so we knew where to look for birds after we left the banding station.
Next Tuesday, we will be birding along the Delaware Canal down near Point Pleasant.