At the beginning of January, I had absolutely NO idea that our banding program could reach this lofty milestone. But here we are, with just one week left in 2011, sitting at 10,000 birds banded! This represents a lot of hard work and dedication by a lot of people: we had over 55 bird enthusiasts donate their time (and muffins!) in making this happen. From frenetic, freezing Snow Bunting forays to marking time in the birdless September “doldrums”; from 4 AM Spring net openings to 4 AM Saw-whet Owl net closings, there were keen birders making it happen. And to you all I say: “Thanks for your dedication and help and be proud of the fact that you helped achieve this level!”
As you are aware from the last couple of blogs, we were getting close. Yesterday Nancy was out to try to get there and, although she banded 17 (before the heavy equipment rolled in to take out the ruts in the road and spread fresh gravel), she ended up 2 shy of the magic number.
So this morning, given that the conditions were ideal, I decided to go out and put it to rest – then I could finally finish entering ALL the data and take a week off. I opened the nets with a self promise that I would go only as long as needed – it turned out to be only 30 minutes. I was expecting the 10,000th to be an American Goldfinch but the 3 I caught were anything but: #9999 was a Dark-eyed Junco. #10,000 was going to be an American Goldfinch but….just when I was heading out to take it out of the net, a Northern Shrike beat me to it…..almost. It too ended up in the net while it was in the act of trying to extract the goldfinch. What a great bird to set the record with! The first one of the year and only one of about 10 or so we’ve banded over the past 16 years.
These birds are killing machines. Although weighing less than a Blue Jay, they are just as powerful, with heavy neck and shoulders and a bill that reminds me of a can opener (I was very careful not to put my fingers in harm’s way – these birds can take chunks, literally).
Just for luck (and in case I had miscounted somewhere) I banded the last bird in the net – a female House Finch. For the next week I will NOT band a bird, although I will keep the feeders full. I need to recoup: January’s snow storms, bringing with them Greenland Snow Buntings, are just around the corner and it will start all over again.