Each year during the month of May, Sand Bluff Bird Observatory (SBBO) hosts their Bird Fest. This festival centers around teaching the public about the wonders of birds, specifically focusing on the process of bird banding (or ringing). Each year we try to stop in for a little bit but this is also the weekend that the Illinois Spring Bird Count is, and we are usually out counting birds. This year was different because Jennie (Veery) graduated from Northern Illinois University so we were busy with that.
This year we were able to take our visiting aunt to Bird Fest for a couple of hours and, as always, it was loads of fun.
Bird banding is one of the most underfunded yet highly rewarded research efforts. The process works like this:
- put up mist nets in high bird traffic locations
- walk the nets and remove captured birds
- place captured birds in nets
- band birds with numbered bands
- record all information
- release bird
When an excellent bird is found, the Bird-arazzi heads outside to capture up-close photos. This Henslow’s Sparrow was a major highlight as it was the 2nd one banded in three days and only the fourth in 43 years at this location.
However, this Baltimore Oriole quickly stole the show. Perhaps it was his flashy orange? (We still love our brown sparrows though.)
Besides seeing birds super close, bird banding at SBBO is the ultimate learning experience. You may be an expert birder, but if you’ve never listened to the grand master, Lee Johnson, you are missing out. His encyclopedic knowledge of birds borders on supernatural.
Birds are banded every Saturday and Sunday at Colored Sands Forest Preserve during spring and fall migration. They are funded entirely on donations and events like Bird Fest, so it was fun to support their effort (and see a lot of great birding friends in the process).
While we were milling about outside (awaiting yet another photo-op), one of the master banders, Richard Hamilton, briskly walked down the path cradling a large bird in his coat. What he brought out was a Cooper’s Hawk.
Whenever a hawk is caught in the nets it is a race against time to get them out before they break free on their own. SBBO also bands raptors at a special location, but this bird was caught in the “regular” nets.
Bird banding is an excellent way to get close views of an amazing array of birds and the perfect place to bring fledgling birders.