Bird banding can be described as placing a metal or plastic ring, that has its own unique number, around a bird's leg . There are many important reasons for doing this.
First, a lot of information is gained while looking closely at the bird caught. Such as, further ways to identify the bird, different diseases they can catch, molting patterns, and so on. However, bird banding is most helpful when the bird caught is already banded.
By looking at previous records of the bird, migration flyways can be tracked, bird ranges can be defined, the lifespan of different bird species can be estimated, and their behavior can be recorded. All of this information is important to further understand the characteristics of individual bird species and the kind of habitats they need for survival.
Bird banding requires certification and is not as easy as it might seem. Birds get shocked very easily and can die if not handled gently and properly while holding and banding.
Recently I got a chance to observe the process of this practice at the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center.
There were multiple nets set up that were very thin and consisted of several pockets. Dozens of birds throughout the day flew into the unseen nets and fell into these pockets. Some birds were simply lifted out, while others (mainly one frantic chickadee) got all tangled up.
Once the birds were free from the net they were put in cloth, drawstring bags and hung on a stand in the order they were caught in.
Before anything, the bird is identified. Even for experienced birders, this can be really difficult. Most of the birds caught were common and identified without a second thought. One trickier bird, however, was misidentified at first. A lot of young birds are brown in color and this one was no exception. It was assumed to be a House finch until the tiniest speck of blue was found on its wing. After this discovery, it was assumed to be a young Indigo bunting. It’s description was looked up in a bird identification book before confirming.
There was a criteria list by which each bird was analyzed. Every bird was weighed in the bag and then the weight of the bag was subtracted. One young Black-capped chickadee weighed only 9 grams and another bird that had been previously banded had lost a gram, which is a lot for their size.
The length of their wing is measured and each bird is checked for molting, amount of fat, and disease. Some of the American goldfinches had conjunctivitis, which is commonly known to us as pink eye. Because of this, the bags they were in were set aside to be thoroughly cleaned, as were the bird feeders at Sagawau (to prevent spreading).
Each bird has a size band that fits their leg and a special plier is used to close it. When everything was written down, and the band was securely on, they were released. Those who had gathered to watch were allowed to release the birds under the supervision of the certified bird bander who was leading the event. We were taught to simply take our top hand off the bird and wait for it to fly. If it didn’t fly right away we were to stroke it gently.
Apparently someone on a previous day gave a bird a slight toss, and the bird, surprised, hit the sidewalk. It is for reasons like this that there are specific ways to handle birds. They were so delicate that the small birds felt like weightless fluffs in my hands. Thankfully, the injuries usually aren't that serious but Sagawau takes care of the birds that get injured until they can be released.
From this experience I’ve learned how complex each bird is and have grown a deeper appreciation for them. Every bird was so uniquely different in their behavior and markings that I couldn’t help but be amazed.
Though there are no bird banding events coming up, there are a lot of bird watching events in our forest preserves. If you are interested in continuing to learn about birds I suggest going to these events and keeping a lookout for bird banding events in the future.
The Cook County Forest Preserve website: http://fpdcc.com
Advertisements have been all over, from magazines to TV commercials. Well, today’s the day!
One hundred years ago on this day, the National Park System (NPS) was established. Since then, rangers have been managing, protecting, and teaching others about America’s treasures, our national parks.
Some National Park Fun Facts:
Rangers, along with partners and volunteers, are the reason our parks are functioning efficiently and basically why they are still around today.
Happy 100th Birthday to our National Park System!!!
Here’s a link the the NPS website:
Ever since I signed up on eBird I have been completely absorbed in my new hobby. As I keep my eyes open, I see birds I never noticed before and have been able to identify even more by sound.
eBird is described on their website as, “Global tools for birders, critical data for science.” Exploring this website and submitting my own observations has made me see that eBird is strictly what they say they are. There are no advertisements or ulterior motives; It is purely “for the birds”.
Another thing I like about this site is that there is hardly any information needed to sign up. You can even be an anonymous birder (No name or information shown online). Really the only information you have to give when signing up is your email.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society began the website in 2002. Already thousands of people submit checklists each day. That’s just in one day! With so many people birding world wide much information for science will be gathered.
This website is easy to use, but if you have any questions there is a help page. There is also a home page where current news about birds and contests are posted regularly. You can even sign up for alerts of rare bird sightings in your area. You can make birding as simple or as complex as you’d like.
An account is actually not even needed to browse eBird. You can explore it right now. And if you are interested in birding, or want to give it a try, I highly suggest eBird as the place to record your observations. In doing this you will be helping track bird migration patterns, rare bird sightings, and allow people to learn more about the birds you saw by commenting and/or posting a picture with your findings.
In searching “barn owl” I was able to find the nearest places they are sighted. This can be done with any bird. And if you click on the bar charts you can see how common a bird is in your area and what times of year you are most likely to see it.
Even if you don’t think bird watching is your thing, check out the website, you may be surprised!
Here is the link: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/
When birding it is always a good idea to take a camera and/or binoculars and a note book.
These are some photos I’ve taken since starting eBird:
Ever since 2002 the Emerald Ash Borer has been spreading vigorously. It has killed hundreds of millions of trees and costs property owners and forest industries millions of dollars. In 2015, ten new counties in Illinois were found to have Emerald Ash Borer beetles. They can wipe out all of the species of ash trees in the US if the problem is not acted upon. It’s no wonder that the Emerald Ash Borer beetles are considered the most harmful pest problem in North American forests.
The Emerald Ash Borer beetle (EAB) is assumed to have arrived in the US from its native country, Asia, by way of infested solid wood packing material on cargo ships or airplanes. It was first discovered in North America in 2002. In finding the destructive insect, the question to why so many ash trees were dying was answered. It only eats ash trees, including healthy ones. It was not found in Illinois until 2006 and it continues to spread to new counties and states.
The adult insects live 3-6 weeks and do little damage to the tree by eating the foliage. EAB larvae are the real threat to ash trees. Eggs are laid on the surface of the tree’s bark. Once hatched, the larvae eat through the bark and into the inner bark where transportation of nutrients is disturbed. When the insect matures it makes a D shaped hole in which it exits the tree. From there it roams within its range of 3-5 miles and starts the cycle all over again. It usually takes a year for an EAB to complete its entire life cycle, but in cold areas it may take two years. Depending on the size of tree, 1-4 years is the usual time it takes for an untreated ash to die after being infected. Unfortunately, in the US Emerald Ash Borer beetles have no predators other than woodpeckers and us.
Quarantine has been a big help in preventing the spread of Emerald Ash Borer beetles. It includes rules against firewood and live ash trees crossing into non-quarantined areas. Insecticides can also be used to prevent EAB damage.
Once a tree has been infected the damage cannot be undone. However, there are many treatments that can keep the infestation at a minimum in hopes of saving the tree. The sooner the tree is treated the more chance it has of survival. A solution can be injected into the tree and the inner bark that is functioning will receive the treatment and kill the beetles it reaches. This kind of treatment is best used during the spring when the tree is most active, but it is effective most times of the year. Other treatments can be applied to the soil, but can only be used at certain times of year. These treatments are good for smaller trees and trees that have little damage. There are also insecticide sprays that can be used on the tree.
The Emerald Ash Borer beetle spends about 90% of its life inside the tree. It is good to know the signs of an infestation, because they are often hard to spot in their early stages. EAB infestation usually begins at the top of a tree, where more nutrients exist from photosynthesis. Canopy thinning, under developed leaves, and early leaf loss, are earlier signs. Constant woodpecker activity and sucker shoots growing along the tree or at the base are later, more severe signs. And finally, sections and branches of the tree start dying. At this point the tree may not be saved and has become unstable with the possibility of being dangerous by loss of large branches. Dead ash trees, and trees that are more than half dead, should be removed as soon as possible to prevent damage from falling branches and possibly even the whole tree coming down.
Adult Emerald Ash Borers are metallic green in color and are about 3/8in - 1/2in long and 1/8in wide. They are usually active starting in June or early July through summer. Some insects that may be mistaken for the EAB are the Bronze Birch Borer, Two-Lined Chestnut Borer, and the Six-Spotted Tiger beetle, though the differences are not hard to spot.
The EAB larvae are cream colored and have bell shaped segments. They can be over an inch long fully grown. As the larvae eat the inner bark they leave "S" shaped zigzags that can be viewed if the bark falls off or is taken off.
Though our ash trees are in serious danger, there are ways to stop this insect. You can do your part by buying locally sourced firewood near where you are going to burn it. Next time you take a hike look for evidence of the Emerald Ash Borer beetle- it shouldn’t be hard.
The photos below are all trees that were damaged by the emerald ash borer beetle in forests near my home.
The coming of warmer weather and spring correlates with another marvelous season- maple syrup season!
Clear sap dripping into a bucket is not what most people would think of as appetizing. Yet, many of us eat it multiple times a year in the form of maple syrup.
Sugar Maple trees are tapped in late winter to early spring to collect their sap. Temperatures have to be above freezing in the day and below freezing during the night to cause the ideal pressure for the sap to flow.
If precautions are taken, tapping a tree will not harm it. Different states have different size regulations. But, a tree should be 12 inches in diameter or more to be tapped. Larger trees can be tapped in up to 3 different places depending on the size. A tree can heal the hole where it was tapped in one to three years.
Since the sap has to be boiled down to create the thick, sweet substance we know as maple syrup, you have to start out with a lot more sap than the desired amount of syrup you want to make. Generally it takes 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup and each season a tree with a single tap produces 5-15 gallons of syrup. These statistics definitely make me want to take it easy on the syrup next time I have pancakes.
Because of the reasons stated above, maple syrup can be very expensive, but some people are getting away without spending a penny. Sap thieves tap trees on private property and make their own syrup with it. It has been a big problem in Maine which is one of the country's largest producers of maple syrup. Sadly, some of these thieves are causing more problems than illegal harvesting; they are damaging the sugar maple trees by drilling too big of holes in too many places.
Thankfully there are many people that tap their trees with care and value them for more than just the price of their sap. Some of these people are those that work for the forest preserves and nature centers. They not only tap the trees so that they continue to grow in a healthy state, they teach people how maple syrup is collected, made, and inspire the younger generations.
If you have ever been to a maple syrup festival you know that it can be a very enjoyable event. There is nothing quite like watching maple syrup being made from the trees that surround you. Why not experience one this year?
Maple Syrup Festivals Happening Soon
The annual Maple Syrup Festival at the River Trail Nature Center is on March 20th
Here is the link: http://fpdcc.com/event/44th-annual-maple-syrup-festival/
The annual Maple Syrup Festival at the North Park Village Nature Center is on March 19th-20th Here is a link to their list of events: