Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How birds are banded at MBO.

Ian is banding birds at Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences for the Spring migration banding season. He's been volunteering there since he was 12 and is now a paid bander, along with 2 other people. Trevor Lloyd-Evans has been Director of the Spring and Fall banding program at MBO (Manomet Birding Observatory) here in Plymouth since 1969, and the dates are the same every year to allow for consistent data collection. Spring is April 15 to June 15 and Fall is August 15 to November 15.

The banders get up every day before sunrise to open the nets and check them every hour until sunset, when the nets are closed. They work Monday to Friday and the days are long but rewarding. This time in May sunrise is at 5:23 and sunset is at 7:55 in Massachusetts.

An update on the last post, yes, Ian, Luke and Kai came in first place for youth this year in the World Series of Birding!!!  With  211 birds they placed 4th of all the 85 teams that participated. Congratulations!!

Magnolia Warbler held in a photographer's grip.

The main office building for Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.

Beautiful grounds on the cliff overlooking Cape Cod Bay.
The banding room is in the building with the red door and the rooms where the banders live are upstairs.

The big, bright community kitchen is on the right side of this building.

Ian's friend, Luke, came for a few days of banding. He bands birds in Maine, where he lives.

Getting the bird out of the mist net.

Holding the bird in a bander's grip back at the banding lab.

Ian extracting a Blue Jay from the mist nets. This is very difficult and takes a lot of skill, I tried it several times, unsuccessfully. Great care is taken during all phases of the banding to cause no harm to the bird.

Blue Jay out of the net.

Banding tools. Used to measure parts of the bird and attach the small metal band to their leg.
The numbered bands are provided from a government agency and there is a worldwide data base to look up banded birds when they are caught. It's a great way to see the range of a bird that was banded in Manomet, or anywhere else.  Banding requires a federal banding permit, there are  2000 master banding permits in the US and Trevor has one of them.

Weighing the bird.

Trevor and Pat, a very dedicated, long time volunteer bander. She takes off work to come in most Fridays during Spring and Fall migration.

Writing down the numbers.

Skull measurements chart and the small metal bands hanging from a line.

Weighing the bird in a cone.

Jess recording the data on the computer.

Closing the nets at the end of the day. 

White-throated Sparrow.

View off the bluff.

A mist net. There are 50 of them throughout the property, and the banders take turns checking them over every hour looking for caught birds. If it's too windy, too cold or wet, the nets are closed to insure the safety of the birds.

After the bird is extracted it is put into it's own bag and carried back to the lab.  Some days they will carry back 6 or more birds from a net run.

Evan giving a demonstration on bird banding to some fascinated children. School groups or any group can schedule a tour. Call 508.224.6521

The main work station.

Pat and Evan at the computer.

If you hold a Blue Jay upside down he will play dead. He flew off when put upright.

One of many scenic spots on a net run.

This net is all rolled up for the night so nothing can get caught in it when no one is around.

Hermit Thrush.

Giving the data to the person at the computer.

Jess and Ian reviewing the data.

Off the deck outside the banding lab.

Last year at the Trustees luncheon in June.

Trevor is a very good friend and mentor to Ian, and one of the key people that showed the wonderful world of birds to Ian.

The banding group last Fall with a volunteer. 

View off the bluff at low tide.


  1. wow, great fotos and a great story. I always wondered how they did it. what an incredible database over all those years. do they hear back if one of their banded birds is captured somewhere else? I'd love to see it sometime.

  2. Hi Amy,
    You probably won't remember me, but I banded with Ian at Manomet when I volunteered there the fall of 2004. I stumbled on this site looking for a photo of bird weighing cones. I hope you don't mind, but I included your excellent one in a training program I am giving in banding in Illinois (you are fully credited of course!). Good to see Ian and Manomet looking healthy and happy.
    Best wishes, Ian Ausprey