It was 14 degrees on Monday morning when Arick Wong, an undergrad in my lab, and I packed up the car and headed out to Vassar Farms. It was chilly, but clear and still, a perfect day for banding birds!
We’ve had our platforms up at Vassar’s Ecological Preserve for several months now (note the still green leaves in the photo below). Every 2-3 days we put blacksunflower seeds out on the platforms to attract birds like black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and a number of woodpecker species.
For months, we’d had our NY and Federal scientific collecting permits in hand, as well as our DEA permit. We had our auditory evoked potential rig (the computer and electronics we use to measure bird hearing) calibrated and all our equipment ready to go. We’d just been waiting on our banding permit (a permit issued by the US Geological Survey that allows you to capture and mark the birds with a small metal band) and bands to arrive. We had received our bands the previous week (this was actually very fast once we had our permit in hand!), but we hadn’t yet had a day where we had a good chunk of time free and it wasn’t raining. Monday was perfect! We took three of our treadle traps (see above) out and placed them on our baited platforms. The animals come into the traps to get at the bird seed, they step on the “treadle” which allows the door to drop, trapping the bird inside. Within about 30 minutes we had captured a red-bellied woodpecker. We aren’t using these birds, so we snapped a few pictures and let it go. We also caught a second red-bellied woodpecker and 3 tufted titmice. We brought the tufted titmice back to the lab to test their hearing and then released the birds on Tuesday at the farm. Each bird was fitted with a band with a unique number, so we’ll know if we catch them again!