Spring is an exciting time to bird because you never know what you are going to see, but you will see something. It may rain, be windy or sunny, but it’s always bird weather!

One morning in early April, I was out at Stanley Marsh looking for the Western bluebirds I’d heard had been seen there. Many times I’d gone there looking for them, unsuccessfully, only to come home and find them in my backyard (I have many stories to tell about that phenomenon).

On this day, I was making my regular Seaside rounds (Stanley Marsh, estuary, Mill Ponds, the Cove), and I saw not only the bluebirds but also fellow birders and naturalists, Mike and Steve, across the field.

I got them in my scope and sent them a psychic nonverbal communication that I was across the field and available to join them. We played phone tag but didn’t connect so I continued with my birding.

Then, several minutes later, Steve drove up to invite me over to where they had set up a bird banding station (I think he knew I wouldn’t want to miss this). My answer was an enthusiastic YES! Hanging out with them makes me feel so very scientific-y.

Once there, I found that we were checking a circuit of mist nets. Mist nets are about 10 feet high and 30 feet long and have very fine netting. The birds fly in and can’t get out easily but don’t get hurt. The first net we came to had a Steller’s jay in it, but the bird got the out of the net before we could get our hands on it. It happens. We moved on to the next net and got one.

After gently separating the bird from the net and denoting the species, Mike would select the correct size band and report the number to Steve, who recorded the information. Mike would also determine the sex, size and approximate the age of the bird before releasing it. One time an American robin flew back into the net and had to be untangled again. That happens, too.

All in all, we banded 28 birds that day: robins, hummingbirds, sparrows, kinglets and more. My favorite of the day was a Lincoln sparrow that I held until I had all his markings committed to memory.

It was an amazing experience and very scientific-y.

Susan has spent her life enjoying the great outdoors from the lakes and woods of northern Minnesota, Mt. Adams in Washington and now the Oregon beach environs. After spending many pleasurable hours driving her avid birder parents around, she has taken up birding as a passion, to the mixed emotions of her husband, Scott. The Boacs reside on Neawanna Creek in Seaside, where their backyard is a birder’s paradise.


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