This internship has really sparked an interest for me in birds. I have come to identify them visually, get to know some by song, and now I have gotten to know them even more by banding them. Snowy Plovers are a species of bird that live in and around the sand dunes of the Monterey Bay. They are a threatened species, locally by habitat destruction and dogs/horses that roam their sandy habitat. This week we worked closely with Carleton Eyster of Point Blue to trap and band snowy plover chicks/adults.
One way that Carleton traps adult Snowy Plovers is by a mesh wires, covered with tiny fishline loops. There are three sheets of mesh wire, that are covered with loops that the adult will run through, and get caught. The adult that we were catching was not banded, which indicates that it came from another area other than Monterey. We lined the mesh wire around the plovers nest, as she was incubating her eggs still.
Then when she returns to sit on her egg, she gets caught in a loop and we run up the hill to catch her, and band her.
We were also able to band a newly born chick while giving 50 high school students from the WATCH program a tour of the habitat. The chick took us by surprise because we had no idea the single egg had hatched. You typically want to band chicks within the hour of it hatching. So after our tour was done, Hugo, Carleton, and I went back to the nest to band the chick.
The chick was only about 30 minutes old. He was the last of three chicks that were born 24 hrs earlier. Since it is late in the season, the female will raise the chick. Typically the male will raise its young, and so the other chicks that were born earlier were being taken care by the male.
So banding the chick is pretty simple. First a four color code is chosen for the chick. Carleton had a list of possible codes. For this chick we chose orange, green, red, and yellow. The chick is then picked up and the female tries her very best to lure us away from the nest.
Snowy Plovers typically live 3-5 years. Some get to be around 15 years old. It was a great experience to get to work with snowy plover chicks. Not many people get to see chicks, especially because they leave the nest within an hour of hatching. Learning how to band birds is also something that Hugo and I would like to learn too. So this experience was exciting. And the chicks are really cute!