Banding Bicknell’s

Chris Rimmer of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies invited me to join him on Mount Mansfield while he banded Bicknell’s Thrushes as part of an ongoing (20+ year) project.  We were joined by Kent McFarland and Pat Johnson of VCE.  It was foggy when we arrived, and as the afternoon and evening wore on it got foggier and darker, except for a brief clearing between 7:30 and 8:30 pm.  The three from VCE set up mist nets on narrow, wet trails while I tried to get photos.  Soon birds (mostly Bicknell’s Thrushes and Blackpoll Warblers) were captured and the measuring, documenting, and banding action started.   Around 7:30 I walked back to our luxury accommodations (sleeping on a dirty cement floor of a ski patrol hut) and got some “sunset” photos including the one below looking down into Smuggler’s Notch.

The rest of the team arrived back well after dark at around 10 pm (these guys are dedicated).  They brought back 7 cloth bags of birds to spend the night with us.  Seems you can’t release a bird in the dark and they do fine sleeping for the night in the bags.  We watched to the NBA finals until around 11 pm (they watched and ate dinner and I listened while trying to sleep). The next morning we slept until 3:45, and by 4:00 we were driving the half mile or so up a very dark and very foggy narrow dirt road on the top of a mountain.  Interesting experience.

They immediately started to work on the bagged birds, but soon Chris came into “camp” with a male Bicknell’s on which they had placed a solar geolocator the previous summer.  Chris was pleased and excited. That is him to the left holding the bird with the geolocator. It was the first geolocator return to Vermont ever and the thrush was still carrying the miniature backpack, which they removed to retrieve its data.  That morning they placed new geolocators on that bird and 8 others. Data from these tiny devices tell much about the individual songbird migration routes and over-wintering areas. When the activity slowed a bit, coffee was brewed and breakfast wolfed down.

Late morning the fog lifted a bit but the birds stopped coming to the nets or doing  much else interesting.   Eventually they took down the  nets and we returned to out “hotel” for a late lunch.  There, after lunch, I wondered down a ski slope and with help from Pat acting as my ears and brain,  I finally got a decent shot of a Bicknell’s  that was not being held in someone’s hand. Plus a Golden-crowned Kinglet appeared, a special extra treat.

We finally departed mid-afternoon in the bright  sunshine.  But rain was soon to appear on the mountain and wash away our footprints, but not my memories of 24 hours well spent.  A more scientific report of the trip is found HERE.

Here is a slide show from this trip that includes a very faint photo of a Bicknell’s in the fog.