Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nets + Tours

This week has been a really exciting one for me and my birding "career" (I use the term here very loosely). When I checked my email on Wednesday (April 15) I had something from one of the RIT professors who runs the on-campus banding station (an "e-hello," as he put it). He had gotten my email address from the BBRR volunteer list I had just recently signed up on. He asked what I was interested in in terms of birding, I gave the poor guy a very lengthy answer, and he invited me to stop by the RIT banding station. Essentially, more networking with members of the birding community--and I'm thrilled!

I went to bed around 1:30 am on Thursday morning after making some cardinal-shaped cookies (they turned out edible, but quite plain. that's fine by me, considering it was the first batch of from-scratch cookies I've ever made by myself in my life) and had a lot of trouble actually falling asleep--I was just like a little kid on Christmas Eve.

Then the alarm was going off. The glorious alarm! *YAWN* okay, maybe not so glorious. I arrived down at the banding station by 8:30, and was greeted with waves as I parked my car from a few women who were already at work setting things up. Introductions were made and we set to work. I had no clue how exactly these nets were set up, but everyone helped get me acquainted with things, and I learned a lot. The first one went a little slowly (or at least, it seemed to) and then as more people arrived and we got into the swing of things, the pace really picked up.

I met a lot of new people (no, I don't remember everyone's names. I'm terrible with names. Terrible. Horrendous.) and I'm really excited to spend my Thursday mornings out there with them all, getting to know them and learning from them--I'll definitely benefit from their experience.

We did end up keeping a few of the nets open for a little while: a black-capped chickadee was recaptured, and we banded a song sparrow and a grackle. I started learning how to act as a scribe--recording wing length, tarsus length, mass, sex, year, etc.

That was pretty much it for the day (not to imply that all that isn't enough for one day), I went home tired and happy.

Friday night, as I was getting ready to go out with some friends, I got an unexpected phone call from someone who works with BBRR (Braddock Bay Raptor Research, person's unnamed because I prefer not to mention names unless I have permission). I had just signed up as willing to volunteer and given them my contact information a week prior after the Saw-whet Owl presentation. Apparently the size of the group going on the Hawk Banding Tour the next morning had more than doubled at the last minute, and they needed someone to help out with the tour. They knew I had just signed up and this was last minute, but could I help out? I said I'd give it a try, I was given the details, and then I started to get really excited.

The next morning I was pretty nervous. Would I be able to answer questions? I didn't have to lead the tour, just sort of keep half of the group occupied while the other half was at the banding station (not enough room for everyone all at once), but could I do that and make it look like I knew what I was doing? When I explained to one of my roommates and her boyfriend why I was nervous, he asked if I would be "backwards-walking person." I said yes, and laughed. I quite like that way of putting it.

Long story short, it went just fine. I didn't feel totally useless (thanks to everything I learned from the regulars at the Hawkwatch station, the Saw-whet Owl Presentation, and my guidebooks!) and I feel so lucky that an opportunity like that just fell right in my lap. I had a really good time, and yea, I feel like a cool kid now. B-)

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

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