Thursday, February 28, 2013

Training Day I

            Since we had to get our equipment ready, we were afforded the luxury of sleeping in until 6.45 am when Owen came by to bring us coffee. The morning was spent figuring out what was here (the banding kit!) and prepping all the equipment for an afternoon training session. Since we were working with finches, Joost had me practice taking photos of birds, and then try and identify the species. The first bird I took a photo of was not a finch, but a flycatcher. 

                                                  A flycatcher, not a finch

I quickly figured out the difference between the two, and also between a finch and a yellow warbler. 

                                               A yellow warbler, not a finch nor a flycatcher

Soon I has happily taking pictures of finches when I wasn’t cutting colour bands that are used to identify the birds.

                                                Finches!! (not guppies) 

            Because it is so hot during the afternoon, we only work at in the early morning and late afternoon to avoid over-stressing the birds. Joost taught us how to set up the mist nets, handle the birds when they are in the mist nets, and how to process them. I normally work with Trinidadian guppies, a small, freshwater fish. I kept joking how once the birds were caught, you just put them in a bucket with water and then they’d be happy. Fortunately, I did not mistake any birds for fish, and all the birds were handled properly.

            I was in charge of the photographs, which is the last step in processing, which meant I also got to give them sugar water to hydrate them and give them energy before they fly away. You can feel the birds swallowing the sugar water – they love that stuff! Especially the cactus finch since they feed on the sweet nectar of the flowers. It was hot, sweaty work, but lots of fun. We didn’t completely finish all the training, but got most of it done, and will complete the rest tomorrow.

                                            Taking photos of finches

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