Spring cleaning has its advantages. With my hectic, totally interrupted and mobile lifestyle, papers pile up on the kitchen counter, dining room table, coffee and end tables, bookcases, nightstands, in paper and plastic bags, boxes and cartons, everywhere in my office and sometimes even in my car. With the exception of toilet paper and a magazine, the only "paper-free zone" in my life is the bathroom.
Friend and former owner of the Pine River Journal, Amanda Amy, shares my habit of keeping almost every scrap of paper ever to cross our paths. We just never know when we might need that little shred of information. On the other hand, friend and current editor of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Roy Miller, keeps the neatest desk I've ever seen. While my heart and habits reside with Amanda when it comes to saving paper, sometimes I envy Roy's ability to part with paper.
Purging paper is painful, but often productive. Case in point: I finally found the note and bird band Norris Anderson sent me last August! Norris initially called to tell me he found dead in his yard a finch wearing a small metal leg band. He was curious about the band, which had no data. Norris sent me the band and, needless to say, it and his note got misplaced in my piles of paper.
Earlier this week -- Eureka! -- the note and band reappeared. My piles are like a mini-recycling center. Sooner or later a misplaced rises to the surface. Amazingly, an AVISE bird band that Paul Goddard sent to me in 1987 also arose.
Norris' band is now being researched at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and hopefully I'll soon have information on it. I checked Paul's bird band as soon as I had it. Before I delve into the topic of bird banding, I'd like to plead for merciful understanding and assure my readers that not all notes, phone calls or e-mails sent to me take the path of Norris' note.
Bird banding is fascinating. Songbirds and raptors are caught in mist nets for research and banded before being released. In 1999, we attended the North American Bluebird Society's annual convention in Great Falls, Mont., and helped put minuscule bands on baby bluebirds. It was thrilling, particularly for Mariah, who was five at the time.
For the history of bird banding, I turned to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland for information. This facility is part of the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological SurveyBiological Resources, which provided the following data.
People have banded (or ringed as it's called in Europe) birds for centuries. The first record of a metal band being attached to a bird leg was about 1595, when one of Henry IV's banded peregrine falcons was lost in pursuit of a bustard in France. It showed up 24 hours later in Malta, about 1,350 miles away, averaging 56 miles per hour!
Duke Ferdinand placed a silver band on a Grey Heron in about 1669. The bird was recovered by his grandson in about 1728, indicating the heron lived at least 60 years. In 1710 in Germany, a falconer captured a grey heron with several rings on one leg. The bander was unknown but one of the rings apparently was placed on the heron in Turkey, more than 1,200 miles to the east.
The first records of banding in North America are those of John James Audubon, the famous American naturalist and painter. In 1803 he tied silver cords to the legs of a brood of phoebes near Philadelphia and identified two of the nestlings when they returned to the neighborhood the following year.
A system for bird banding did not really develop until 1899, when Hans Mortensen, a Danish school teacher, began placing aluminum rings on European teal, pintail, white storks, starlings and hawks. He inscribed the bands with his name and address in hope that they would be returned if found. His system of banding became the model for current efforts.
In 1902 Paul Bartsch, a well-known conchologist (a person who studies shells and mollusks) began the first scientific system of banding in North America. In that year he ringed more than 100 black-crowned night herons in the District of Columbia with bands inscribed "Return to Smithsonian Institution."
However, the real pioneer bander in North America was Jack Miner, who established a waterfowl sanctuary near Kingsville, Ont. Between 1909 and 1939 he banded 20,000 Canada geese, many of which had bands returned to him by hunters.
By 1909 the American Bird Banding Association had been formed to organize and assist the growing numbers of banders. In 1920 the Bureau of Biological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service agreed to jointly take over the work of the Association. Frederick Lincoln was assigned the task of organizing the banding program in the United States in the Bureau of Biological Survey (now the United States Geologic Survey). Since that time the North American banding program has been a joint effort to oversee the activities of dedicated banders throughout the world.
Several different types of bands are used on birds in North America. Each type is made in many different sizes, so every bird has a suitable band for use by banders. There are 23 standard size bands and five specially-sized bands that accommodate the smallest hummingbird to the large trumpeter swan. In addition there are four common types of bands: standard butt-end bands, lock-on bands for use on hawks and owls, rivet bands for use on eagles, and hard metal bands for use on birds that otherwise would out-live the bands, or which live in harsh environments that might wear out the regular bands too quickly.
Bands wear out eventually, but even a very worn band with numbers seemingly invisible can have the numbers revealed through etching. Hundreds of bands are etched and returned to hunters by the Bird Banding Laboratory every year.
Federal bands issued in the USA and Canada have eight or nine numbers with a legend indicating WRITE BIRD BAND LAUREL MD 20708. Some bands used in recent years may have the 1-800-327-BAND (2263) legend as well, especially larger bands. These bands are always metal, but may be aluminum or a harder metal.
The older bird bands, like the one Paul Goddard sent me, had the legend AVISE BIRD BAND WASH DC. AVISE loosely means advise in several languages. These bands are from the same agency as the new bands and can be reported on the 800 telephone number or to Laurel, Md.
Colored bands are used as auxiliary markers by some banders with the permission of the respective banding office. Some specialty bands have a letter followed by five numbers. These bands are federal bands of special types, either triangular bands used on murres or tiny bands used on hummingbirds. These bands should be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory.
Most of the bands found on birds other than federal metal bands and auxiliary markers (including goose neck bands and colored leg bands) should not be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory. The exception is bands from foreign banding schemes.
For more information, write: Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 12100 Beech Forest Road, Suite 4039, Laurel, MD 20708-4039 (www.pwrc.usgs.gov/).
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