Borrego Springs, CA

Monday, August 19, 2013

Had a REAL blast the other day

Do you remember that annoying ditty called “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”?  Well, I’ve been singing it in my head all day.  I’ve changed the lyrics a bit, but sing along with me now:

♫ ♪ “71 Painted Posts are done,

         71 Painted Posts,

         Take one down, and pass it around,

         Only 200 more Painted Posts to go…” ♪ ♫

Of course, I’m only guessing about the 200 posts to go, it could well be more than that, but you get the idea.  With the temps rising to the 90’s this week, I find myself about wiped out by 1:00.  Then it’s time to hop in the truck, turn the AC on high, and find some other chore to do. 

In one of my former lives, I was a math teacher, and have always been plagued with counting things automatically.  Whether it’s counting how many steps up a fire tower or how many shrimp I’m peeling and deveining, my mind goes into calculator mode and tics them off.  It drives me crazy sometimes, but that’s how I know I’ve already painted exactly 71 posts.  Some have been big and fat, and some have been not so big and skinny, but they all register in the left side of my brain somehow.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about something that I experienced last week before Gypsy arrived for a visit that I didn’t get a chance to post (as in publish) about.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Manager (RM), up from Minneapolis/St. Paul, came to visit to kick off and observe the Rocket Netting Regional Training that was occurring here.  Apparently, RM’s don’t actually visit individual refuges that often, so it was a big deal.  Everything was buffed and polished, and mowed, etc. around the refuge so he would be favorably impressed.  Seems he’s visited here about four times in the last couple of years so I guess he likes this refuge.  Do you think he noticed my beautifully painted posts?  I don't know smile I doubt it!

I was more interested in watching the rocket netting demonstration, than worrying about the big wig. 


     We all truck pooled to an area over the hill on the banks of Flat Lake for the demonstration.

_MG_9317Rocket nets are often used to capture large numbers of waterfowl for banding purposes.  A long mist net is laid out with ropes attached to explosive rockets for the capture.  I’ve used finer mist nets and bow traps during my bird banding days, but never used rocket nets.


This is Wayne, one of the biologists, loading the explosives into the rocket.  Behind him is the large net.


Ideally, ducks are baited to come to the area behind the three posts to feed on corn in a concentrated area.


Everyone hides in a blind about 50 yards away before dawn.  When the ducks come to feed, the rockets are set off at the best moment.


The plan is for the net to fly over the ducks and contain them underneath so they can be captured and banded.


After the person in charge of the operation checks to be sure all rockets have gone off, and it is safe, everyone runs to the netting area to get the ducks out and processed as quickly as possible.  Many refuges in the north of the country have quotas of waterfowl they need to band each year.  It is a way of managing waterfowl numbers at an optimum number.  Hunters report the bands from birds they’ve taken, and this is what helps determine daily hunting limits on various species. It is one way of insuring that North American waterfowl do not go the way of the passenger pigeon.

I’ve always been a John Wayne movie fan, and have probably seen just about every movie he was ever in.  One of them, in the 1960’s, was “Hatari!”  Anyone else remember that?  In it, he portrayed the owner of a company in Africa that captured animals for shipment to zoos world wide.  They had a problem filling an order for monkeys, and Red Buttons came up with an idea of using a rocket net to trap a large number of them.  Watching this demonstration brought that movie to mind.  Isn’t it strange where your head goes with certain experiences?  So that was my REAL blast, and some of it was from the past…

I leave you tonight with a peek at what I hope is to come in about a month:

IMG_4202 IMG_4205

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy


  1. I know it's important to do the banding but my heart goes out to those creatures and the panic they must feel when trapped in the rocket nets. I'm happy you process them and let them go rapidly; guess they get home that night with a story about a "bad day at the office."
    I, too, am a John Wayne fan. My favorite is "The Quiet American;" He and Maureen O'Hara were quite a pair - such chemistry, as we'd say now!

  2. Looking forward to seeing those beautiful leaves soon! :)

  3. I was thinking of the same movie...it is one of my favorite John Wayne movies. I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I am Janna's cousin.

  4. I loved rocket netting and bird banding (ducks... mostly mallards) when we volunteered up in North Dakota.... an experience to be remembered. The hardest part was that you'll capture several hundred birds at a time and it takes real methodical and synchronized work to get them all banded and released in a timely manner. The refuge we were at invited biology classes from the local schools (and college) and it was a great learning experience to age, sex and band those birds. Not exactly your mist netting project, but, to me, every bit as exciting

  5. hahaaaa oh, me... 71 posts are done ... 200 more to gooooo... HAhaaaaa

    stayed at John Wayne Marine in Sequim, Washington ... he gave that gorgeous hunk of property to the city or state or county ... and I'm with Mary Pat... jeeeeez those little birds.

  6. Now I've got that ditty stuck in my head and I'm not even painting posts.

  7. Gee. Thanks for that ditty, I guess. And we all know we can COUNT on you Keep up the good work.

  8. Way cool way to catch lots of birds at once! Stay cool tomorrow painting those posts..I hope you are signing your work:)

  9. So do you count all your blog posts too?? I bet it's more than 200 and I hope there are more to come. At least those posts can be done out of the heat! I too am looking forward to some fall color.

  10. I actually have that movie. I don't know which was in greater numbers, the animals running around or the amount of cigarettes the actors smoked in the movie. I guess I need someone who can count... ;c)

  11. So, where is Werner von Braun when you need him? Very interesting post. Too bad they did not let you push the plunger.

  12. Very interesting. I've never done any banding or seen such a thing as this. I know I'd be scared to death if someone did it to me. I hope to see those gorgeous colors here in New England before I head south. Hope they aren't late this year.

  13. I'm glad you posted pictures of the net going out - now I have a visual to go with the description. I didn't like John Wayne at all, except when I saw the movie "The Shootist". He was pretty good in that one, but I always thought he sounded stilted in the others.

  14. Thanks (not) for putting the ditty in my brain! I'm also a John Wayne fan ... I even wrote his fan club in the US while a teen inTurkey and got an autographed photo that's probably still hanging around in the yet-to-be scanned photos. I don't think I've ever heard of rocket netting ... interesting. I guess it happens fast enough that the rockets going off don't scare off the majority of the ducks, thus defeating the purpose.

  15. I have never heard of rocket netting. It sounds scary to me for the fowl. I know the professionals know way more than I do; I just wonder how this effects their hearing.

  16. Very cool! I've never really thought about the details of how to capture birds. We went to an outdoor movie last weekend - The Cowboys with John Wayne. So fun!

  17. What is it with the Federal Government and painting posts.... You're doing it up there. We're doing it down here at Eau Galle Recreation Area. :-)

    A retired Photographer looks at life
    Life Unscripted

  18. I was a bit disappointed with the end of your story. I thought you might inadvertently have caught the "Big Wig" under that net. That would have been too funny.
    I do the same thing as you, counting at most times and sometimes it too drives me crazy.

  19. That's a whole lot of posts to paint!

  20. Interesting info on the rocket netting. Hope the temps cool a little to make the painting less taxing.

  21. That is way interesting...never thought about how they capture the birds to band them.

    Thats a lot of posts!

  22. I love your job....it is so diverse and to be able to experience all the wildlife....free!

  23. oh goodness. . .I've never shared this with another soul. I automatically count in my head too. . .and it drives me crazy too. . .and I wasn't even a math teacher. . .too funny!

    Loved your rocket net experiences. . .you are getting to have a lot of unusual activities at this refuge. . .I know you are loving them all!

  24. Always wondered how they did that.

  25. Nice Post.Thanks for Sharing this in your Blog