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Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, March 7, 2014

Finally went to do duck banding

Fellow volunteer, Barry, picked me up this morning and we made our way to Cattail Marsh in Beaumont.  The forecast was for a nice warm day in the 60’s, but I’m sure glad I decided to wear a hoody under my insulated jacket.  I just never really trust those weather guessers.

_MG_9896It turns out that Cattail Marsh is a series of ponds that are a part of the water treatment system for Beaumont.  Most of this kind of bird banding is a waiting game.  The rocket nets are set out in the predawn hours, and locations may be changed daily depending on the prevailing winds.  Since dabbling ducks always take off into the wind, the rockets are set up so the birds fly into the net instead of away. 

_MG_9898After setup, one person is left in this temporary blind to wait for the ducks to come in.  When enough ducks are within the area covered by the net, the person in the blind ‘pulls the trigger’, the rockets blast off, and the net covers the birds.  That’s the way it is supposed to work, but that doesn’t always happen.

The rest of us helpers just wait at the entrance to the ponds to hear the blast of the rockets.  When that happens, we jump in our trucks and make our way to whatever net has gone off.  After waiting on hour or so after our arrival, we heard that boom and were on our way.  Well, one end of the net got hung up at take off, so only one of the twenty or so ducks in the trapping area was caught.  Sad smile

_MG_9901Then comes the arduous work of rolling up the net, and setting up the rockets again.  The photo at the top of this post shows the guys beginning to carefully roll up the nets.  This photo depicts the net carefully placed on the launch platform.  Notice how many people it took for this careful preparation.  That net is forty feet wide.  Then the rockets are hooked on and armed,

_MG_9903more bait (100 lbs. of corn) is placed in the catch area, and the help crew heads back to the waiting area.  It was several more hours of waiting before we heard that ‘boom’ again.

IMG_6137In the meantime, Patrick, the refuge biologist, was laying (is it laying or lying?) down on one of the levies at a different location waiting for the right moment.  He didn’t have one of those little blinds, so he had been just laying/lying out in the elements for hours.  This haul was a little more productive.  We get there as quickly as possible to get the birds out of the net.

IMG_6143Ducks are untangled from the nets and put into those yellow crates to be transported to the waiting area for banding. 

IMG_6151While most people help roll up the net for another try, the ducks are carried or floated back to the waiting trucks.

_MG_9905That’s where Barry and I could finally be of some help.  You may have noticed that most of the guys and gals out in the muck and mire could be our children or grandchildren.  I’m thinking this is definitely a young persons calling.  I know that I would probably do a face plant into the marsh after a few steps in that muddy bottom. Confused smile  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t wish I was one of them, but I’m afraid those days are over for me.

_MG_9900After working the hunter check station for several months, it was nice to see some live ducks up close and personal.  Because of that miserable cold front that came in at the beginning of this week, capture numbers have been way down compared to other years.  Last year, they captured and banded over 300 ducks in a week.  So far this week, there have been less than 75 and there’s only two days to go.

_MG_9906Back at the banding site, everyone lined up to get a duck and take it through the different stations before releasing them.  First up was getting the band put on after identifying species and sex.  Barry had a male blue-winged teal that had to go through some extra steps.  This species is being studied for virus infections, so besides the band, a blood sample, anal swab, and crop swab were taken. 

_MG_9908My duck was a green-winged teal, so it got to skip the blood sample station.  Of course the best part of the experience was being able to take the bird to the top of the dike to release it.  I watched it take flight until it went beyond my vision.  Safe travels north, my friend!  Live long and prosper…

While I don’t think that I really contributed much in the way of help with this assignment, I really did enjoy myself.  During the waiting times, I was able to talk to the young man doing the virus study.  What a life he has.  He lives in Alaska doing scientific wildlife work, and comes down to do this study for a few weeks each winter to escape his cabin fever up there.  He married a woman from Brazil, and when they retire in the distant future, they will return to Brazil to run a coffee plantation. 

I sure do meet some interesting people in this life…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

24 comments:

  1. What an interesting job for a young man...studying a virus study for ducks! You do meet the most interesting people. It's so great that most of them really like what they do and make a contribution to wildlife.

    I can't imagine holding one of those little guys...what a thrill and then to release it would definitely be a WOW!

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    1. Scratch the first studying.....sorry!

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  2. Judy, that was an interesting detail today .... So many great workers on hand ... Okey, for the English lesson.... An animal is laying down in the field and I (person) am lying down for a short nap ....so to have a little way to remember..."a" ...for animal or a thing ....lay. And "I" ....rhymes with lying .... A tough one but one way to hopefully sort it out .....
    Always thought of you with the ROOMBA until Rod came up with his ROOMBA mishap and now that takes the cake !!!! But I also still laugh about your tale relating the tomb stone door prize !!!!!
    I think you both take home the WINNER !!!!

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  3. What a crazy experience...and...aren't there snakes and gators in that water??? No way would I be in the water for any reason...Being able to release that sweet baby back into the wild would be the cherry on top for me.

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  4. What a great post and a wonderful experience for you! WOW, all the work that goes into monitoring birds! I am a birder and I enjoyed reading and learning about the duck banding process.

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  5. Imagine the embarassment for the 1 duck in 20 that got caught! The pictures really let us see the procedure and all the work that goes into the banding effort.

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  6. Wow! What a lot of work!
    I'm glad you didn't have to get into the water - brrrr :-)

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  7. You now can put this on your resume for when you audition for a part on Duck Dynasty... :cD

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  8. Your ducks must be more considerate than the ones we've done... those yellow slickers... including the pants... were the proper attire of the day for us... there's nothing like a squirt or two... per duck... to get you all poopy really quick. Yes... the release part is the best!

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  9. Very interesting procedure. Sure hope they can help the blue wing.

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  10. Thanks for taking us threw all the steps in banning a duck. Do you ever catch a duck that is already banned? What do you do with it?

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  11. Oh, Judy, I think I would have been out in that muck with them...I still have not learned to slow down!!!

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  12. Great explanation and pictures of duck banding. Sure beats shooting the ducks in my opinion anyway.

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  13. Loved the photo of you with "your" duck! You too have had some great experiences!!

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  14. You know, I'd never thought about how involved it would be to band ducks. I'm sorry to say I guess I'd taken it for granted. Thanks for showing us just how involved it is to be able to study nature with authority and clarity. The pix are fantastic; thanks for them also.

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  15. Looks like a labor intensive effort, glad there are people willing to volunteer. You mention that you get to meet interesting people...I think that has less to do with the RV lifestyle and more to do with the fact your willing to do interesting things and converse with others while you do it. My dad was the same way..never met anyone he couldn't have an interesting conversation and learn something from. You remind me of him. I think no matter what you do in life or where you live your life you'll always meet interesting people. Because you're one of them.

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  16. Another interesting, educational post ... thank you. I'm with you ... it's a young person's job to get in that muck and set things up. From Alaska to Brazil ... that couple is going to be in for quite a weather-shock when they eventually retire!

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  17. Really good call waiting for the warmer weather. You still got to participate and didn't have to freeze to death doing it.
    *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
    Colleen
    Traveling with the Longdogs (Blog)
    http://Travelinglongdogs.blogspot.com
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  18. That was interesting seeing how the banding works. I admit, I was not fond of the dead duck pictures and had to skip those posts. I much prefer seeing live birds.

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  19. Very interesting I'm sure the ducks were happy to be let go again.

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  20. Very interesting to learn about the process of duck banding! Thanks! :)

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  21. I am so relieved that you didn't have to be in the water! I agree with your assessment about it being a job for younger folks! I know you're having a good time anywhere!

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  22. That 1 duck was embarrassed for sure. Always wondered how they caught the ducks.

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  23. Nice post.Thanks for sharing this in your blog

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