An ornithologist’s day starts early. This budding bird watcher is about two hours behind… We were ready early on August 20th. Senior Staff Scientist Trevor L. Lloyd-Evans guided the way to the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences at 7 a. m. He had warned us that the sun would most likely be blinding as we approach the freeway turnout. Instead the fog shrouded the sun and the approach to Manomet was easy.
Leaving the car behind in the parking area we climbed the slight incline in the coastal forest that lines the banks of the Atlantic Coast near Plymouth, MA.
We crossed the gardens to the original seaside home that these days houses the seasonal research staff and the bird banding lab.
A piece of paradise among mansions… this park-like yard offers dreamy spots to relax and listen to the sound of the ocean surf below.
A first peek over the lush banks: I could barely make out the water and rocks…
First signs of Autumn were all around. Berries mean food for birds as they prepare for their annual migration to the southern hemisphere.
I diverted my attention for a few minutes. When I returned to the original look-out spot the fog was lifting quickly to reveal a stunning vista.
And there I spotted rocks covered with Cormorants…
…and a bird with a wide wingspan approaching!
The Blue Heron quickly landed and positioned himself in search of breakfast. At that moment I wished I had a longer lens…
As we turned around and followed four young scientists approaching with small cloth bags hanging from their wrists. With no time to wonder if this was the latest fashion statement my instincts told me that these bags contained valuable cargo and time was of the essence. We immediately gathered in the banding laboratory and witnessed efficient and well choreographed steps to evaluate each bird. Young birds were banded, added to the international database recording wingspan measurements, possible beak variances, coloration, possible age and sex. Tail feathers were carefully examined to provide additional information about possible malnutrition or environmental trauma the bird might have sustained. Last but not least…
(from left to right: Lauren, Kristin, Kayla, Toni, Trevor Lloyd-Evans, my friend Glenna)
…each bird was weighed. Usually a healthy bird is placed into one of these cones, if it is not certain whether a bird is carrying a contagious virus the bird is carefully placed back into its cloth bag and placed into the orange juice can for weighing.
Lauren (r) and Kristin (l) carefully examining a young Catbird to determine its age before the date is added to the database.
A close up of a young Catbird, a member of the Mockingbird family ready for release. Thank you, Trevor for posing this Catbird for an opportunity to take a picture. Usually a bird is released through an opening with a perch directly positioned on the outside wall of the lab.
A Nuthatch created some spacial interest from a visiting group. One of the members is a painter and Nuthatches are his favorite birds. I tried my hand at capturing the bird when guide Evan posed the bird a few seconds before its release.
…just about ready to leave…
…and one more look at the plumage before freedom calls.
I was invited to check the nets the birds are captured in. Every 45 minutes the scientists venture out to check nearly 50 nets around the property.
Kayla disabled one of the nets during our walk about the property. This net was exposed to direct sunshine and posed a hazard during the hot hours of the day. Fine mesh nets are distributed around the property to capture birds during the day. Birds are most active during the cooler hours of the day, especially during the early morning hours when they wake up and need to feed.
Just a few steps inland the underbrush was denser and provided shade. However, it was a very hot and humid day and we did not find any birds in the nets close to the cliffs. Nets are checked continually to ensure that birds are released as quickly as possible to minimize trauma.
Mid-day at Manomet Center – the sun was high and after a last walk about the gardens…
…and a relaxing chat in the authentic Japanese Tea House it was time to say good bye. What a treat and thank you for the tour, Trevor. It was a pleasure to meet you and your staff who is passionate and committed.
This unexpected opportunity, Trevor Lloyd-Evans’ willingness to patiently educate and share his passion has ignited an interest in birds. Who would have thought? I have already downloaded the Audubon Bird Watching app to my iPhone, and I can’t wait to try out my new Sigma 150-600mm lens…