By Noelle Moen
OSU Fisheries and Wildlife
It's four in the morning when my cell phone alerts me that it's time to start the day. I'm not used to waking at this time in the morning; and my body reminds me of this by the various aches in my sides from sleeping on the ground and the various popping of my joints as I do my morning stretches. Stepping out of the tent, I'm greeted by the trill of a Swainson's Thrush; a bird that we often get when mist netting. I head toward the mess tent to begin my morning with some caffeine and breakfast, a very important start for a day in the field.
After breakfast, the group is energized, packed, and ready to catch some birds! We hop into Big Red, the government truck, and ride toward our site. We see in the mist a female elk that is romping through the clear cut to go back to the seclusion of the trees.
Arriving at the site we then trek into the forest for a place to set up the net and our banding and sampling station. The net only takes a few minutes to setup and we begin playing calls and watching for any incoming birds. Swoosh. Shuffle. A Swainson's thrush lands in our net and the team springs into action. Allyson untangles the protesting thrush from the net and places it in a cloth bag as Mike turns off the speaker to prevent another bird from hitting the net. The thrush is brought over to our portable banding station and work begins. We check the sex, body mass, age, put a band, collect blood, and feathers then we release them back into the forest.
While this seems like a very orderly operation, there are always unexpected events that can and will happen. On this day we had an unexpected visitor land in our net in the form of a female Rufous hummingbird. We don't target this species for our project but it's lovely to see a hummingbird up close and personal.
Once we are done, typically around noon, we then tear down the net for the last time, taking GPS coordinates of our sites that morning and head back to camp.
We then have a short siesta before heading back out to another site and capture more specimens. One of our favorites to capture are Dark-Eyed Juncos. They are very sweet and hardy birds that are great to handle and sample from. As the evening wears on and slowly becomes dusk, we take down everything for the final time that day and head back to camp.
After having dinner, we then retire to our tents. I settle into my sleeping bag listening to the chorus of birds that are finishing their songs for the day, and am excited not for the early morning but for the field day to commence once more.