Bird banding video

Click the picture to see the video.

Every spring and fall I travel to Block Island, R.I., where my friend Penny Lapham's family owns a house. Block Island is a beautiful ink spot of land anchored 10 miles off the Rhode Island coast. Much of the island has been preserved (the Nature Conservancy named it one of its "Last Great Places"). There are miles of hiking trails, sandy beaches and lots of wildlife to see.

It's a treat and a joy to be there.

Over 40 years ago, Penny's mother, Elise, learned how to band birds from an island native. Elise started a bird banding station out of their house. She has banded hundreds of thousands of birds and compiled a unique and valuable record of the island's wildlife and ecology. For her work, she was named Rhode Island Distinguished Naturalist of the Year in 2006.

Kim Gaffett runs the banding station now. All of us who visit get to help out. Handling the birds is an inspiring and humbling experience. The tiniest weigh no more than a few grams. Birds that look so substantial in the air feel no heavier than a couple of cotton balls in your hand. Many of them fly thousands of miles annually to get to the island, a feat that seems impossible when you ponder how small and fragile they are.

The banding allows scientists to study the birds' migrations and monitor the health of each species. Many birds return several times. They are weighed and measured and their stats are recorded in the banding station's records. A map on the banding room wall shows where Block Island's birds have been captured, often thousands of miles away, by other banders.

The video shows you how the banding is done. You can see still images of the banding and other Block Island scenes here.

The Ocean View Foundation is dedicated to environmental education at Block Island. Check out their "Critter of the month" feature to learn more about birds and other animals on the island.

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