Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bay Bird Observatory Field Trip

Today we visited the Coyote Creek Field Station, which is on land owned and managed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. They "have been monitoring riparian bird populations since 1982 in order to document long-term population trends" and collect data "by capturing birds in mist-nets and affixing a uniquely-numbered band to each bird," per the Summer 2011 newsletter of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.

There were so many amazing things that we got to see. They "saved" the birds that they'd caught that morning to show us, and we were lucky to see so many! We saw the ornithologist examine a Downy Woodpecker, an American Goldfinch, a Bushtit, a House Finch (yellow orange variant), and a Common Yellowthroat. Each was banded and we learned how each band is fit to the bird's size. We also learned a bit about a bird's digestive system, examining tiny stones in its "crop," a spot at the base of the bird's esophagus where seeds are held, waiting to be ground and digested. As we walked to examine the nets, we saw more birds - two Kites, a Red Winged Hawk, and - most amazingly - a young (and huge!) Great Horned Owl. The amazing bird trick of the day went to the upside-down bird, for our guide Josh explained that a bird upside down will simply lie perfectly still and we watched the Common Yellowthroat do so in his hands.

We never imagined that seeing birds so close-up would reveal such marvels; thanks so much to Jacki for setting it up... and to Cynthia for the rest of the afternoon's wet entertainment (Swimming! Playing! Diving!)

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