Mad Island Banding

April 11, 2014 by Jordan Rutter and Tim Guida


Jordan Rutter

I came down to Mad Island last year for 2 weeks to lead field trips with local schools. This year I'm excited to be back again and get the opportunity to guide students on an exploration of the wonder of bird migration and the ecosystem they have in their own backyards.

This past week ˜175 students from 4 different local middle and high schools came to Mad Island to learn about birds, migration, and the science going on at the banding station we have here. Students came for full day visits and participated in 4 activities.

In the morning they rotated between the banding station and a scavenger hunt designed to get them looking and observing their natural surroundings. In the afternoon they switched between 2 more stations. One was dip netting in the Mad Island slough where they learned about concepts such as watersheds, food webs, aquatic invertebrates, and more. At the other station they learned about bird migration through comparisons to human vacations.

High winds all week has made for poor bird banding conditions and are definitely not optimal. But the crew has been great about catching birds just in the nick of time before each group of kids gets to the banding station. It's incredible to see how just one bird can really captivate students.

As a bird educator I enjoy going into more depth with these students about the research ornithologists do to better understand birds and to talk about current projects to address the many unanswered questions we have about migratory birds.

Next week is again booked with middle and high school students. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for the banding station to let the birds continue being the stars of the show. We haven't been skunked yet so fingers crossed!

Schools and grades that visited Mad Island this week:

  • Van Vleck High School—11th and 12th grade
  • Palacios ISD—12th grade
  • Matagorda ISD—6th, 7th, and 8th grade
  • Herman Middle School—8th grade

Tim Guida

Black-and-white Warbler by Gerhard Hofmann

The banding station has seen a surge in activity since the last post, and every day we have had newly arrived species in our nets. In all we have captured 26 additional species this week, and observed 68 newly arriving species of migratory bird on the refuge.

Migrants that usually come through earlier, such as Black-and-White Warbler and Hooded Warbler, continue to show up in our nets but are now almost exclusively female. Most of the males passed through earlier, in order to arrive early to the breeding grounds and compete for the best territories.

The marked increase in bird diversity is a sure sign that the next cold front could produce large numbers of birds maybe even "fallout" conditions. And so we continue to run our nets daily, and keep a sharp eye on the radar.

You can follow what Tim Guida and Sean McElaney are seeing this spring on e-bird. Just search for "Matagorda, Texas" on the explore data page of ebird and you can find their most recent lists.

Birds captured: 477
Species captured: 64
Species observed: 190
Ticks collected: 20