On a map of the US, you’ll be able to barely see the thin strip of land that’s Fort Morgan, Ala. However the slender peninsula — about 20 miles lengthy and, in some locations, lower than a half-mile extensive — is immensely necessary for migratory birds: It’s the final land cease earlier than they fly south throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Lately, the Banding Coalition of the Americas spent 9 days within the dense vegetation of Fort Morgan, rigorously capturing birds in mist nets, becoming them with tiny leg bands and releasing them again into the world to make their lengthy journey throughout the water.
By the tip of the occasion, Emma Rhodes and Kyle Shepard, the co-founders of B.C.A., alongside a crew of 10 or so different skilled and federally-licensed volunteers, had captured and banded 527 birds from 55 totally different species.
Seeing the birds up shut and holding them in your hand will be transformative, mentioned Ms. Rhodes, 28, an avian biologist and Ph.D. scholar at Auburn College. “It could actually actually change individuals’s lives and provides them new views about why birds are necessary, why this habitat’s necessary, why this habitat shouldn’t simply be condos,” she mentioned.
Ms. Rhodes and Mr. Shepard have been skilled in chicken banding at Fort Morgan as kids, when their mentors, Bob and Martha Sargent, led a nonprofit group devoted to the examine and preservation of hummingbirds and different Neotropical migrants. The Sargents are actually deceased, and in 2020, Ms. Rhodes and Mr. Shepard based B.C.A. as a manner of constant the work.
Mr. Shepard, 30, started banding at Fort Morgan when he was 12 years outdated. When individuals are concerned with volunteering, he mentioned, “my first query is, properly, how a lot time do you must commit to it? As a result of it’s going to be the remainder of your life — the coaching is rarely over.”
Nonetheless, Ms. Rhodes added, providing individuals the chance to volunteer was necessary to them each. “We had the benefit and the privilege of coaching at a really younger age and actually feeling like that modified our path and our trajectory in life for the higher,” Ms. Rhodes mentioned.
The information collected by B.C.A. is reported to the Chicken Banding Laboratory, a program run by the US Geological Survey that, in collaboration with the Canadian Chicken Banding Workplace, administers the North American Chicken Banding Program.
In fact, birds know no borders. The species captured and launched by B.C.A. are merely making a pit cease in Alabama. “A variety of instances we’ll say, oh, North American species, however actually they’re not North American species,” Ms. Rhodes mentioned. “They’re everywhere in the Americas and we’re sharing them.”
The crew typically finds some surprises within the nets. “This 12 months we banded a Western tanager, which was not alleged to be there,” Ms. Rhodes mentioned with amusing; the chicken’s typical habitat is farther west. She added, “We additionally banded two Western wooden pewees” — once more, not an jap species.
The data collected by the B.C.A. will assist scientists discover bigger developments. “We might be seeing the next incidence of western birds yearly, and that’s one thing that must be documented,” Ms. Rhodes mentioned.
In the end, she added, one of many group’s objectives is to share and alternate knowledge with different areas: “Particularly with individuals within the tropics, since you’ve acquired to know the total annual cycle to preserve birds,” she mentioned. “You possibly can’t simply examine them within the winter.”
Ms. Rhodes mentioned she additionally merely loved seeing birds up shut, even species which might be widespread. Amongst her favorites is the male American redstart, nicknamed the Halloween chicken for its black and orange feathers. She associates it with Fort Morgan, particularly within the fall. “We banded loads of them,” she mentioned. They’re necessary to the ecosystem, and to the work she has devoted her life to, she mentioned. But in addition: “They’re simply fairly birds.”