2015-09-24 / Nature

Bird Banding at Bailey Brook

By Jack Kelly

Each bird is weighed and measured as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bird banding project. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Each bird is weighed and measured as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bird banding project. (Photo by Jack Kelly) As a juvenile red-tailed hawk perched on a pole and watched with interest, Salve Regina University biology and environmental sciences professor Jameson Chace recently conducted a bird-banding demonstration along Middletown’s Bailey Brook buffer zone on Sunday, Sept. 13. Chace, an Aquidneck Land Trust board member, presented the activity as one of ALT’s 2015 Land Matters Walk and Talk Property Tours. For the past six years Chace has been studying the various environmental threats to Bailey Brook, which is the key source of drinking water for Newport. He enlists his Salve students as able assistant researchers, which has benefited the students, the brook’s water quality, and the residents of Newport.

This will be the fourth fall migration cycle for Chace and his students. Using a series of lightweight, almost invisible to the eye “mist nets,” birds are captured on the wing and held safely until retrieved. Each bird is weighed, measured, and has a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band placed on its leg. Chace logs all of this information which includes sex, approximate age, species and the point of banding into a database for future scientific queries.

Previous experiments and surveys have measured toxic chemical buildups in migratory birds, stress factors faced by long-distance migrants, and measuring harmful pollutants that are flushed into the watershed during the initial surge of storm rainfalls.

Species collected, banded and released at the most recent program included common yellowthroats, gray catbirds, cardinals, American goldfinches, downy woodpeckers and a variety of other species.

Chace and his young protégés are active in the Bailey Brook area on Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 6:30-9:30 a.m. The public is welcome to view this interesting scientific endeavor, but please respect the work being done and the private property of the local neighbors. Onlookers may park at the Middletown Fire Station, at Wyatt and Turner roads and walk the approximate 100 yards to the mobile science station Chace will establish near the buffer zone. Species that have been banded in the past include lincoln sparrows, common yellowthroats, prairie warblers, and northern waterthrushes. Because of the high volume of avian activity in the area, onlookers should bring binoculars.

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