February 3, 2008

Bird-banding day at Springbrook Nature Center. When I walked in at 11:45 AM, the banditos were soothing a female cardinal while they logged her vitals. Everyone has their own way of talking goo goo to a cardinal and they were all trying their best, like the whole family from Aunt Flo to Uncle Bert bending over the bassinet. The cardinal was having none of it.
Here Ron is blowing and teasing away the super downy breast feathers to assess the fat stores. These winter birds have a chest cavity space that fills up with fat, akin to a fuel tank. You can tell the first winter birds as they have little stores. Another thing that amazed me when I helped band birds at the Refuge was how incredibly HOT their bodies are. Of course we were using a "wisp net" which is like a volleyball size hair net, where the birds get tangled in it and there is more of a struggle to free them, in process they use a lot of energy. But birds like chickadees were amazingly hot, and to think of them maintaining all that heat energy throughout a Minnesota winter is stupendous. It is no wonder they are always moving, always eating, and often the only bird you will see or hear out on the coldest of winter days. They need food all day, everyday to survive.The cardinal puts on her best beak sneer as Ron determines aging and health quality from her plumage. This banding group uses cage traps to catch the birds, especially in winter. They are less damaging to the feathers and are used near feeders where wisp nets would be catching a half dozen birds at once, and more would be getting caught while those were being freed. It seems to me like the birds are less leery of the traps, but maybe they're just more desperate in the winter. One chickadee caught last month had been captured previously 16 times, and 3 times during that same day! It's interesting tho because you get to see how much their weight fluctuates during the course of the day and other subtilties. For waterfowl and other large birds some banders also use "net guns," sort of a Spidey Web Shooter that, in theory, launches a net which lands over the bird. I haven't seen those in use yet, but I can imagine chaos ensuing.
Later as I was waiting to close the nature center I was staring at the fish tank and thinking, "I wonder what those bubbles from the areator would look like if you slowed your shutter speed down like the typical "blurred waterfall" or tumbling river shot. What would the fish look like?

Here we are, bubble magic. Sort of electrical. Keep in mind these are large, slow moving bubbles, about the 2 per second variety. Might be neat to take the top off the tank and shoot straight down. The fish pretty much just moved its tail and pectoral fins for the whole 3 second exposure without moving noticably in any other direction. Amazing.

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