Monday, May 9, 2011

A bird in the hand~

Recently I had the privilege of going with a group of photographers to a bird banding station in Plymouth—Manomet Center ForConservation Sciences.  In the roughly forty years the center has been operating, the center has banded more than 350, 000 birds.

The coastal acres are thickly wooded. Fine mesh nets edge trails and capture low flying birds. Volunteers check the nets hourly and gently extricate any birds that have become entangled, then band them and send them on their way. 

Because the staff knew we were coming—twenty of us with our cameras—they had held onto a few birds for us to photograph up close. 

What became quickly apparent was the personality of each species. Some are cooperative and preen for the camera, some are flighty and flustered at being the center of attention, some peck at the handler, and others resort to unusual postures, like the blue jay who bent its head at a ninety degree angle to its body and stuck his beak in the air, resisting gentle "rearrangement" attempts for the camera .  Some just patiently await release.

The birds were in the care of volunteers who know just how to hold them and what to expect. They are calm and measured and make no sudden moves to startle the birds. In fact there are several previously banded chickadees who’ve discovered that the food placed in walk-in traps is worth repeated capture and release from such kind souls.

But as much as I appreciated seeing the birds up close, and as much as I recognize the value of the ongoing study of migrant birds, I couldn’t shake an uncomfortable feeling at seeing such wild creatures in human hands.

How would I do if a being many times my size clamped an ID to my ankle and then said, “Go in peace?” I'd probably be one of the species who peck at the handler. The birds seem none the worse for their momentary fear. I’d still be having nightmares…unless I was in hands as gentle and caring as those at Manomet. 


I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will...~Charlotte Bronte


Wanda said...

What an interesting post, Ruth, and just stunning pictures of the birds.

I certainly feel your emotions too. We have sparrows, finches and doves in our back yard feeder, and sometimes I want so badly to hold a little one in my hand, but know they are not meant for that..for for I just watch from a distance, with my Zoom lense on.

Hope you had a lovely Mother's Day...loving you tonight.

Amy D said...

Wonderful capture of the day Ruth, and I loved reading your other insightful posts as well. Such talent you have for expressing what many of us are thinking! And add in the great photos, well, it's a read and look I'll come back to again.

Alice Folkart said...

Thank you for this, Ruth. Yes, I would share your uneasy feeling, but glory in being able to see more than a fleeting glimpse of such beauty.


Ross Eldridge said...

Hallo there, Ruth,

What beautiful pictures. Wanda uses the word "stunning" and that is just the one I'd use too.

I live near a bird sanctuary in the tidal estuary of the River Coquet and see a good many birds when I'm walking Cailean (he's not interested in them, I'm glad to say). I mainly see bigger birds like the various gulls, geese, swans, gannets, herons ... in their seasons. Robins, jackdaws and swallows I can identify. But there are many smaller ones that I do not know the names for. Up here above the river bank where the farmland starts, I have seen owls in the evening.

Perhaps the gods thought the plain air was a tad boring and threw in these wonderful birds. Jewels!


Pauline said...

oh that last photo! I feel as you do and my breath caught in my chest at the thought of being captured, even if for just a moment!

Bob Sanchez said...

I've wondered how people catch and band birds. Your photo of the bird in the mesh tells the story.

Nice work, as always.

Louie Laskowski said...

Here is a poem that goes with your article title.

A bird in hand is not nearly as free as one in a tree.
True there is security in being held but
who would change the earth and sky around
to be anchored to the ground? - Dr. Dorothy Werblo

Dorothy Werblo was a wonderful educator I met at IUPUI near Hammond, East Chicago area of Indiana. I have always loved this poem of hers. I am sharing it publicly. Louie Laskowski