Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mammals, Invertibrates and Birds, Oh My...*

My dear friends, You may recall that I was accepted in the Tennessee Naturalist class last September.  I am having the best time, it's everything I had hoped it would be and more. I've met new people,  learned more about my beautiful state's natural world and have renewed my commitment to help protect species, ecosystems and promote sustainable use of natural resources.

There's so much to learn and each class is a smorgasbord of delightful goodies that leaves me hungry to learn more.

You don't have to be signed up for the Tennessee Naturalist class to take advantage of learning opportunities in Middle Tennessee. There are naturalist led classes in parks all over the city, the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club has an active group of volunteers eager to introduce you to the beautiful parks and natural areas in our state and Owl's Hill is a wonderful center for adult and family outdoor activities.

  I feel incredibly fortunate that I don't have to go very far to find classes. Warner Park Nature Center is a few miles from my house and just last month, I attended two Winter Tree ID classes, signed up for winter animal tracking class and observed the staff and volunteers during their winter bird banding and monitoring program. (here for more info)

 The photos in this post are from the two winter banding sessions I participated in~Participating meaning, I had a wonderful opportunity to observe the process, take lots of photos and get my questions answered by the staff. 

 I've been observing and photographing the birds that live and visit my garden for years, but getting that close to some of my favorite critters was a delight.  I felt like an excited little kid and wanted to reach out to touch and stroke the soft feathers. I didn't but, I sure wanted to...

 Nobody, no how gets to handle birds unless they are a bander! It takes years as a trainee and even more to become a Master Bird Bander. In the beginning, trainees observe, help set up the traps, identify the age and sex of a bird and record the information...They start out getting familiar with the big book!
Sometimes the big book descriptions are needed to id the sex or age of the bird
 It's a long process from knowing they want to hold a bird to being able to band.
It might be a while before they get to hold a bird and even longer before they learn how to gently hold the precious, small life while measuring its wing span, checking out the feathers and banding them.

 I admire their love of birds and deep commitment to the learning process...Although, I am not drawn to banding, these dedicated naturalists are my role models for following your passion and life long learning.

*Part One in the series on my Naturalist adventures
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Replies
    1. I so believe in the importance of life long learning.

  2. This is without a doubt the most wonderful thing ever! Seeing the birds so closely brings the miracle of life in the natural world home in a way nothing else could. I eagerly await more about this!

  3. I had forgotten that you are taking the MN Class. I am doing so here in Indiana. We are just beginning. I have loved every minute of the classes so far. Aren't birds just marvelous? Getting so close is fun. I have seen these birds in a banding situation before. Wonderful. I am glad you got to experience this too. Love the pictures. That Towhee looked angry.

  4. Beautiful bird shots, Gail. I would rather photograph than band any day. No pecked fingers that way and all concentration of color, markings and those wild eyes.

  5. What an exciting experience! Thank you for sharing your fabulous photos. I got to experience bird banding for the first time this winter when the Georgia Hummers group came out to band the two Rufous hummingbirds that are overwintering in my garden. I learned so much. I am planning to take the Master Naturalist course as soon as I finish up the Native Plant Certificate program. There is always so much to learn and I think we are so fortunate to have these resources and experts available to educate the public.

  6. I will definitely check out these classes and clubs. It would be really fun to walk through our parks and have someone point out the birds and wildlife. I never knew there were Master Bird Banders!I really enjoyed seeing the birds up close.

  7. What a great experience and how much fun that must have been to observe! The photos of the birds are wonderful!

  8. I used to love going out on bird banding sessions, especially overseas, as it was a fabulous way to meet, and appreciate, the diversity of local songbird species. You're right though, it's not for amateurs, but even observers can learn a tremendous amount during a banding session. Most of all, it's just plain fun!

  9. Adored seeing these birds up close. I can never get quite that close. Thank you. I wish our Naturalist program was as extensive as yours.~~Dee

  10. What a wonderful opportunity to see birds up close. I'm glad you have the chance to take the MN class. I'm not even sure it's offered around here.

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  12. Gail, very nice post. I have to make time to get to one of the next bird bandings at Warner Parks. Excellent photographic work to go along with this post.

    David Olmstead

  13. Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!
    Lea's Menagerie

  14. Thanks for sharing the pictures. I can't imagine what it would be like to hold those birds in the hand. The downy woodpeckers are plentiful in my garden, the white breasted nuthatches as well. Downies seem relatively comfortable around people, they will let me get quite close, but the white breasted nuthatches seem very skittish. Oddly, the red breasted seem even more tame than the downies.

  15. Your pictures really help with identification. I have the recommended guides but seeing the real bird, especially relative to a person's hand, is SO much clearer. In most books, a Carolina Wren could look like 20 different pictures. Want to write a better reference as your next career?

  16. What a great opportunity! I'm hoping to join a similar program here in Wisconsin. I'll look forward to your future posts about your naturalist adventures!

  17. Oh I would love to gently handle these birds....we have a pair of downy woodpeckers visiting us this winter and partaking of the suet feeder...great class Gail!

  18. Sounds like a great class and a wonderful opportunity!

    I've done some banding in my work in an ornithology research lab at Duke. Not that easy and you have to get those birds out of there fast when it's cold. Especially birds with strong feet like chickadees. They can get in a big tangle very quickly!

    1. Sweetbay, These birds are trapped in cages, they won't use the missing nets until it gets warm. But, they are very careful and release them as soon as possible. gail

  19. I am sure one day you will be a master bander. I would be terrified of hurting the bird's leg but it must be fascinating to see them so close.
    Have fun

  20. the birdbander has been banded too. I don't think I could keep a ring halfway up my little finger!


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson