BIG DAY

There’s no other way to title this post, beloved birders. Yesterday was a HUGE day here at Birds and Words. I extracted my first bird from a mist net! Well, I had help, of course, from the great Bronwyn, who is an extracting wiz at the banding station, but I did it! Actually, I participated in the extraction of not one but TWO cedar waxwings!

Adult male Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Photo from the TTPBRS.

Adult male Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Photo from the TTPBRS.

I started volunteering at the banding station last spring, and for the longest time believed that I would eternally be content just scribing. Now don’t get me wrong — I still LOVE scribing. For some reason there’s little I find more thrilling than writing down, internalizing and memorizing four-letter Alpha Codes of birds (for obvious reasons RWBL is a personal fave, with KILL for killdeer and VEER for veery currently tied for second place). Should be stultifying as an activity, but it’s riveting. The scriber’s seat is also the best seat in the house (aka: banding station) for getting a close-up view of every bird banded and participating (or, in my case, actively observing) in the sexing/aging debate which often involves reaching for the Pyle banding bible and intoning sage advice from the tome that would probably lull any normal person into a full-in slumber, but for some reason makes me smile. Because I now know what primaries and secondaries are, and could even point out a leucistic tail feather on a killdear if you so asked. And it’s the knowing that I find entirely intoxicating.

But yesterday, something happened. Suddenly, after months of shadowing and watching other talented and dextrous volunteers extract birds, I took a deep breath and decided that it was high time I took the plunge and attempted an extraction. In all honesty, I was terrified. Scared that I’d mess up, that I’d get the bird totally tangled, that I’d hurt the bird, that my clumsiness would prevail and I’d make a total mess of the situation. And then before I could talk myself out of it, I said that maybe perhaps one day I’d like to try an extraction, and then before I could hide and back away from the situation, Bronwyn asked if I wanted to try a Cedar Waxwing and there I was, hands in the net, working under her careful instruction, untangling the glorious cedar waxwing from the net, placing his legs delicately in photographer’s grip, extracting one wing and then the next, easing his head out of the netting, and before I could even freak out it was done, the bird was safely in the bag. And then…the first Cedar Waxwing was followed by a second! I’m still not sure whose heart was racing faster — mine or the bird’s!

That’s right, dearest birdiest of readers, yesterday I half-extracted two birds! A BIG DAY indeed. Perhaps the biggest, birdiest, most wonderful day yet.

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