BRANDING BIRDS

July 12, 2002 12:00 am
Summer Education: Trace VanCleave of Elgin carries a goose to a release point after it was banded on Wednesday at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. Trace was in a Think Link Discovery Museum bird banding class.  (Story and photos by Dick Mason of The Observer).
Summer Education: Trace VanCleave of Elgin carries a goose to a release point after it was banded on Wednesday at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. Trace was in a Think Link Discovery Museum bird banding class. (Story and photos by Dick Mason of The Observer).

hese ducks and geese never make phone calls but in a sense they have their own 800 numbers.

They are the ducks and geese being banded at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area this summer. To date, 27 ducks and 33 geese have been banded.

Much of the work is again being done by Oregon Youth Conservation Corps members under the guidance of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.

The birds are being banded as part of the North American Bird Banding Program. The birds are monitored through retrapping in other areas and by hunters who are asked to notify the ODFW when they kill a banded bird.

The information gained from retrapping and hunters allows biologists to:

• describe migration routes.

• assess harvest pressure.

• estimate survival rates.

People who find birds that have been banded are encouraged to notify wildlife agencies so that their movement can be recorded. Each band has an 800 telephone number. Anyone finding a tag can call the number and learn more about the bird from the United States Geological Survey, which is in charge of the North American Bird Banding program.

The information provided includes the bird's approximate age, where it was hatched, who banded it and more.

Hundreds of ducks and geese have been banded at Ladd Marsh over the past decade. Much of the work has been done by OYCC workers.

This year's OYCC crew, led by Donte Joseph and Sarah Blake, has eight members. Their work is difficult but rewarding.

"It is a good learning experience,'' Joseph, said.

He enjoys using different strategies to get the birds out of traps, learning about them and the challenge of attaching bands to them.

"Holding them still (while a band is attached) is difficult. ...They are quite agile,'' Joseph said.

On Wednesday the OYCC was assisted by students attending a Think Link Discovery Museum bird banding class. Most of the students were children, many of whom helped carry the birds out of traps and then release them after they were banded.

Children usually handle ducks because they are smaller and thus easier to work with. Ducks and geese can scratch people with their feet but they are not dangerous to handle, said David Bronson of the ODFW.

Bronson noted that most of the ducks and geese at Ladd Marsh were hatched there. He said that when he started working at the Ladd wildlife area in 1977 it was not viewed as a waterfowl production area. The birds banded at Ladd Marsh today are proof that this has changed.

"This is now an important production area, not just a place for birds in the winter,'' Bronson said.

Birds banded at Ladd have later been found in some interesting places. One, a greenwing teal, later turned up in Louisiana, said Dave Larson, manager of the wildlife area.

Another bird banded at Ladd Marsh, a mallard, lived to be 14 years old.

"That is very old for a duck,'' Larson said.

Most mallards live only three or four years, he said.

At Ladd Marsh, ducks and geese are baited into wire cages. The cages have funnel-shaped openings that allow the birds to enter but not escape. Bronson said the birds can escape from the traps but most do not.

Banding is being done now in part because the birds can be drawn into them with grain. Later this summer this will not be the case because aquatic plants at Ladd Marsh, including pond weed and three-square, will begin producing seeds that waterfowl find irresistible. Ducks and geese will lose all interest in the grain, Bronson said.

Ducks and geese are removed from the traps early in the morning to prevent them from overheating. They are sensitive to heat because of their their thick feathers.

"They have down jackets,'' Bronson said.

The birds that the OYCC bands at Ladd Marsh include mallards, wood ducks, Canada geese, pintails and cinnamon teal.

Bronson and Larson oversee the work done by OYCC crew members. In addition to Joseph and Blake, this summer's OYCC crew is comprised Chris Bashon, Mitchell Seale, Amber Looslie, Brad Moschkau, Brandi Howell and Nick Martin, all of Union County.

The OYCC work is being done as part of the Ladd Marsh Wetland Restoration Project. The project is a partnership involving the OYCC, the Training and Employment Consortium, the ODFW, the Work Force Investment Act program and the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation.