The Black Swamp Bird Observatory considers its banding program a “feather in its cap.”
The program, led by research director Mark Shieldcastle, has banded more than 500,000 birds over two decades. The BSBO banding station is the largest in the country, according to Kim Kaufman, executive director of the BSBO.
“We band more birds than any other station in the country on a regular basis,” Kaufman said. “That's a feather in our cap, but what it really represents is how important that (Magee) marsh is to migratory birds.”
A banding demonstration will take place May 14-15 during this year's Biggest Week in American Birding event at the BSBO. Kaufman said banding at Magee Marsh typically takes place on Saturdays, beginning the first weekend in April through the end of May. The BSBO's website, www.bsbobird.org, has information on banding dates and times.
Banding is used to study bird migration in Northwest Ohio, Kaufman said.
“The birds are captured safely in soft nets,” she said. “Volunteers help remove the birds from the nets and record data such as weight and wing measurements. We age the birds if we can and try to tell what sex it is, and then the birds are released. Our main research station is located behind the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station. We've been banding there seven days a week during spring and fall migration for more than 20 years.
“We offer songbird banding demonstrations at the observatory during the Biggest Week. Beyond that, every weekend during spring and fall migration we host demonstrations here at the bird observatory on what the research does, what it's for and how it works, and we offer those free to the public. It's a great thing to bring your whole family to; the kids love it. And it's a great opportunity to see these beautiful birds up close. We allow photography. They're really fun events and it doesn't cost a thing to come out and experience this.”
The BSBO also offers a comprehensive program about bird migration and the geography of bird migration as a free school program. Students in grades K-12 can attend the programs free of charge.
“We've been doing that for three years,” Kaufman said. “We get schools from all over the northern part of the state and schools from Michigan. They come and visit Black Swamp Observatory for songbird banding and migration studies. They visit Magee Marsh for programs on bald eagles, and they visit the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge for a program on the wetland habitat and all sorts of aquatic life.
“It's a day of exploring the marsh ecosystem and it's free of charge for schools. We also have a limited number of transportation scholarships. It's really a knockout program.”
Black Swamp Bird Observatory is located at 13551 W. State Route 2, Oak Harbor. Call 419-898-4070 for more information.