Fantastic SINHG Bird Banding Trip on Cap’n Sams Spit

Last week twelve intrepid SINHG members set out at the crack of dawn for what was billed as ‘Survivor Comes to Johns Island: Extreme Bird Banding with Aaron Givens of the Kiawah Conservancy.’ We were lucky. With nary a drop of rain since Hurricane Matthew, we didn’t have to slog a mile through several inches of muddy water to reach the banding site on Cap’n Sams Spit. Here, every fall, Aaron and his workers set up twenty-five 40’ mist nets to catch migrating songbirds. The photo below shows Aaron and one of his helpers at the banding station where birds are kept in bags before being examined.


While our trip (cancelled because of the hurricane) was originally scheduled for peak migration time in October, there were still plenty of birds that found their way into the nets: ruby-crowned kinglets, swamp sparrows, song sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, a grey catbird, and even a magnificent flicker. This photo shows Aaron removing a young ruby-crowned kinglet from the mist net.


Each bird was weighed, measured, and banded. Aaron showed us how they check for body fat on the breast and examine the feathers and markings to determine the relative age of each bird. In this photo Aaron is examining the wings of a flicker while Sheila Quigley looks on.


A number of birds were repeat net offenders—i.e. previously banded and released. Aaron explained that some of the birds would winter over here on Johns Island, while for others, this was just a stopping point for them to rest and fatten up for their trip further south. Below is a photo of a beautiful gray catbird that had been previously banded.


This was an absolutely fantastic trip and one we will certainly repeat. Those lucky enough to participate this time were Nancy Brown, Nancy Finno, Sandy Goheen, Marcia Hider, Craig Johnson, Judy Morr, Shelia Quigley, Melissa Shawver, Don Smith, Shaun Sullivan, Carol and Bill Bane.

-Submitted by Carol Bane

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