Written by and photo courtesy of Susie Stockwell, bird team member and author of #itsawildlife blog
I’m sure you’ve heard it said about birds in the hand… worth two in the bush! Well, in the case of monitoring birds – the saying was never truer!
As part of the Operation Wallacea survey program in Croatia, we are using two different methods to monitor the avifauna surrounding Krka National Park: point-counts and mist-netting. While both methods have both advantages and shortfalls
The wonderful thing about catching birds and examining them in the hand is that we can infer a deeper layer of data from our observations. That is, not only can we look at the abundance and species richness of birds we catch similar to the point counts, but we can also obtain a more intricate understanding of their ecology and evolution.
We can measure the birds and determine their age and sex, giving us insight into the population demographics. We can check for a brood patch or cloacal protrusion to infer whether or not the birds are breeding and other aspects of their behaviour.
And if we catch birds with unique metal rings on their legs, we can work out where they were banded and at what stage of their lives. This is when the mist nets start telling some very interesting stories about the birds.
Maybe they’ve travelled many miles to be here? Or maybe it’s lived in the area its whole life? Either way, recapturing the birds can give us fascinating insights into snapshots of their lives.
For example, some birds like the Golden Oriole travel annually from southern Africa to spend the summer months in Europe whereas other birds like the Blue Tits and Hawfinch appear to be resident in this area year-round
Juvenile Hawfinch being processed
Mist-netting is a wonderful opportunity for students to get up close and personal with the song birds of Krka National Park, Croatia and give them the opportunity to experience this novel survey type from start to finish: setting up the nets, processing the birds and packing away the net.
One of the things we love most about mist-netting is how accessible it can be for all different types of people of all walks of life: as long as they have a passion for birds and the time up their sleeve to dedicate towards learning how to catch birds and what to do with them once they’ve done that!
Having gained exposure to mist-netting for the first time on an Operation Wallacea trip, many students are able to take home their passion for catching birds with them and sign up to start training towards their very own license!
This weekly blog was written by Operation Wallacea bird team member, Susie Stockwell, author of #itsawildlife, a blog and podcast to support young ecologists working their dream job in wildlife conservation. You can read more at: www.itisawildlife.com