Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project publishes annual report

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South
Jared Wolfe places a USFWS band on a Downy Woodpecker as BREC summer campers look on.

BATON ROUGE - The Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project (BBMP) has published its third annual report. The report outlines the results of an ongoing research project at Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center in Baton Rouge.

The BBMP began in March of 2010. In its first three years of the project the completely volunteer group has captured and released more than 2400 birds encompassing 73 different species. The data collected during the banding process has resulted in six articles in scientific publications describing population trends, behavior, molt and natural history of our local bird communities.

BBMP works in association with the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources, Baton Rouge Audubon Society, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Parks and Recreation. Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, where the bird banding station is operated twice a month, on a year round schedule, is a 103 acre wooded wetland in the middle of Baton Rouge's urban sprawl. The major goal of the project is to determine how isolated habitat fragments affect bird populations and survivorship.

Another important aspect of the project has been to provide environmental education to the public during banding sessions. Visitors to the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center get to see wild birds in the hand and learn about their life histories. Hundreds of children attending BREC Summer camps have been connected to nature by witnessing the banding process, hearing about the life history of local birds and getting to touch wild birds before they are released back into the swamp.

The banding process begins at sunrise when the volunteers place mist nets throughout the forest. The mist nets are made from very fine threads that are almost invisible. Birds fly into the nets and become tangled. Trained volunteers remove the birds from the net and carry them to the banding station outside the Nature Center building. The birds then have a small metal band placed around their leg. Each band has a unique number so that data collected on that individual bird can be compared to data taken if the bird is recaptured. The birds are then examined for molt condition, wing length is measured, general health is observed and the bird is weighed. Banders are required to have a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

After the bird is processed, photos may be taken and visitors can get up-close looks before it is released back into the swamp. You can see more photos and information about the Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project at http://bluebonnetbirdmonitoringproject.shutterfly.com/birdportraits. The detailed report can be downloaded in PDF format from: http://bluebonnetbirdmonitoringproject.shutterfly.com/documentsandpublications