A closer look at bird-banding

New Chico Creek Nature Center photography exhibit focuses on bird-banding

Intriguing photos such as this one of two banded Northern Saw-whet owls are featured in the Chico Creek Nature Center’s current exhibit, “Banding by Day and Night.”

Intriguing photos such as this one of two banded Northern Saw-whet owls are featured in the Chico Creek Nature Center’s current exhibit, “Banding by Day and Night.”

A closer look at bird-banding
Jon Aull, education coordinator at the Chico Creek Nature Center (1968 E. Eighth St.), told me recently about the new bird-photography exhibit, “Banding by Day and Night,” at the center’s Janeece Webb Living Animal Museum.

“Developed by Altacal Audubon Society members [and bird-banders] Steve King, Raina King, and Dawn Garcia, and sponsored by the Altacal Audubon Society, this exhibit gives us a close look at birds in hand with incredible detail, and shows the process of scientists gathering information about the birds,” wrote Aull in a press release.

In the “Banding by Day” portion of the exhibit, two banding projects are focused upon—the monitoring of songbirds at Chico State’s Butte Creek Ecological Preserve and Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER) to ascertain such things as species diversity and population demographics, and “Ecology in Flight,” Altacal Audubon’s outdoor program for children.

“Banding by Night” takes a look at Garcia’s six-week-long Northern Saw-whet owl migration-monitoring program, which has taken place each fall since 2005 as the owls migrate through the Sierra foothills via the BCCER. Back in the fall of 2010, I went along on one of these nighttime bird-banding adventures (see “Netting the Saw-whet,” Nov. 4, 2010). Though we did not net an owl that night (we did catch an unsuspecting Pallid bat), I learned a lot about bird banding, what kinds of stats are kept (such as age, sex and tail length) and the importance of keeping track of possible population declines in certain areas depending, for instance, on availability of prey.

The nature center is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Call 891-4671 or send an email to naturecenter@chico.com for more information. Visit www.bidwellpark.org to learn more about the Chico Creek Nature Center.

Go to www.birdbling.blogspot.com for more info on the Saw-whet owl and owl banding.

Get rid of plastic bags
Recently, I was approached in front of Chico Natural Foods by a representative of Los Angeles-based environmental-advocacy organization Environment California about its “Keep Plastic out of the Pacific” campaign.

“A toxic soup of trash is swirling off our coast, polluting the Pacific and harming wildlife,” says the flier handed to me. “We can cut the flow of plastic into the ocean by banning disposable plastic bags.”

According to Environment California, Californians throw away more than 123,000 tons of plastic bags a year, many of which end up in the Pacific Ocean as part of the massive, churning dump of plastic and other garbage known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (AKA the Pacific Trash Vortex) that is trapped by the swirling currents of the North Pacific Gyre, one of five major oceanic gyres.

“Ocean pollution is a growing disaster for sea birds, whales and turtles, which choke, suffocate or starve after mistaking plastic for food,” points out Environment California. “More than a million animals die each year after coming into contact with plastic pollution. … Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our oceans for hundreds of years.”

Environment California is working to ban plastic bags throughout the state of California. Go to www.environmentcalifornia.org to learn more about what you can do to help.