October 21, 2016 – This morning, a large group of volunteers gathered in the grassy field of Kamaole III (Kam 3). Their mission? -To support Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project (MNSRP) and band hundreds of juvenile Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
I volunteered and MNSRP selected me to be a “handler.” Handlers reach their arms far back into a burrow and retrieve a bird. (I participated in the spring banding event for the adult birds and handled then too. Birds pecked at me and bit me. I squealed and yelped every time I stuck my arm into a burrow.)
That night I learned how to “bird whisper” though. I lured birds out of their burrows using their quirky “OOOO-ERRRR” call. That was mating season. -Whether I pulled it off as a potential suitor or as a threat to the burrow, I’ll never know. I do know I dodged a couple hard bites though so it was satisfying.
Repeat volunteers said the chicks weren’t as feisty. -I found the rebel bunch. People around me laughed as I repeatedly ouched my way through the morning. Even with gloves on I felt them.
None of that mattered though. When I pulled a baby bird out of the burrow, I sighed happily and smiled. The “Bander” then attached a small metal band to its left leg, ensuring that the connection of the band was tight. This helps prevent fishing line or any other material getting trapped in a gap. Then “Date Entry” logged each bird’s personal identification and Handler placed the bird back inside its burrow. In this area, burrows sat right next to each other so it was extremely important we ensured each bird returned to its own burrow. Parents only care for their own chick so these lives depended on our accuracy.
We successfully returned each chick to its proper home and ended up banding 88 birds at that location, the third and final banding spot. With hope, MNSRP will learn more about these bird’s life histories from these identification bands.
In the spring, the birds will return, as will we, to band more adults. They will mate and rear more young, and we will band them. I am forever grateful to be a part of this cycle. This was an amazing way to Explore Maui Nature; a great Maui “birding” experience!