Debbie Pierce Indian Trail Master Naturalist
Spring vacation for us has traditionally been a two week trip to a national or state park to commune with nature and relax. On a Friday afternoon in the spring of 2001, battling a full blown sand storm, my husband, Rio and I made our way to a campsite at Davis Mountain State Park. The dust was so thick that we could not see anything in the distance much less breathe! Even though the wind was blowing and the dust was swirling all around, Rio built a fire and cooked our dinner.
Five javelinas made their way through our camp that evening looking for food. They had an unpleasant disposition toward each other. They were biting and sparring in an attempt to determine dominance over the perceived food supply. I was a little concerned about them hanging around our camp after that and wished they would move on.
The next morning was cold, but the sun was shining and there was no wind or dust. Thank goodness! We went to the bird-banding station across the way the very first thing. Russ and Marty Hanson were leading and teaching that morning. Russ is a physicist, biologist, and an accomplished photographer. Marty, also a biologist, held the state license for bird banding, so we had the privilege of learning from two of the best.
Several nets had been put up to safely capture birds as they flew into the brush. The group made three rounds checking the nets for birds. The experienced volunteers carefully and gently removed the birds from the nets. The nets contained two white-crowned sparrows, one of which was immature, a white winged dove, a green-tailed towhee and a male phainopepla.
Back at the banding station each bird was identified, measurements were taken, gender was determined and bands were put on tiny legs. All the information was documented and would be used for tracking purposes in the future. I was amazed at how well each little bird reacted to being handled.
Then came the best part for me. The Hansons allowed me to release the birds. I held each bird with both hands. As I stretched out my arms and opened my hands, my feathered friends took to the air and were gone in a fleeting moment. Words cannot express the feelings of joy and appreciation for these special creatures as I released them one by one into the air. It was an awesome experience, one that I will never forget.