8 September 2022
Yesterday Charity Kheshgi and I visited Nick Liadis’ bird banding project — Birdlab — at Hays Woods, the City of Pittsburgh’s newest, most remote, and least developed park.
Nick runs Birdlab at three sites: Hays Woods plus at two private properties, Upper St. Clair and Twin Stupas in Butler County. During migration Nick is out banding six days a week unless it’s raining or windy.
Hays Woods is unique for its size and habitat so close to densely populated Downtown and Oakland. Like an oasis it’s an appealing stop for migratory birds. We were there to see Nick band five birds on a slow day compared to the day before when he banded 60!
Oakland is visible from the Hays Woods powerline cut.
Nick has placed the mist nets in a variety of habitats. They are intentionally hard to see. When birds see the nets they avoid them.
Every 30 minutes the banders walk the nets to check for birds. Lisa Kaufman assists at Hays Woods on Wednesdays. Here she is walking the powerline cut.
Each netted bird is gently placed in its own cloth bag and brought back to the banding table. Here Nick tells Lisa what time to record.
It’s an ovenbird.
To age the birds Nick checks their wings, tail and body feathers for molt stage. Below he points out the very faint fault bars on the tail feathers that indicate feather growth. If all the bars line up, then these tail feathers grew in at the same time, which means the bird is still wearing his very first tail feathers and thus hatched this year.
Nick blows on the belly of a Nashville warbler to check the lump of fat that is fuel for migration. This Nashville warbler had a high fat score so he may be ready to leave tonight for his wintering grounds in Mexico.
Nashville warblers are one of the smallest birds but it’s not noticeable until they are in the hand. Nick prepares to apply the band.
Nick holds an ovenbird after banding.
Each of us got to release a banded warbler.
And we learned how much northern cardinals hate to be captured. Cardinals of all ages screech and bite! We were grateful not to hold one.
To learn more about Nick’s banding project and schedule a visit, see his website at birdlab.org.
Support Nick’s efforts with a donation at his GoFundMe site: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-nick-to-conserve-birds-their-habitats.
(photos by Kate St. John and Charity Kheshgi)