Posts tagged ‘Nick Kerlin’

A Bird in the Hand—and I Mean That Literally


There’s nothing that can get you much closer to nature than holding a tiny bird in your hand—or a large one, for that matter—and a number of Penn State students are getting an opportunity to do just that. Volunteer Nick Kerlin ’71 is overseeing bird-banding sessions again this fall at the Arboretum, where students can get experience in the process of catching, banding, assessing, and releasing a variety of wild birds.

(That’s not Nick in the photo; it’s an unidentified student, setting free a newly banded chickadee last Saturday.)


October 3, 2013 at 4:03 pm 1 comment

Birds Up-Close

Two years ago a Penn State grad student, Emily Thomas ’07a, ’09, started offering informal sessions to give fellow students some experience in bird banding—a process in which you set up nets to capture birds in the wild, then record data about each one, fit it with a leg band, and release the bird again. Students in the wildlife and fisheries science major, especially, benefit from having that kind of experience on their résumé. Emily had a banding “sub-permit” (sort of a junior license), so she was able to provide that experience to them.

I went to a couple of those banding sessions in the fall of 2010 and loved the opportunity to watch the banding process and to photograph birds up-close. I wrote about the experience here and here.

The banding sessions have continued every spring and fall—that’s migration season, and thus the best time to capture a variety of species that are moving through the area—and they’re now under the direction of local volunteer Nick Kerlin ’71, who is an experienced naturalist and has an actual bird-banding license.

I went to one of Nick’s sessions yesterday and, over the course of four hours, got to see a lot: two downy woodpeckers, a chickadee, several song sparrows, a least flycatcher, a Swainson’s thrush (that’s the bird at the top of the page), a phoebe, a black-throated green warbler, some catbirds, a brown thrasher, a couple of house finches, and more goldfinches than I could count.

Bird_bandingHere’s a quick overview of how the process works. Nick and the students string up something called “mist nets,” which look a bit like badminton nets, at various locations at the edge of the woods or actually in the woods, and wait for unsuspecting birds to fly into them and get tangled up. Every 30 minutes they do a “net check” and carefully untangle any birds they find. At right is a student removing an upside-down house finch from one of the nets.

Then they put the bird into a little cloth bag and bring it back to the “banding station” (basically a card table under a canopy) to be processed. They measure it, weigh it, figure out how old it is and whether it’s a boy or a girl. They fit it with a tiny metal leg band that’s numbered, so that if the bird is captured in some other banding operation elsewhere in the country, they’ll (more…)

September 24, 2012 at 7:33 pm 6 comments

Follow The Penn Stater on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 499 other followers

%d bloggers like this: