Bird banders at Fort Morgan Sept. 30-Oct. 7
Public invited to participate in work Bob Sargeant started in 1989
By Fran Thompson
The Banding Coalition of the Americas, a non-profit dedicated to research and education about birds, will host a free public bird banding event in the Fort. Morgan stables area from 8 a.m. ‘til 3 p.m. from Sept. 30 through Oct. 7. Visitors are welcome to observe and participate.
“Early morning is usually the best time to see the most birds. However, predicting birds is a very hard thing to do,’’ said Kyle Shepard, the BCA’s Director of Outreach.
There is a small entry fee to enter Fort Morgan and that fee allows admission to the Fort Morgan Museum and grounds. For more BCA info, visit bandingcoalition.org or facebook, call Shepard at 251-269-6527 or email kyle@bandingcoal ition.org.
“Each year, Ft. Morgan is inundated with thousands upon thousands of migratory birds from hawks to warblers and hummingbirds, all of which can show themselves during this event,’’ said Shepard. “All of our visitors will have the opportunity to see birds up close and soak up as much knowledge as they can.’’
The BCA was formed as an extension of the Hummer/Bird Study Group, which under the direction of Bob Sargeant, started conducting spring and fall bird banding camps at Fort Morgan in 1989.
Sargeant, considered the patriarch of Alabama bird banders, and his wife, Martha, trained more than 100 volunteers how to fit birds with identification bands so that their movements can be tracked and studied. The Sargents set up stations, using two vans and 70 nets. They rented houses for their banders and led educational programs for the public while releasing birds.
Bob Sargeant died in 2014, but his legacy lives on through those he taught.
“Our entire board of directors (Shepard, Emma Rhodes and Julia Elliott) also started with the Hummer/Bird Study Group.was trained how to band birds at this very site under Bob and Martha Sargent and the rest of the Hummer/Bird Study Group,’’ said Shepard. “We are proud to be carrying on the legacy of the Sargents by continuing the almost 40 years of research they conducted at Fort Morgan and elsewhere. This event is the perfect place to get an up close and personal look at what bird banding is and learn how our research can help protect the species that live in and pass through our state.’’
Shepard said he first attended a HBSG banding event at Fort Morgan at the age of 10 and banded his first bird two years later. He said being mentored by leaders in avian field research enabled the current BCA directors to form its non-profit.
“It was a very rare opportunity in its own right, but even more so as I was the youngest trainee the crew had taken on at that time,’’ he said.
“We formed BCA as a way to continue avian research and further educate anyone who will listen about the species around us as well as the vital role that our coastal ecosystems play in migration.’’
“The reason we are the banders and researchers we are today is thanks to Bob and Martha Sargent. They took us under their wings and trained us at the Fort Morgan. It was an operation the Sargents ran for over 30 years. It is our mission to continue their legacy,’’ he said.
“Like any successful non-profit, the Sargents needed a hand with running such an incredible program. Along with the honor of joining the ranks of HBSG, we were always surrounded by accomplished banders who were willing to share their vast knowledge from their many decades of work,’’ he said.
Volunteer Ava Lyerly said banding, presenting, or even just watching the birds in the trees is a contagious joy, and she especially enjoys seeing the happiness on people’s faces while observing the banding process.
“I know they are as thankful as I am that the BCA allows people to join the experience,’’ she said following last year’s effort. “I learned little facts here and there about some of the birds we banded that I didn’t know before. Some simple facts such as foraging habits of different species of Warblers and Vireos.
“Sometimes it was ID tips, like how to tell one Empid from another, or an immature Gray Catbird from an adult. Another example would be learning about bird migration. You learn which birds are migratory, and which aren’t, and if they are, where they go.’’
Pictured: Ava Lyerly w. a Blackburnian Warbler; Rufous Hummingbird; American Redstart; Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Blue-winged Warbler.