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Counting Migrants

A trio of birds is helping Flag Ponds Nature Park study climate change

Jo Lutermerding prepares to band a Great Crested Flycatcher.

Flag Ponds Nature Park — a remnant habitat of coastal scrub and mature hardwood forest on the western shore of the Chesapeake — is a travelers’ motel to many bird species.
    Among them, three neo-tropical migrants on their way to Canadian breeding grounds — the hooded warbler, the Kentucky warbler and the worm-eating warbler — are being closely watched.
    That trio of birds is the focus of Flag Ponds Nature Park’s new bird-banding project.
    What is learned about the birds over the two months they’re passing through will help scientists understand the effects of sea level change and weather on the Park’s summer-breeding bird population.
    This vulnerable habitat is experiencing sea level rise at a much faster rate than other coastal regions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    Jo Lutermerding, Andy Brown and Karyn Molines lead the study. Molines is chief of Calvert County Natural Resources; Brown is its senior scientist; and Lutermerding is coordinator for the Flag Ponds station of the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Success Program.
    A few select volunteers work with them to catch passing birds in stretched, veil-thin mist nets.
    Ten nets are checked as the team walks the mile-long trail.
    Birds are delicately lifted out by hand, then banded with thin, lightweight aluminum bands.
    The bands include a unique number that is recorded, along with the species, weight, wing length, sex, age, body fat and feather wear of the bird.
    All that information is entered into a national database, so more information can be added the next time a banded bird is caught.
    “We’re catching 25 or more a day, and all types of birds,” said Molines.
    Banding continues July 21 and 31.
    A few more volunteers are needed to help carry equipment, record data, survey the area for other birds and take photographs: 410-586-1477.