It was a fantastic experience. The crew of volunteers were very generous in their instruction. I feel overwhelmed by all of the knowledge they attempted to plant in my brain. If half of it sticks I will be doing well! I have visited the Idaho Bird Observatory a number of times in the past, but did not fully appreciate all of the details that are decided upon behind the scenes. Detail like how old a feather was on a given species. The ease of determining this is different from species to species and sometimes requires species specific molt pattern knowledge. It's a good thing they had books nearby. Even the most experienced were looking up species specific details.
My hands on experience today included how to properly hold birds, transferring birds, taking all of the vital measurements (primary length, weight, age of each feather group, age of bird, etc). I only accidently released one bird. Good thing they had already recorded the necessary information! To my knowledge I didn't injure any! I claim that as success. I will need significantly more practice before I am able to fully process my own bird, but I made great progress today.
There were a couple of interesting observations today. We captured a few juvenile (born this year) Song Sparrows. These are not know to nest in the area, so these individuals likely dispersed from this hatch site. One had a "fault bar" on its tail. This indicates that the bird was under nourished during the critical phase of tail feather development. The good news is that he/she appears to be doing well now. I had no idea that this was visible on feathers, but it makes sense.
I'm excited for my continued work at the IBO. I will be back up there on July 18th. I can't wait.
Other birds banded not mentioned above: Chipping Sparrow, Warbling Vireo, Hammond's Flycatcher, Spotted Towhee, Western Tanager, Ducky Flycatcher, Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's sub-species), Yellow Warbler. Netted, but not banded: Calliope Hummingbird.