Bird Portraits

If you want to get some extreme close-up portraits of wild birds, one place to go is to a local bird-banding session. I’ve written about bird banding over on The Penn Stater magazine’s blog (here and here, among other posts); it involves stringing up fine-mesh “mist nets” to capture wild birds, then extricating them, taking some measurements, and fitting them with a tiny metal leg band so that scientists can follow their migration patterns.

Locally, the banding takes place in the spring and the fall—during bird-migration season—at the Arboretum at Penn State, under the direction of Nick Kerlin, who’s licensed by the state and federal governments to do this. It’s a great opportunity for Penn State wildlife and fisheries science majors to get experience in the process—and for a photographer, it’s a great opportunity to shoot portraits of the birds before they’re released again.

There’s a bird-banding session tomorrow morning at the Arboretum, and the weather looks good, so I’ve cancelled my Saturday-morning gym appointment (shhhhhhhh) and I plan to head over. You never know what birds might show up—earlier this season, they got a cuckoo (yellow-billed, I think, though both yellow-billed and black-billed are found in Pennsylvania in the summer). More commonly, it’s catbirds, chickadees, cardinals, titmice, and other fairly common birds. That’s a tufted titmouse I photographed last year at the top of the page, and the image below is of a song sparrow from a few years back.

If I get any good images tomorrow, I’ll post them here this weekend.