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Net profit - a volunteer's day

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Chris Hassell from the Global Flyway Network takes us through a typical day for the many volunteers that help with the tagging of migratory shorebirds at Roebuck Bay in Western Australia.    

The main thrust of Chris Hassell’s new project is the banding and colour marking of individual birds, which cannot be done without the assistance of many volunteers. All of the tough heavy gear needed is loaded in vehicles the day before a catching operation.

On the day of the catch, about four volunteers help set up the net, which is fired over the roosting birds at high tide, when the mudflats are not exposed and so the shorebirds are not out feeding.

Every catching operation is preceded by instructions from Chris Hassell since different conditions require different catch strategies, but in all cases, they are to ensure that the safety of the birds is paramount.

For example, many of the catching operations are done in summer and it is essential to protect the birds when they are in the nets from the tropical heat.
The nets are quickly covered with green shade cloth that not only protects the birds from the heat but also calms them. The birds are then moved to shade cloth holding cages through which wind can easily blow and the cages are placed on the cooler damp areas of the sand.
Volunteers work as teams to quickly remove each bird, to tag it with a uniquely numbered identification band. Some birds also get leg flags of different colours and some get coloured ankle bracelets, all of which gives vital information when each bird is resighted. Depending on weather conditions, birds may also be measured, weighed or have blood samples taken.
While the tagging and measuring may take only one to a few minutes for each individual bird, for the volunteers, the whole operation can take from 10-12 hours and all of the tagging and banding must then be entered into a database for future reference.
It is, as Chris says, a tiring but very rewarding day.

Text: V.B. Sept 08


Another part of Chris Hassell's work is promoting Roebuck Bay and the shorebirds both within the local community and internationally.  A rewarding part of his program is training children so they can also become involved in the shorebird activities.

All photos from Chris Hassell apart from (below) Claudia releasing tagged shorebird by Kandy Curran.

Text V.B. September 2008


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