On a recent foul-weather day, Wildlife Biologist Molly Giles handled a flock of fowl expertly, undeterred by the torrential rain pouring down on her or the eagerness of the ducks she handled to fly the coop, or at least her grasp.
When her mission was complete on that wet day, Giles had banded nine wood ducks. That is, she sent them off with tiny aluminum ankle bracelets, each marked with a special number. It’s a task that she and a few other professionals from the Pa Game Commission undertake each August, as a way to track and study the migration patterns of the birds.
“It helps us know about their survival,” Giles related. “It gives us an idea where they migrate to, if they’ve survived the first hunting season.”
The duck banding is conducted by the Pa Game Commission, but is federally governed by the U. S. Geological Survey. It provides valuable data to waterfowl researchers for studying the movement, survival and behavior of different species of ducks.
From the pond in Dorrance where Giles banded the nine ducks, she moved on to several other trap locations in Luzerne County, checking them for birds which she would also band. From August until mid-September, Giles sets a bunch of traps in the county, rechecking each every other day.
Sometimes no ducks are found in the traps but when Giles returned to the Dorrance trapping site one drizzly morning last week, she was not disappointed. Her routine to the remote location began by first checking the trap from afar. To avoid trudging too far through the undeveloped forest to where the trap lie, she first maneuvered through some brush, and some poison ivy, to a spot along the water’s edge where she could view the trap through binoculars.
In her first moments of viewing the trap, it was unclear whether ducks were inside. However, Giles soon saw a flicker of shadow and light, the side-to-side movement of little heads within the caged structure. “We’ve got some!” she exclaimed.
The process of getting to the trap site was nearly as complicated as the
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