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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thought I would post some photos of woodcock banding this spring. Given this is my first year on my own, we were able to band a fair number of chicks. The first two photos are of different hens sitting on their chicks. If you look closely you can see how the wings on both hens are splayed.






The next two photos are of what was under the hens. If you notice you'll see a couple of the chicks are on their backs. There's nothing wrong with these chicks, they just freeze in the position they land when the hen takes off.





These were the only two we found on their chicks, but here's a photo of one that was sitting in grass with her chicks. She was about 20 feet from a thicket. This was another 4 chick brood.



These chicks weren't too difficult to find, but they can be very difficult to spot. I know I missed a few in the broods I banded. They have a tendency to snuggle up to and/or under things and blend in very good with the cover.





This is a picture of a successful nesting. The eggs are hatched length wise. Looks like a three chick brood, but we only found two. Maggie was pointing the nest. I knew she wasn't getting scent from the nest so the hen had to be nearby. She was about 10 feet on the other side of the nest. The hen normally would move her chicks from the nest area soon after hatching but here she couldn't even though these chicks were a few days old since she had nested on a small island.



Here's just a few photos of me banding some chicks of different ages.







The real star of the show is Maggie. Without her and Splash it wouldn't be possible. I'm out of room so I'll do a followup post of the dogs.
 

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Great Pictures!!

Thanks for your hardwork and donation to our sport and science. I need to get out and help some folks with this next year.

My dogs are not up to the banding standard. But would love to tag along if anyone ever needs a hand in Western MI.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
BIGSP shoot me a PM next spring if you still have an interest.
 

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We appreciate all your work. Looks like tons of fun.
 

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Are you finding many 4 chick broods?
A guy stopped by my house the other day, he saw my setter out in the yard, he was a bander and said he was finding many three bird broods and so were his buddies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Scott, half the broods I found had 4 chicks. My average brood size was 3.4. I'm also pretty sure I missed finding some of the chicks. For example one brood I banded I could only find 3 chicks but the next week the dog relocated the same brood and I was able to band the 4th chick. I'm getting better at finding the chicks, but they can be very difficult to locate especially when things green up. The brood size might also be different depending on what area of the state these banders were hitting. I'm still relatively new at this and certainly don't have all the answers.
 

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Banding woodcocks gives birder a different way to hunt

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/statewide/index.ssf?/base/sports-1/118107600429760.xml&coll=1

06/09/07 Bob Gwizdz

IONIA -- Sissy, Chuck Riley's German shorthair, was locked on point, solid as a dollar used to be.

Riley talked to her quietly, reassuring her not to move as he studied the ground in front of the dog's nose until he saw what he was looking for -- a hen woodcock, blending almost perfectly into the brown foliage and staying every bit as still as Riley's pointer.

Riley, carrying a long-handled dip net, peered at the bird intently, then leashed Sissy and led her away from the area.

"It's obvious that bird's on a nest," Riley said. She's sitting there, tail in the air.

"You never net a bird on the nest. They'll abandon the nest or they might step on the eggs."

Riley, a retired state employee and bird-hunting aficionado, was participating in Michigan's second- bird hunting season, spring, when the object isn't to find game birds to shoot, but to band them. He's one of about 100 Michigan sportsmen with a permit to band woodcock in the spring.

"When they take off from a nest, they usually step off the nest," said Riley, as he led his dog toward another stand of popple. "But, that bird would come right off the nest, so she might defecate on the nest and that'll put scent down there."

Scent, of course, would attract predators -- skunks, coons, foxes, whatever. And the object of banding woodcock is to help them out, not expose them to predation.

Band returns from hunters tell scientists a lot about woodcock, a species that is in long-term decline across North America. Banding data tell biologists about migration routes, wintering grounds and where they are harvested.

"Half the nests I find don't make it," Riley said. "They either abandon the nest or a predator comes along and breaks the eggs."

Suddenly, Riley's dog points again. This time, as Riley moves cautiously, a woodcock springs into the air and flies off a short distance -- an indication there are chicks around. But another bird goes airborne, Then another, another and another. Riley had found a brood, one that was hatched about two weeks ago -- that's how long it takes for the young to learn to fly.

It's been an unusual year, Riley said. Birds began nesting and hatching early. Then came a late snow that apparently caused some birds to move back south, abandoning nests or delaying nesting.

"I was getting one brood a day, maybe two, for almost two weeks," Riley said. "The first two weeks were like gangbusters. But we got a bunch of rain and the weather got cooler and since then, it hasn't been too good."

As the day continues, Riley and his pointing dogs -- he has another shorthair, Gina -- find a number of birds. Some of them (males?) fly off and disappear. But finally, one sits tight, flushing at the last moment, flying only a short distance and hitting the ground as though her wing is broken.

To Riley, that's the sign: a hen trying to draw would-be-predators from her nest. Peering at the ground, he sees what he's looking for -- a small fuzzy ball of feathers. He sees another. But that's it -- just two. He gathers them up, gently puts them into a mesh bag, and goes to work.

Riley measures their bills; woodcock hatch with 14-millimeter beaks and they grow 2 mm a day. At 26 mm, he knows they are almost old enough to be on their own.

"These chicks are going to fly in a day or two," he said. He quickly attaches bands to their legs, returns them to where he found them, covers them with loose vegetation and heads off.

Riley tries to spend at least 100 hours every year looking for woodcock -- the clock is running only when he's on the ground, and he clicks off the stop watch whenever he's actually handling the birds. In a good year, he's banded as many as 120 chicks. Last year, he banded only 70. This year, it looks like he'll do around 80.

That makes it a little bit less than an average year.

"I think the hatch started and stopped," Riley said. "There were chicks on the ground early, then there was a period there where you couldn't find any. Then I went up around Houghton Lake and it looked like the hatch had started around the middle of May.

"Talking to other banders, I think everyone's numbers are down, but I don't think they got the number of hours in because there was quite a bit of rain. There certainly aren't going to be as many birds banded, but you can't really tell if that's because numbers are down or if you weren't in the right place at the right time."

His gut level feeling?

"I don't think we had quite the hatch this year as we did last year."
 
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