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2012 Spring Issue 5 (May 4, 2012)

Bird Enthusiasts Learn to Take Count

May 4, 2012
By Jonathan Isaac

Birds in the Arb, watch out: Dan Tallman wants to find you. And document your existence.

Tallman, a Northfield local who is active in the bird banding community, joined Northfield community members and Carleton students last Thursday as part of “Taking Count: Minnesota’s Great Bird Count,” an event put on by the Carleton Arboretum to engage the community in issues concerning bird populations throughout the state.

Bird banding is primarily seen as a scientific endeavor, as it allows researchers to study and document the various bird species present in any given wooded or non-wooded area.

To participate, one sets up a non-harmful net to catch the birds and then places a specially numbered metal band around the bird’s leg. This information is then documented in a national online registry, a big step up from the days when bird banding was all recorded by hand.

Tallman, a retired college professor, has been banding birds since he was a sophomore at Antioch College, “a lifetime ago,” he says.

Through his work at Louisiana State University, Tallman was sent to do research in Peru and Ecuador, though he cites his proudest contributions to science as being that he and his wife, Erika, “discovered one new bird to science and had one named after us [pipreola tallmanorum].”

The evening began when Tallman brought the 20 people who had gathered inside the Arb Office outside to his nets, where he found three birds caught in his nets.

Despite cries of, “It’s suffering,” and, “Poor little thing,” Tallman assured the worried onlookers that the net was not harming the birds. Among those found were a sparrow, distinguished by its grey eye-ring and red wing, and two chickadees.

Tallman, who bands around 3,000 birds annually and only expects to ever see one or two of those birds again, then brought the group to the parking lot, where he had assembled all the tools to place the band on the birds’ legs. Having done so, he allowed courageous participants to hold the birds in their hands before letting them go free.
When asked what his current area of study is, Tallman responded that he is comparing his own backyard with a bigger wooded area “to see the effects of bird populations in small forest acreage compared to bigger forest areas.”
Despite the arduous process required to receive a bird-banding permit (one is required to be recommended by a recognized ornithologist and then must convince the permit-granting institution that he can identify anything he catches), Tallman encouraged everyone who enjoys spending time outdoors and bird watching to give bird banding a try.

For more information on Cowling Arboretum events, go to the Carleton website or email Nancy Braker at nbraker@carleton.edu.

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