PLYMOUTH (CBS) – It’s a fascinating study of birds, and they’ve been doing it in Plymouth for 50 plus years.
Scientists and trained volunteers are creating a unique, long term record of bird migration, and that can give us insights into our environment.
“Birds have always excited people. Birds can do the one thing we can’t. They can fly,” says Trevor Lloyd-Evans, the senior biologist at the bird observatory at Manomet Inc. in Plymouth. Birds can also be found in almost every habitat. “So they make wonderful indicator species of what is happening with our environment,” says Lloyd-Evans.
That’s why they’ve been studying birds at Manomet since the late 60s. Every spring and fall they put out light, sheer nets low to the ground. Migrating birds fly into the nets and researchers quickly remove them and carefully bring them to the banding lab.
“We’re putting on US Fish and Wildlife bands, so we can track them individually, sort of like a Social Security number,” Lloyd-Evans explains.
After the birds are measured and weighed, they’re quickly released. Each season they do that with about 2000 birds, some you’ll find in your backyard and others that migrate for thousands of miles. Birds banded at Manomet have been found from Canada to South America. Some of the long term results? They tracked a decline in bird populations from the 70’s to the mid 90’s.
“And they were probably associated with suburbia coming in, and the end of the pesticide era,” Lloyd-Evans says. But in recent years, that’s changed.
“They’ve been absolutely stable, which is good, ” Lloyd-Evans said.
They’ve also seen some birds adapting to a warmer climate, migrating earlier as they follow the food supply. “Education is a very huge part of our legacy,” says Evan Dalton who heads the education effort at Manomet.
He hopes they can inspire visitors. “So they can see birds in the hand right here, and that can be a very transforming experience for anyone,” he says.
Sometimes they see birds that they banded years ago. The record holder for that is a bird that was banded 26 years earlier.