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Bird Banding at Coyote Creek

Volunteers at the Coyote Creek Field Station have tracked birds for about three decades, gathering data for research on climate change and migration trends.

The , based in Milpitas, offers of a bird banding station nestled in a corner of the city in which few venture.

The station is a trailer, on 33-acres of land owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, was originally a pear orchard. In the '80s, it was restored through replanting native vegetation for a riparian habitat around the lower Coyote Creek.

That's how the Coyote Creek Field Station was created.

"We monitor the bird population and the results of habitat restoration," said Jill Demers, executive director of the . The area is one of the largest and oldest riparian restoration areas in the country, she said.

Currently about 30 volunteers participate three days a week under the supervision of one staff, biologist Josh Scullen. Volunteers such as Tom Goodier have been banding birds for two decades.

Fine mesh nets, or "mist nets," are used to temporarily capture birds. Volunteers track the birds by recording a cuff or bracelet on one leg with a unique serial number. They also record the age, sex, weight and fat of the bird before releasing them.

The nets catch songbirds and occasionally a hawk or woodpecker. Some birds are local, others are migrating.

The data sets have been used in a recently released UC Berkeley study about the long-term impacts of mist nets on birds. And another publication is in the pipeline, led by San Francisco State University researchers, in partnership with PRBO Conservation Science and SFBBO.

With the data, SFBBO is finding out more about the behavior of local Song Sparrows (the bird in the video). Adult sparrows are forcing younger sparrows out into a section used for creek overflow where they have a lesser rate of survival. In this area, there could be increased predation or more exposure to the elements, said Demers.

Tours are offered a few times a year.

The next date is Saturday, July 23, 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. 

A family tour is scheduled for Saturday, August 13, 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.

Visit www.sfbbo.org/activities for more details.

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