Many people don't realize how much work goes into just getting ready to start a banding season. I've been using one main site for banding for 16 years, but every season requires a lot of preparation of the net lanes. Weeds under and near the nets have to be eliminated and vines and shrubs that have started to reach closer to nets have to be removed. In order to keep the site as static as possible, woody growth is cut back in our old field portion of the site so that succession doesn't turn it into secondary forest. If the habitat changes too much, it would be difficult or invalid to compare current banding results with those of past years.
We do have a grounds department at the campus, of course, but apart from being busy keeping the more visible parts of campus looking nice and respectable, they do require payment for special work that they might do for other departments. Because RRBO is funded via grants and donations, I do this type of work by myself and with the help of volunteers.
All the rain here earlier this summer made growth particularly lush. I'll admit to being pretty depressed when I saw how much work had to be done before I could open the nets. It's not as if much of it can be done too far ahead of time! Starting early this week, it took me about 25 hours of my time, plus another 12 hours of help to get things shaped up. Many thanks to Rick Simek, Darrin O'Brien, and Mike O'Leary for their labor!
I wish I'd taken some "before" photos, but here are a couple of shots from the final efforts over the weekend. Here is some of our gear...you'll notice that we rarely use any power tools.
Here is a stretch that is in pretty good shape. You can see the furled up nets.
Another regular task is to make sure that the deer fencing which now surrounds the entire banding area is checked for holes and downed trees and repaired. The deer herd has grown so much in recent years that we've had to exclude them from the area. Each net costs over $100, and the deer were running through them or getting caught on the nets on a routine basis, destroying them. The deer on campus are quite fearless. Here are two on the other side of our fence (draped with grape vines). In the lower right corner, you can see the fine mesh of one of our open nets.
We hit one final snag as we were finishing the pruning. Darrin and I were cutting back a lot of overhanging grape vines, when he exposed a chest-high Bald-faced Hornet nets. He got stung on the chin, and we both fled as unhappy hornets chased us down the trail.
Much as I loathe it, I'll have to get rid of the nest before I can finish up and start banding. We'll be ready to open this week!