Back in September I walked into my office and found this waiting for me:
What do you do with a note, two packets of wings and a teeny metal band? Visit the Bird Banding Laboratory's site!
The BBL's site asks for a lot of information, but don't be intimidated by it: just complete the information you have. The bander will be grateful for any report that is returned.
For those who haven't worked with bird bands, their tiny size make the teeny, teeny numbers that are stamped into the metal incredibly hard to read. There are two sets of numbers: the prefix (usually consisting of four numbers) and the suffix (which is nearly always five numbers).
After one incorrect stab at reading the numbers I finally got it right and submitted it. Then the waiting began.
Eight days later I was excited to have an email waiting for me from the BBL. Turns out that the bander hadn't yet reported the band as used, which meant the BBL didn't have it on file. More waiting.
Six weeks later I broke down and emailed a bander in the Hastings, Minn., area where the bird was recovered to see if it was his. After going through his records he got back to me: he banded the bird this past summer right before it fledged. The bird was an Eastern Bluebird and met with an early demise.
The most amazing part of all this? Not that the bird was recovered so early, not that I was finally able to decipher the band (must purchase a magnifying glass arm for use), but that a citizen took the time to stop on her daily walk, salvage the bird's wings and band, and mail them to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center so we could report it.
Thanks to the woman's keen observation skills (not to mention her willingness to salvage wings off a "badly decomposed bird's body" as she referred to it), we have yet one more piece of data on birds.
(Note that anyone can report a band, even though the BBL's site doesn't give you an option to select "citizen." Here's the site for future reference: http://www.reportband.gov/)