HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Mark Conway, a biology teacher at Harlingen High School South, has been banding birds for 22 years and has reached a milestone.
“I have been banding birds since April of 1999, and I started at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Since then over the years, I have branched out to different places,” said Conway.
By placing metal bands with numbers on the legs of captured birds caught in mist nets, specially licensed researchers then release the birds in hope of capturing them again to learn more about their life histories from longevity to migration patterns.
One of his favorite places to band birds is Mary Jo Bogatto’s Cactus Creek Ranch east of Rio Hondo, where he has established world longevity records for two species of birds.
“The titmouse is a minimum of eight years, and I think 10 months, and the Bronze cowbird is a minimum of nine years,” said Conway.
And the next bird delivered to Conway marked an impressive milestone.
“So this is going to be for me bird number 20,000 that I have processed. We are going to put color bands on this bird,” he said. “We are doing a study with Rebecca Rylander at Texas State where we are color banding Black-crested titmice, so we can follow them and not have to recapture them. So, we can tell things like age and where they are located.”
Ranch owner Mary Jo Bogatto is proud to be part of the team of citizen scientists enabling us to learn more about the fascinating birds we share the planet with.
“This experience today with number 20,000, you can’t put words to it,” said Bogatto.
And next up is a young verdin for 20,001.
“We are going to put him back in here because we are going to release him where he was caught, so that is a good start on my next 20,000,” added Conway.