(nee Owen) had four sisters and a brother. Three of the sisters lived in the
Houston area. Maxine, who died before Juanita and I met, had nine children,
seven of whom still live in the Houston area. We met up with them and their
spouses in February along with Juanita’s surviving sister from Houston and the
sister from California. Lots of reminiscing.
I had mentioned our plans for bird banding. The following is an excerpt of an e-mail exchange with a friend:
<<Bird banding sounds interesting. Please tell me how that works out as
I'm sure that will make for "great story" .
My mother's second husband owned a chicken operation. Massive quonsets
with 4 birds stuffed into a 2ft by 2ft cage in rows with auto feed/water
and egg collection systems. I used to help carry birds to trucks when
they were old and not producing eggs, for meat processing. It wasn't
easy work as 2 birds/hand and flapping wings in the face allowed for the
odd escape. Trying to catch an agitated bird in a confined space was a
challenge so I'm wondering how you'll manage with wild birds. Good luck!!!
I envisioned some similar wrestling match with angry, nasty waterfowl
and took leather gloves and wore older clothing. The reality was more
mundane and civilized.
They set up "mist nets" (so fine that you have to look at them from the
correct angle to see them) vertically near bird feeders. Birds get
tangled up in the nets and staff or members of the public with staff
coaching untangle the birds and put them in cloth sacks with draw-string
tops. The sacks are delivered to a table at which is seated a pair of
"licensed" bird banders - a man and his wife. The sacks are hung on a
line across the back of the couple's SUV and the birds in the sacks are
processed in turn.
The bird is checked for an existing band. If so, the number is recorded
and the bird is released with a cursory inspection. Otherwise the bird
is carefully identified as to species, apparent age, condition, weight,
amount of fat (migrating birds carry fat, resident birds do not. They
will build fat prior to migrating). As he worked, the bird bander
explained how he determined the species and gender of each bird,
especially the hummingbirds which can be tricky to differentiate between
species. The bird was weighed and released. A number of us had the
opportunity to feel the beating of a hummingbird before it was fed and
released. Rather than release the birds himself, the bander handed them
to visitors to release. Neither Juanita nor I had that experience as we
deferred to the children and some obviously anxious adults present.
One evening we met up with the deputation team and the motor home from the January Update. They were on their way back from Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee and stopped for the night in Cleveland, Texas about an hour north of Houston. We managed to meet up with them and visit at a nearby Chinese buffet.
On a Sunday afternoon we met up with another SOWER couple traveling from the valley to their next project in Florida and had a good visit over lunch in Rosenberg, Texas before they got back on the road.