THE CAPE MAY RAPTOR BANDING PROJECT: THE ULTIMATE MONSTER CANNING & CUDDLING FACILITY, PART TWO

Monster In A Can
Monster In A Can

For those of you tuning in from Part One of The Cape May Raptor Banding Project: The Ultimate Monster Canning & Cuddling Facility,  the answer is no, we did not trap the Bald Eagle. That was total click-bait.  You got trapped and now we should can you and band you. Of course we didn’t get a Bald Eagle. Do you really think I would not have immediately posted gratuitous photos of me cuddling with a Bald Eagle? Shame on you if you thought otherwise. But we did get this:

Catch of the Day: A Beautiful Northern Harrier. Finally, a NOHA shows me its Owl Face!
Catch of the Day: A Beautiful Northern Harrier. Finally, a NOHA shows us its Owl Face.

The Cape May Raptor Banding Project does in fact capture and band Bald Eagles from time to time, along with just about every other type of Raptor imaginable. In fact, you can follow along and see the weekly totals of what was captured, and when, on the Project’s web site.

"Hey Paul, which can is for the Eagle?"
“Hey Paul, which can is for the Eagle?”
After a monster is trapped using one of the various nets in the Garden of Raptor Traps, it is  gently removed from the netting and quickly canned using the appropriate sized can for the species, and the gender. This adorable little fellow is a male Sharp Shinned Hawk and requires the itty-bittiest can. A female would be 20% to 30% larger.
After a monster is trapped using one of the various nets in the Garden of Traps, it is gently removed from the netting and quickly canned using the appropriately sized can for the species, and the gender. This adorable little fellow is a male Sharp Shinned Hawk and requires the itty-bittiest little can. A female would be 20% to 30% larger, so would require the “value size” can.
Canned Sharpie
Canned Sharpie at the Banding Station
NOHA (Northern Harrier), De-netted
NOHA (Northern Harrier), De-netted
Canned NOHA
Canned NOHA

While canning monsters is fun in its own right, and good for unusual pictures of Raptors, it actually has a real purpose. The can is basically the safest and most comfortable method for both the monster and the band technician to do the banding quickly, safely, and with minimal stress on both of them. Putting almost any bird in a dark, quiet, confined space is the equivalent of taking the batteries out of it. It relaxes in its little can and the band technician can access the legs without getting his or her cuticles shredded by the Raptor’s beak.

The Banding Station
The Banding Station

Banding is important work and gives us humanz invaluable information about the elusive, wild, natural world. While there are still some anti-banding ninnies and whiners out there, their arguments usually boil down to a naive, kind-of laissez faire tomfoolery (“Just let them be!”) The problem with that line of thinking is that humans have already proven with thousands of years of laissez-faire approaches to the natural world that we can easily destroy entire ecosystems and all of their creatures through direct killings, habitat destruction, poisoning food and water supplies, and a long list of other negligences, all counter to our own real interests and without even realizing what we’re doing until it is too late. “Letting them be” equals “quick, careless, negligent, and assured destruction.” And that’s in no one’s best interest; not ours, and not the Raptors. We’re smarter than that. If you think you might be against banding, keep it to yourself for a few years and carefully consider your position while studying the benefits of banding and getting to know the folks who do the work. Just be sure not to say anything anti-banding out loud in the meantime or you might embarrass yourself and your family.

Keeping Score: detailed records are kept for each of the 140,000 Raptors banded by the Cape May Raptor Banding Project
Keeping Score: detailed records are kept for each of the 140,000 Raptors banded by the Cape May Raptor Banding Project

Beyond just slapping a band on a bird with hopes of future recovery and resightings, The Cape May Raptor Banding Project keeps detailed records on the size, wing dimensions, weight, health, age, and sex of every Raptor that passes through their stations. When appropriate and convenient, they take feather samples, testing for various things including Mercury Toxicity in the Raptors.

Puppet Master & El Presidente, Paul Napier sneaks in one last cuddle before setting this Cooper's Hawk free. He is clearly cuddling that monster.
Puppet Master & El Presidente, Paul Napier sneaks in one last cuddle before setting this Cooper’s Hawk free. He is clearly cuddling that monster.
"Iz we dun here?"
“Iz we dun here?”
"I shur hopez so!"
“I shur hopez so!”

The whole process, from capture to release, and including cuddle time, lasts about 8 minutes. It is the Raptor equivalent of a TSA screening at the airport and basically represents a single missed prey opportunity… just one of many the animal will experience that day. In fact, rather than being totally scarred by the experience, some of the Raptors hang around after the banding and take another shot at the lure. Occasionally one gets re-caught within a few days. Silly Raptors.

Deb from NJ Audubon sneaks in one last glimpse and cuddle
Deb from NJ Audubon sneaks in one last glimpse and cuddle

Overall we captured and released 5 Raptors in one morning: 3 Cooper’s Hawks, a Sharp Shinned Hawk, and the thrill-of-the-day, a Northern Harrier. But even more entertaining than the Raptors themselves was enjoying the morning in the blind in the company of the legendary Paul Napier. The guy is is dripping with passion for the mission of the Cape May Raptor Banding Project and compassion for the animals it serves, and also for the people it serves. From the moment I received the invite I assumed I would be a nuisance and an inconvenience while visiting. And I certainly was, tripping over trap triggers, continually sticking my big ass lens out the Blind, and begging Puppet Master Paul to yoink on the strings even when it was totally unnecessary, just because I thought it was so cool.  But none of that mattered. Paul loves his Raptors and obviously loves, even more, sharing that love with others.

Paul welcomed Kathy, Deb, and me to his world, and tailored the whole experience of the morning around us. He is an exceptional and patient educator with mind boggling amounts of experience and knowledge. And importantly, Paul is a model Citizen Wildlife Hero. A regular guy with a full-time job who devotes his spare time to bettering the Wild World around us as a volunteer for an important project.

Godspeed. Godspeed.
Godspeed. Godspeed.

Consider yourselves strongly encouraged to learn more about the Cape May Raptor Banding Project, and to make a small donation to support them. I highly recommend making a larger donation in exchange for a morning in one of their blinds some Fall. I’m sure they would roll out the red carpet for you, as they do for anyone who shows the slightest interest in our amazing, bird-mangling Raptors. Just beware that raptor-holism is completely and totally contagious, especially when you’re around really far-gone folks like Paul Napier.

Three cheers to all the Citizen Heroes behind the Cape May Raptor Banding, Canning, and Cuddling Facility. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to my made-up Science Project Proposals I am writing as a ploy to get another invite to the CMRBP, including such gems as “If I Spend A Week In A Blind And Don’t Get a Peregrine Falcon, How Disappointed Will I Feel?” and “Which Species Of Raptor Is The Most Ticklish?”

"Don't listen to Mr. Norfside. I hated da band-id-ing!"
“Don’t listen to Mr. Norfside! I hated da band-id-ing! HAAATTTED ITTTT!!!!!!”