Wildlife refuge bird expert shares birding knowledge, skills

Candace Ward

Posted: Friday, July 27, 2001

Whether it's bird-watching at your home feeder or traveling to exotic places in search of a rare "life list" bird, birding represents one of life's most fascinating pleasures. Have you ever realized that much of our knowledge about birds is a result of skilled bird capture and banding work?

Biological Technician Todd Eskelin will share just how important such work is in a program called "The How and Why of Bird Banding," at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge at 11 a.m. Saturday. Todd will set up mist nets to live-capture birds and demonstrate banding techniques first-hand.

Todd has traveled the length and breadth of Alaska researching seabirds, songbirds, and migratory waterfowl. Since 1993 he has worked on a variety of bird research projects in north central Alaska, the Gulf of Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island and on the Kenai Peninsula. In addition, Todd has also flown long hours in a Cessna 206 conducting sea duck surveys for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the North Slope, over the Bering Sea and from Scammon Bay to False Pass.

Todd grew up on the Kenai Peninsula. He credits his fascination with birds to his college days at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. He studied ornithology under Dr. Don McKenzie and found he was fascinated by what could be learned from the delicate birds he handled during bird-banding sessions. He also enjoyed teaching other students bird-banding techniques.

Todd has given banding demonstrations to hundreds of students throughout Alaska. He has also trained numerous professional resource agency staff in banding techniques.

Todd has experienced some interesting bird encounters over the years. He banded a redpoll on the Alaska Peninsula that he later recaptured in Soldotna along Funny River Road. When observing the Kenai River Flats for distant migrants, he spotted a semi-palmated sandpiper with a distinctively

colored leg band and found it had originally been banded in Ecuador.

Besides his many biological duties, Todd enthusiastically helps visitors with precise and technical birding questions. Numerous times he has expertly identified an unknown bird that has everyone else stumped.

Since Todd cannot always be available, he collaborated on the creation of the refuge-specific guide, "Birding the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge." This booklet helps birders to locate birds by habitat on refuge trails and adjacent to roadway areas. This guide is available for purchase at the refuge visitor center.

At Todd's Saturday program, there will be a free drawing to win the guide along with other birding items. Join us for a fun and eye-opening program.

Candace Ward has worked as a park ranger at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge for 17 years in the refuge education and visitor service programs. She is an avid backyard birder and enjoys expanding her birding horizons.

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For more information on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, or for past Refuge Notebook articles, point your Web browser to http://kenai.fws. gov

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