How often do children have the opportunity to experience wildlife biology in real life, right near home, rather than watching it on television? Every May at the Audubon Center at Chatfield State Park in Littleton, Colorado, they have that opportunity. Audubon Society of Greater Denver and Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory operate a bird banding station at Chatfield during spring migration. Banding stations are placed in sites where birds congregate in large numbers during migration; with a variety of habitats that offer food and safe place to rest, Chatfield is one of those sites along the Front Range. At the Chatfield station, Meredith McBurney, an ornithologist with RMBO, sets up a series of mist nets to harmlessly trap birds. When a bird is removed from the net, its leg is fitted with a small metal band, and it is weighed and measured to evaluate its condition. Each band has a unique number on it so that if the bird is recaptured or found later, scientists will know when and where it was banded. Bird banding has been used to study wild birds since the late 1800s. Data obtained at banding stations has greatly increased understanding of bird migration and anatomy. Like the host of a nature television program, Meredith explains details about the data gathered and describes each species to visitors to the station. The difference, however, is that visitors interact with a scientist! Children are permitted to gently touch the birds and even release them. It is a rare experience that leaves a lasting impression. The bird banding station at the Audubon Center at Chatfield is open April 26 – June 1 (closed May 2 & 3) from 7-11am.

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