Five-year-old Brayden Corrado smiled with a mixture of amazement and trepidation as the American black duck squirmed a few inches away from him. He'd never been that close to a duck.
A few moments later, the black duck was fitted with a silver, aluminum leg band with a unique number. Brayden then brought the duck to the shoreline the Peconic River on Long Island and released it back into its native coastal habitat.
This process was repeated nearly 10 times as about 75 people came to a black duck banding event Saturday, March 12 on Long Island, sponsored by Ducks Unlimited. Participants included Ducks Unlimited members, volunteers, staff and the public. The event was held at DU's Center for Wetlands and Waterfowling at Hubbard County Park, in Flanders.
The annual demonstration is designed to show the public and DU members the extensive waterfowl restoration and research happening on Long Island. Biologists from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Bureau of Wildlife did the banding, while kids and parents assisted, photographed and enjoyed.
Mike Corrado said he had a great time bringing his son Brayden and 1-year-old daughter Brielle for an up-close experience with nature.
"It's cool for kids to let them see the ducks," said Corrado, a resident of Bohemia. "This event shows us what's on Long Island. It's not just houses. You don't have to go upstate to see animals."
The setting never fails to excite Craig Kessler. Kessler is a retired Ducks Unlimited regional director and former manager for conservation programs on Long Island and New Jersey. He's spent many years at Hubbard County Park delivering wetland conservation projects for DU. Today he leads volunteer efforts at the park and public events like duck banding.
"It's a public outreach effort," Kessler said. "It allows us to tell people what Ducks Unlimited does for conservation."
The banding event was fun for the group Saturday, but it also offered a glimpse at a crucial tool for wildlife managers.
The bands are engraved with a unique number. Biologists record the band number, age, sex and species of the banded ducks and pass the information on to the Bird Banding Laboratory in Patuxent, Maryland. The lab uploads the band information to the bird banding database for storage.
Hunters who harvest birds, or bird watchers who spot the bands, then relay the bird's number onto the Bird Banding Laboratory. Band recovery data contain considerable information about waterfowl populations, location and hunter behavior.
Band recovery distributions during the past fifty years are the foundation of the familiar flyways-based management system that we use today.