Leppold's work with songbird migration in Maine featured
The morning air smells of balsam and wet duff as Adrienne Leppold sets out on a narrow trail to check the mist nets she set up before dawn to capture birds in a patch of forest in Orono. A great-crested flycatcher cries “wheep, WHEEP,” one of a dozen or so species calling and singing in the trees. Leppold doesn’t pause, however, to scan the branches. She makes a beeline for the nets, followed by three students she’s teaching the precise and delicate art of banding birds.
A common yellowthroat, a hermit thrush, and an ovenbird dangle like snagged leaves in the first set of nets. Leppold immediately starts extricating them. “It’s sort of like taking a t-shirt off a little kid,” she explains as she deftly untangles the yellowthroat in a matter of seconds. “You have to lift the net up over his head.” Leppold briefly holds the bird up for the students to admire its yellow and olive green plumage and jaunty black mask, and then gently pops it into a brown paper lunch bag.
Back at the banding tent, Leppold examines, measures, and weighs the birds, and attaches a tiny aluminum identification band to each bird’s leg, working with the efficiency and ease of someone who has done this many times. She calls out data for the students to log and patiently shows them how to handle the birds and release them. This is a slow morning for Leppold, who has banded upwards of 100,000 birds over the past decade and is now studying songbird migration in the Gulf of Maine as a PhD student in Dr. Rebecca Holberton’s Lab of Avian Biology at the University of Maine.