Chilly temperatures and working at night were all part of an exciting volunteer experience just miles away from Swarthmore’s campus. Students and staff members helped to band and measure northern saw-whet owls in November as part of an ongoing conservation effort by the Willistown Conservation Trust in Chester County, Pa.
“It was amazing,” says Gwendolyn Lam ’24, president of Swarthmore’s Bird Club and a double major in biochemistry and applied math. Founded in 2015, the Bird Club is a student-run organization dedicated to the observation of birds both on and off campus.
“We arrived as soon as they caught an owl, so we didn’t have to wait that long in the cold,” says Lam. “We learned a lot about the owls, local birds, bird-banding career, banding process, and the volunteers and employees themselves. Owl banding is a super cool experience.”
Students also learned about how the owl data — including sex, weight, and age — are documented for research purposes. “The owls are given a unique identification band so that researchers will know who it is if it is ever caught again,” says Lizzy Atkinson ’24, a biology major and chemistry minor and vice president of the Bird Club. “This data gives researchers insight into how owl populations are doing in terms of health and size.”
Below are images from the event, taken by staff photographer Laurence Kesterson: