USGS PATUXENT WILDLIFE RESEARCH CENTER
12100 BEECH FOREST ROAD
LAUREL MD 20708-4037
To: All Banders
From:Chief, Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL)
1. Progress in "re-engineering" operations of the BBL
Work continues on re-engineering operations at BBL. Our new computer system with the client-server model, relational database(s) and expanded use of the Internet should be completed sometime during the first half of next year. This will mark an important transition from a largely paper based operation a few years ago to a largely electronic operation. Most of the planned changes have been communicated to you in previous MTABs and letters, but there are a couple of important things we want to update you on:
Banding locations will be reported with greater precision (1' block instead of 10' block) when our new system is ready next year. BBL will cease verifying the coordinates of banding locations, and instead rely totally on banders to provide correct coordinates at 1' precision. Please do not send us 1' minute locations just yet, but be prepared to when the call for them comes. It has never been easier to determine accurate banding coordinates. USGS paper topographical maps still work and remain inexpensive. Mapping software is available at most any computer store at reasonable prices. Some marvelously versatile GPS units can be purchased for $150 or less. And now there is an excellent web site (http://topozone.com/find.asp) where one can electronically access 60,000 topographical maps in three sizes and four scales to plot locations and determine precise coordinates. Best of all, that one is free.
The toll-free number for reporting bands was one of our earliest developments. The public's response to the number (1-800-327-BAND) has been excellent. Band reporting rates definitely have increased, and record numbers (80,000 last year) of bands are being reported. The success of the 1-800 number has not been without costs, though. While banders, particularly waterfowl banders, are benefiting from having more and better data, and a better return from expensive field operations, BBL's operating costs have increased substantially. This makes it all the more important to increase efficiencies and reduce costs in other areas. Waterfowl banders can help us, and in turn themselves, by sending banding schedules as soon as pre-hunting season banding operations are over. Nothing disappoints band reporters and clogs up the system at BBL so much as when band recoveries are reported before bandings.
BANDMANAGER software is the key to prompt, efficient submission of banding records, whether one bands waterfowl or other birds. All banders should be using BANDMANAGER, or planning to soon. Sometime next year we will very likely cease accepting paper schedules and electronic schedules from the CGS and BAND OPS programs. We are phasing out our data entry section, which for more than 30 years keypunched data from paper schedules, and all our programming investments will go toward improvements to BANDMANAGER rather than maintenance of CGS and BAND OPS.
The release of BANDMANAGER has generally been well received since its July, 1999 release. About half of all banding data are now being submitted via BANDMANAGER, and we have had lots of good suggestions for improvement. An updated program can be downloaded from http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/resources/bandmgr/bandmgr.htm or obtained by contacting our BANDMANAGER Help Desk (301-497-5845 or firstname.lastname@example.org). This fall, work will begin on the second version of BANDMANAGER, which among other things, will accept the more precise location coordinates and allow Internet file transfer of the electronic banding schedule.
If you still need help with BANDMANAGER do not hesitate to contact the Help Desk. You might also try to attend a BANDMANAGER workshop. Several have been held, usually in conjunction with meetings of regional banding associations. Help will also be available at the AOU meeting in August (see item 4 below). During these workshops, banders suggested that we complement the Band Manager User Guide with Fact Sheets summarizing instructions for different features of the program, along with pictures and examples. A first Fact Sheet on importing data from sub-permittees into the master permittee's Band Manager files is now available from our web site or Help Desk. Other fact sheets are planned.
If there was a down side to BANDMANGER, it was that the Macintosh version released did not work well. After hearing of serious problems, we advised Mac users not to use it if they had not yet tried, and we apologized to those who did use it and experienced problems with their operating systems. We still do not have a good fix on, or for, the problem(s) with the Mac version. We are weighing options, and at this point are considering abandoning efforts to have a Mac specific version. Between BBL and the Canadian Bird Banding Office, we invested considerable staff time and $45,000 in contracts to develop the PC version of BANDMANAGER. We need to develop the next generation PC version in 2001, and we are leaning toward putting the limited funds we'll have into it instead of into a Mac version that would benefit relatively few banders. Our thinking is influenced by the fact that PowerMac computers using the Virtual PC software can run the PC version of BANDMANAGER.
Before we make final decisions about either the PC or Mac versions of BANDMANAGER, we would like to hear more from banders about their capabilities and experiences so far with the program. We have enclosed a questionnaire and return envelope for your convenience in replying.
Visit our web site at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl to keep abreast of general developments in re-engineering operations of BBL.
2. The North American Banding Council (NABC)
NABC and the Bander Training and Certification Program continue to evolve. At this year's NABC annual meeting considerable attention was given to defining standards, refining the certification process, and making training materials available. Regarding the latter, the five NABC training manuals (The North American Bander's Study Guide, The Instructor's Guide to Training Passerine Bird Banders in North America, The North American Bander's Manual for Passerines and Near Passerines, The North American. Bander's Manual for Hummingbirds, The North American Bander's Manual for Raptors) are in their last stages of preparation and should be available in electronic format by early fall. They will be posted on the BBL and NABC web sites (http://www.nabanding.net/nabanding/) [new link 8/04] as soon as they are available. Much of the content and style of the NABC manuals follow the well done and popular The Canadian Bird Bander's Training Manual, 1999, Canadian Wildlife Service Technical report Series no: 275, and the The Canadian Bird Bander's Training Manual: The Instructor's Guide, 1999, Canadian Wildlife Service, Technical Report Series no: 276.
The NABC manuals are long overdue, and as many NABC members have noted, the lack of them understandably makes banders reluctant to endorse NABC standards and the Bander Training and Certification Program. We at BBL and the Canadian Bird Banding Office have been privileged to work with NABC in the development of its program and products and can assure you that both will be good. We have enough confidence in this development that, as mentioned in our May 19 letter about Permit Policies and Procedures, our qualification standards for federal bird banding permits will reflect the standards for NABC certification. This is not something that current or aspiring banders should fear. Raising the bar for banding standards a bit in North America will bolster the credibility of the banding program, produce more skilled banders and better data, and lead to more effective use of banding in the conservation of birds.
3. Band supply
We are not yet able to say that the band supply situation is good, but it is certainly better than last year. With a third domestic company producing for us, and $100,000 budgeted for bands this year, we have satisfied most needs for larger sized waterfowl bands in 2000, and have cleared out most backorders for the smaller sizes commonly used on nongame birds. We will order more bands as soon as we have our FY 2001 budget, which will be allocated sometime after October 1. Thank you for your patience with band supply problems. We will continue to seek reliable suppliers and adequate funding for bands.
4. Recapture database
In our May 19th letter to all banders we discussed plans to develop a banding recapture/resighting database. Through the Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, we have contracted Dr. Paul Doherty, Jr. to lead this development. The structure of the database and record formats are being designed now, and we have begun acquiring and describing select datasets to be included in the database. These early developments are very promising. Some of the initial datasets appear to have significant scientific value relevant to contemporary conservation issues. We are looking for more recapture datasets to test and include in the database, particularly historic, long-term ones that may be in danger of being lost when banders retire from banding. Additionally, we are exploring the possibility of developing a prescribed recapture program wherein banders would routinely submit recapture data along with their BANDMANAGER banding schedules. If you record recaptures of birds you band and might be willing to contribute them to the database, we would like to hear from you. A questionnaire and return envelope are enclosed for your convenience.
5. Permit policies and procedures
Comments are coming in on the new permit policies and procedures announced in our May 19, 2000 letter. As of this date, the number of banders commenting is relatively small, but their comments are substantive. We welcome more comments and will continue to accept them indefinitely. When it appears that comments are slacking off, we will develop responses to the more common concerns. The only thing we wish to address at this time concerns some apparent misconceptions about the role of NABC in the development on these new policies and procedures. NABC had no role in it. The only connection to NABC involves BBL adopting NABC standards for bander qualifications, as discussed in Item 2 above.
6. Joint ornithological meeting
We hope to see you at the joint AOU, BOU, SCO meeting, August 14-19 at St. John's, Newfoundland. Along with the Canadian Bird Banding Office and NABC, we will have an information desk located in the vendors' area. Banders can stop by to discuss banding matters, get updated information, and see demonstrations of BANDMANAGER. Also, on Monday the 14th we are co-hosting two workshops, Banding and Ringing in the 21st Century: Roles and Opportunities, and Mark-Recapture Models: their Application in Bird-Banding Studies. The latter workshop will provide a good introduction to the use of contemporary models and software to analyze recapture and resighting data. For more information see http://www.mun.ca/birds2000/res1 [bad link 8/04].