Volunteers to hike to Alakai Swamp to band birds

LIHUE — Six volunteers will be spending seven days camping in the Alakai Swamp beginning Thursday.

That’s when they’ll hike the seven miles into the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project’s basecamp and spend the next week catching and banding birds.

“Where the endangered birds are, it’s hard to reach. It’s a full day for a hike in or out,” said Justin Hite, field supervisor for KFBRP.

But for those who enjoy the idea of roughing it in a tent, surrounded by Kauai’s endangered forest birds and other nature enthusiasts, it’s a rewarding experience.

“These guys (birds) are so rare, you even get to know the individuals to an extent because they have the bands and we watch them,” Hite said. “They mate and have babies, and we band the babies.”

Much of the work consists of setting up nets that catch the songbirds, and then banding and releasing the birds. Hite said many of the nets can be set up near camp, with a few on the fringes.

“We’re also targeting several areas far away from camp, in the centers of several territories where we don’t have bands on birds yet, so we can get a better geographic spread,” Hite said.

A big tent, cots, rubber boots and assorted food items are stocked at the KFBRP camp. Those considering volunteering need to pack for a long hike.

People who know how to tie knots and are avid outdoor adventurers are encouraged to get on board with the program, since those kinds of skills are needed to catch the birds and complete the banding.

KFBRP generally takes volunteers into the swamp for banding a few times a year, and two more trips are tentatively planned this fall.

Banding isn’t the only opportunity to help the forest birds and the recovery project; KFBRP needs help monitoring 300, self-resetting rat traps in the Alakai Swamp, too.

Ideally staff members would check and re-bait the traps every three months, but with short staffing levels, they’re able to check the traps every four and a half months.

“It’s intense, it takes like 16-20 person days to check all the traps, you have to hike in,” Hite said.

Info: kauaiforestbirds.org

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