Friday was a partly cloudy day, with temperatures a little cooler than average, but still comfortably between the 40s and the 70s. Intermittent showers were predicted for the weekend, but nothing that looked like it would interfere with the bird-banding plans.

    The refuge crew assembled at the diner about 11 o'clock. Cora and Jackson had met everybody, but not Alice and Mandy since Mandy was about ten years old. Tim had been an irregular visitor over the years, usually with Chuck, but sometimes with the Fish and Game hunting area bunch.

   "What I thought we'd do," Greg began to Jackson and Cora, "Is get everybody settled in here just as soon as the college group arrives, and let you get started on the cooking. While that's going on, I'll just do a quick summary of our plans for the day. Now, after the food comes, would it be okay if we stayed in here, and let Matt talk about the actual banding procedures? It would probably be the best way to keep everybody together."

   "I don't see why not," Cora responded.

  "What if other customers come in?"

  Cora gave him a sardonic, or maybe impish, look. "Can you really imagine us having more than a dozen people in here on the same day - or in the same year?"

   Greg laughed. "Well, we should cover all eventualities, shouldn't we?"

   "Well, if by some miracle, somebody else came in, I would give them the option of sitting close and listening in, or sitting farther away and trying to ignore you."

   Just then, they heard the sound of tires on gravel, and assumed the college contingent had arrived. "Mandy, can you go out, and ask Matt to get his folks in here right away, so we can get lunch ordered before anything else?"

   "Will I know Matt when I see him?"

  "Honestly, I don't know if I'd know him. We've just talked on the phone, and in letters. But there'll only be four or five of them, and he'll probably give signs of being in charge."



"Are you Matt?" Mandy asked the man who was halfway inside the college van.

   "That's me," he replied as he turned toward her. "Wow!" He stared at her, not wolfishly or even appraisingly, just like he was stunned. He didn't say anything more.


   He still hadn't recovered completely. He gave his head a little shake. "I'm sorry. You just surprised me. You're beautiful."

   Mandy just stared back at him. She wasn't sure she wanted to be beautiful at that moment. Matt seemed to sense that. "I mean, from Vic's description, I expected you to be really pretty, but... Hey, can I start over? Yes, I'm Matt, and I'm guessing that you're Amanda - Mandy. From knowing Vic, I can guess that you have a lot more going for you than just looks. But when confronted with beauty, shouldn't a person take a moment to revel in it?"

   Mandy giggled. "That's quite a line."

   "No, it's not... Well, yeah, I guess it was a line. But it was an original one. I just thought of it, and I've never used it before." He paused. "And may never, again." He paused, again. "Did you ask me a question?"

   "Well, there is a question - or, more a request - but we never got any farther than 'are you Matt?' Are we ready for the request, now?'

   It was Matt's turn to chuckle. "Sorry. Yes, request away, please."

   "Greg would like you to get your troops inside, so Jackson can start cooking lunch, and so we can do some introductions."

   "Yes, Miss Anderson. I'll be right behind you." As they started to walk toward the diner, Matt asked, "The line. Did it work, at all?"

   Mandy didn't turn around, but she smiled to herself. "Maybe, maybe not."


   When everyone was seated inside the diner, Greg took charge. "I guess we don't need to take the time for introductions right now. I'll just say that I'm Greg, assistant manager of the national wildlife refuge we'll be entering shortly, and this gentleman over here is Chuck Anderson, my boss and the manager of the refuge.   The important people at the moment are Cora - who takes the food orders, then brings them to us - and Jackson, who wields his spatula over the grill in the back room. They make fantastic burgers and French fries - the best in the world."

   "That's probably not quite accurate," Jackson protested. "As far as we know, ours are really just the best in most of the world. We don't know everywhere."

   "I stand corrected. So, Cora, take over, please."

   "Okay, I'll let Jackson and Greg worry about how far-reaching our fame is, but we do make excellent burgers and fries. However, we can do other sandwiches and salads, if anybody prefers."

   "I'm a vegetarian," said one of the women who had come with Matt.

   "You come talk to me after I get the rest of the order, honey, and we'll get something going. Now, of the others, how many want burgers?"

   All the other hands went up. "That makes it easy. Jackson, get to work back there. I'll come around now, and take your drink orders." She did.

   After Cora had made the rounds, Greg stood up. "While they're cooking, let me tell you a little bit about what we're going to be doing the next couple of days. Then, once we get settled with our food, Matt can explain the technical details.

   "Now, just up the road, we'll be going in the back entrance to the Magic Valley National Wildlife Refuge. We have about 20,000 acres, a lot of it in ponds and marshes. We'll pass a lot of them on our way in, with lots of ducks, shorebirds, and other stuff. We won't take time to stop now, but you're welcome to come back out later. Away from the water, it's all sagebrush and lava rock, until we reach refuge headquarters, where the main attraction for this particular visit is located, a woodland of several acres, probably planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s"

   Just then, Jackson came out of the kitchen. "Sorry to interrupt, Greg, but this is important business. I will melt a slice of cheddar cheese on the patties of anyone who wants it. Takers?"

   Five raised their hands, and Jackson retreated to the kitchen. Meanwhile, Cora was talking to the vegetarian. "As you heard, honey, I'm Cora. Sandwich or salad?"

   "Salad. I'm Danielle - Danny."

   "Danielle is a beautiful name, but I really like Danny, too. It's kind of a name for every woman's age, rather than just some fad that's going to seem odd in the future."

   "What do you mean?"

  "Well, everybody's naming their baby daughters Tammy, right now. It's a cute little girl name, but how is it going to sound when the little girl is 30, or 50, or 70? Will she still want to be called Tammy? Will it be a name to command respect out in the adult business world? It doesn't seem like it.

   "On the other hand, it's hard for me to see the name Danny on a very little girl, but it seems just right for your age. More than that, I can see a Danny running a business, or being president of a corporation. A woman of 50 calling herself Danny will fit in, anywhere. I wonder about a 50 year old woman named Tammy."

   "Wow, you've given this a lot of thought."

  "No, I haven't really. This is just me, blabbering away while getting out the salad fixings. Now, down to details - lettuce and tomato?"



  "I don't know it."

  "It's one of Greg's strange California vegetables - or fruits, I not sure which it is. If you've ever had guacamole on Mexican food, that's mostly ground-up avocado.  I'm getting to like it in chunks in salads. It doesn't have a tremendous amount of taste, but has kind of a creamy texture, and looks pretty ."

   "I don't know..."

   "Here, try a little nibble." Cora cut off a small piece, and held it out on a fork. Danny tried it.

  "Oh, that's pretty nice. Yes, please. I'll have some in my salad."

  "Do you eat cheese?" She did. Cora offered her medium cheddar, or Monterey jack. She chose the jack, also some sunflower seeds, and a sprinkling of ground up nuts (no peanuts). She opted for a little Italian dressing. "I'll bring it over with the others," Cora said.

   "Oh, by the way, don't take what I said about Tammys too seriously. A woman's life isn't decided by her name; it's decided by the woman. We could be talking about 'President Tammy' one of these days." She stopped, and turned back. "But I do like Danny."

   While Cora and Danny talked, Greg had finished his introductory remarks. He told them that the bunkhouse was available to them, and they could spread out into his house if they wanted to. There weren't quite enough beds, but there were cots, and plenty of floor space. They'd be on their own for meals, except they would all eat together in the main residence Saturday night. Then, they could share some of their stories about mist-netting, and about bird-watching in general.

   Jackson brought patties out to Cora, and she started fixing the individual plates. "Does anybody not want onions on their burger?" she asked. Two raised their hands. "Are the 'no onions' with or without cheese?" There was one of each. "Okay, the rest should all be with onions, some with cheese and some without, right? Okay, here they come - plus Danny's salad."

   While she was sorting out the orders, Jackson brought out big baskets of French fries. The room  became quiet for a while. When Matt finished eating - except for grabbing an occasional still-crisp and warm French fry - he stood up.

   "Go ahead, and eat while I talk. That'll speed things up a bit. You all know generally what we're going to do, but not everyone had used a mist-net before, or seen one in operation. I brought a piece of one to show the main features." He picked up a piece of netting, and started to unroll it. "If someone else is finished eating, can they grab the other end of this?" Vic took hold. "As you can see, this is very fine black netting. Even against a clear sky, it's hard to see. Against a background of trees or shrubbery, it's pretty much invisible to a bird flying toward it. If the net is strung across the bird's flight path, it will almost certainly hit it.

   "Now, if the netting was strung really tight, a bird would probably bounce off it, and might hurt itself in the impact. But you can see that the net is made up of tiers, separated by solid cables. Within each tier, the netting is loose, not tight. If a bird flies into it, it doesn't bounce off. It hits fairly softly, and the loose netting makes a little pocket to hold the bird, by drooping over the thicker cable." While he held one end of the net fragment, and Vic held the other, Matt extended his other arm and hand and moved them forward into the net, like an arrow shot - or a bird's flight. As his fist hit the net, the net formed a pocket around it and pulled it down over the guy wire. "As you can see, the bird - my hand, in this case - is caught upside down in its own little capsule, pretty much immobile until somebody removes it from the net.

   "Now, Vic and I are neither tall enough nor strong enough to hold up the nets all day long, so I've brought some poles  to string our nets on. The ones I brought hold the nets about 8 feet high - about six feet of net, actually, but held about two feet above the ground. This isn't high enough to catch some of the bird species that seldom come down out of the upper levels of the trees, but will get anything that flies through the lower parts of the woods. That includes most of the warblers and finch and sparrow types.

   "The nets are about six feet long. It would be nice if they were longer - and longer ones are available - but any more than six feet, they need some kind of center support. With  the short time we'll be devoting to the project this time, it just isn't worthwhile to go to the extra trouble.

   "Now, when we get to the refuge, we'll all scout out the woods, and find some likely spots for the nets. It would be nice if we could find places where - with minimal bush pruning and branch cutting - we could place two nets end to end, giving us 12 feet of trap, rather than just six. I have nets and poles for five set-ups. If we can't do the 12-foot lengths, we'll just find spaces for five 6-foot nets.

   "When we know where we're going to hang the nets, we'll put in the poles. We'll attached the nets, but we won't unfurl them until morning. Once we get that done, I think we'll go back up to headquarters, and spend an hour or so discussing what we'll actually do on Saturday, and again on Sunday morning. After that, it's free time until very early Saturday morning. Greg says we can go back out on the refuge, if we want, and bird-watch until nighttime."

   Mandy spoke up. "You don't want to actually put the nets in place today, because you don't want to risk birds being left in the net overnight, right? What about going down right as it's getting dark, and the birds have all gone to bed. That way, you wouldn't have to get out quite so early tomorrow morning, to get started."

   "You're right, Mandy, about why I don't want to put the nets up in the daylight. But I think you'd be surprised how late into the night a lot of birds are still moving around. Also, there are other night fliers - bats, big moths - that could get caught, and hang in the nets a long time. I'd rather be on the safe side." He chuckled, and smiled. "I know from some of my own personal experience what strange things can happen. We can talk about it when we get together to share our bird- watching 'war stories' tomorrow night."

   With the last of the French fries consumed, the group began to gravitate toward the parking lot. Matt paid for the college group, and Chuck covered the rest. As they were leaving, Vic gave Cora another hug, and told her about the wedding.

   "You'll get an invitation. I hope you can come."

   "We'll sure make it if we can, Vic. Is everything going along as you want it to?"

  "Yes, it is. We have a location, and an official, and we went to Boise last week for Mandy's and my gowns. It's all a little crazy, because Greg and I are going to California this next week, so I can meet his parents before the wedding. Then, we just learned that Daddy is going to accept a refuge manager job up near Idaho Falls, so they'll be moving just a few weeks after the wedding. As I said, it's all a little crazy!"

   "I would say so! Now, with Chuck leaving, where does that leave you and Greg?"

  "That's a little up in the air, still, but we're pretty sure Greg'll eventually transfer as Daddy's assistant. That, of course, would be excellent with me, and probably Mandy, in school at Pocatello, and all the family just an hour away. Whatever eventually happens, I think Greg will stay here, and run the refuge with Tim until about Thanksgiving."

   "That is a lot going on, but it sounds like it's all moving in good directions. You be sure to keep us up to date."

   "Oh, we will."


   The drive through the refuge left Matt's students eager to come back out for some evening bird watching. For now, they moved directly to headquarters and, after only a short break, made their way down into the 'forest.' Matt was more impressed than he had thought he would be. He was confident that the woods would be good for some netting, but he had a picture in his mind of a more manicured forest, with minimal lower growth. Instead, he found a mature hardwood forest, with well-developed layers of brush and small trees below a high canopy of bigger trees. No wonder it was a well-used migration stop-over.

   The first area they came to that looked like it could support a full 12 feet of net was the path to the horned owl nest. As Greg removed the bright surveyor's ribbon from the entrance, Danny asked why it was there.

   "There's a horned owl nest just ahead. The young are fledged now, so it's safe to go in, but Vic and I had an all too close for comfort visitation from the parent owls last year. Not many people come down here, but I thought I should put up a warning, just in case."

   "What happened last year?"

   "The parents tried to use us for target practice. We can tell the whole story when we get together tomorrow night."

   They left some of the poles and nets at the path entrance, and moved farther along. Another area looked to Matt like it could accommodate two nets. "It'll take a little more pruning, to get some branches away from the net, and to give us a clear work path, but shouldn't be too hard.

   "That leaves one 6-foot net to locate. Is there a good place near the edge of the woods, where we might catch birds moving from one habitat to another?"

   Greg took them to what looked like a satisfactory place. They started there, pounding in one pole, then measuring off six feet in what looked like the clearest straight line. They set the end pole in its approximate place, but didn't pound it in. Matt put a couple of his students to work with clippers, clearing a path between the two poles. While they were doing that, the rest moved back to the second site. The first pole was pounded into place, and the other three located in their approximate positions. They left that site to be cleared of undergrowth, moved on to the owl trail, and did the same. By the time they had those poles temporarily placed, the brush trimmers were  finished at the first site, and had moved on to the second. At the cleared site, Matt attached one end of the net to the intact pole, then extended the net to get the exact location for the other pole. The second pole was firmly planted, and the net was stretched between them. Each pole was extended upward with two additional segments, to the full 8-foot height.

   As the other sites were cleared of ground cover, the procedures were repeated until all sites were ready. All that would be required in the morning would be to unfurl the nets, pushing them up the poles.

   They walked back up to headquarters, took a short break, then reassembled to talk about the actual strategies for the next morning. Matt began.

   "As you all know, it gets light very early this time of year, and birds are moving around and singing before we humans would even consider that it was morning. I think we'll ignore those early risers, but I would like to get our operation going by 6:30, or so. I suggest we all get moving by about 5:30. I'm going to take off about then, perhaps with one intrepid volunteer, and get the nets hoisted into place. By the time we get back, hopefully breakfast will be ready. We'll eat, grab our supplies, and go see what's in the nets.

   "Now, how many are staying around for the actual banding tomorrow?" All but Tim, Chuck and Alice raised their hands. "Okay, that's my five, plus Mandy, Vic and Greg. That means we'll have enough to divide up the work between people taking birds out of the net, people handling the banding, and people doing the recording of band numbers and identifications. We'll also want somebody taking photos of any catches that we consider at all unusual. I brought two cameras loaded with color film."

   "I have a black-and-white camera," said Greg. "I'll plan to take a lot of photos of the actual process. I can share those with you when I get them developed."

   "Good idea. Now, the actual protocol for tomorrow: I think we should all go together to the first site. Hopefully, there'll be a few birds in the net already. We can all see how to take a bird out of the net, how to put a band on, and how to record the data. We can move on to the other nets, and repeat the process. After that, we can divide into groups, and each group watch a particular net, or set of nets.

   "Now, almost all the birds we catch will be little ones that take a '0' or a '1' band. However, we could get a few robins, flickers, grosbeaks, and such that take '2s,' '3s' or '4s', so I've got a few of those. We have enough people who have banded before to have at least one in each group. Most of you can identify most of what we catch, but Greg and I will be able to name everything. If anybody gets anything that looks unusual or especially interesting, call us all together. We want to have as complete documentation as we can get on anything that anybody would question.

   "I think we're ready to go. The only things I forgot were some step stools or strong wooden boxes that we could stand on to reach the highest parts of the nets. That may be a little awkward."

   "I can fix that," Tim volunteered. "We have a couple of short step ladders in the shop. I'll get them for you before I leave this evening."

   "That sounds like just the ticket. Thanks, Tim. Well, I think we're done for now, and can go about our individual business until morning."

   As they dispersed, Chuck came over to thank Matt. "Allie and I have some business in town this weekend, so we can't stick around.  I thought the presentation and set-up were quite interesting. I didn't know much of anything about 'dicky birds' until Greg got here. He's making a believer out of me."

   Tim brought out the stepladders. "I've banded ducks with Chuck for many years, and lately with Greg. I've never seen anything like the mist-nets. I'd really like to see the actual operation. I have to work in the morning, but I may try to sneak back a little later, and get a good view, if that's okay."

   Next came Greg. "This has really been great, so far. I hope we get some exciting results tomorrow. I'm going to have to leave  you on your own this evening. Vic and I are leaving for California in a couple of days, and we have some logistical planning of our own to do, tonight. But feel free to wander around the refuge, if you want. You saw that the main road is hard and dry, so there's no danger of getting stuck. Some of the side trails are still 'iffy' for cars, but you can walk anywhere you want. There are trails of some sort around every pond.  I will come out at 5:30 to help you set up the nets."

   "We'll be fine on our own, Greg. I'm sure at least some of my crew will want to go out and look at birds this evening. And thanks for volunteering for the 'early shift,' tomorrow."

   Mandy was the last to appear. "Are you going to go bird-watching later, Matt? If so, would it be all right if I came with you? My folks had to go back to town, and Vic and Greg are going to be busy planning  a trip..."

   "Yeah, Greg just mentioned that. To  California?"

  "To meet Greg's family, before the wedding. Anyway, that means I'm kind of on my own. I'm not a great bird identifier, but I guess you learn some things just by spending your whole life living on wildlife refuges. I know all my ducks, and most of the local herons, terns and gulls, and some of the shorebirds. I'd like to come with you, if I wouldn't be in the way."

   "You definitely wouldn't be in the way. Sure, I'd like you to come." He paused a minute. "Why don't you come over and eat with us? You could meet my gang before we go out."

   "I'd like to. Do you have enough food for me, too?"

  "We could pretty much feed the whole college with what we brought. Come back over in a half hour or so, okay?"


   Greg caught up with Tim just as he was getting ready to leave. "Thanks for the help today, Tim, and thanks especially for thinking about those step ladders,"

   "Sure. It was a good day for me. I learned quite a bit. I'd really like to see the nets in operation. I told Matt I might drop by for a while, tomorrow. If I do, is it all right if I bring a date?"

   "A date?"

  "You know - boy with girl - a date?"

  "I am aware of the term. You know, I've never heard of bringing a date to a mist-netting party. On the other hand, I've never heard of not bringing a date to a mist-netting party. So, I'd say bring away!"


 Once they found that Mandy wouldn't be eating with them, Vic and Greg concocted a meal of various leftovers, then settled on the couch.

   "Pretty interesting day," said Vic. "Are you excited about tomorrow?"

   "I am. I have a feeling we're going to find out some interesting stuff. I can hardly wait to get those nets unfurled in the morning!

   "Jumping over that excitement, do we need to do anything special to get ready for our get-together tomorrow night?

   "I don't think so, Greg. We have enough hot dogs and buns for everybody to have several. We have a big bowl of potato salad, also cole slaw and carrot-raisin salad. That should take care of our vegetarian, too. We have plenty of soft drinks, and there's a little beer in the frig."

   "Yeah, I'm not sure about the beer. Some of the kids look old enough, but I think maybe we should forget we have that. If they brought their own, then that's okay.

   "Okay, now about our trip... No, wait. One more thing about today. Did you know that Tim has a girlfriend? He plans to bring her with him tomorrow."

   "A girlfriend? No, that is entirely new news to me. What did he say?"

  "He just asked if it was all right if he brought a date. I said I'd never heard of such a thing..."


  "But then I said I'd never heard of not bringing a date, so I think he will."

  "I wonder who she is."

 "If you don't know, I sure don't. I guess we'll find out. Now, about our trip.  You need a date when we can be in Boise, right? In my thinking about the trip, I've tried to keep our schedule as flexible as possible, so we can speed up or slow down, depending on what we decide we want to do most. The only really firm date I'm thinking about is next Sunday, Father's Day. If we're in Oakland then, I think it's almost guaranteed that we'd get to see both my brother and my sister, as well as my parents.

   "After that, we should have plenty of time to see redwood trees and oceans..."

  "Redwoods and oceans! Every time you say those words, it's like an electric spark goes through me. I don't really even know why I'm so excited, but I am."

   "You're not going to be disappointed with either, I can promise. What I started to say is that we can take our time in that area, and - by the little speeding up or slowing down that I talked about - I can guarantee that we're in Boise Thursday evening, the 23rd. You'd have your appointment Friday morning, then we come on home that afternoon. Would that work?"

   "I think that would be good. And would we be anywhere 24 hours ahead of that, when we could call to cancel or reschedule, if necessary?"

   "Sure, I don't see why not. I think the absolute earliest we could be in Boise would be by noon on Thursday. I'd prefer not to cut the earlier part of our trip that short, but it would be possible."

   "Okay, I'll call the bridal shop and make the appointment on Monday. Now, about packing for the trip. What about clothes?"

   "I think we have to wear them most of the time. I'm hoping when we're alone, we can... "


  "Oh, you mean what kind of clothes? Let's see. A dress or skirt or two, nice enough for a nice restaurant. It'll probably be fairly hot most of our traveling days, so jeans or shorts or whatever is comfortable in the car. Good walking shoes. I have one hike in the redwoods we really need to take. A jacket and a sweater for our day or two in the mountains and near the ocean. I guess that's all.

   "Oh, wait, one other thing. The skimpiest bathing suit you have. We probably won't swim anywhere, but I'm just imagining us walking along the beach, our feet in the water, and the sun sinking into the western ocean. I step away from you so I can see your entire silhouette framed against a dramatic red, orange, and violet sunset, and I imagine..."

   "What you are imagining probably isn't even legal in the United States. However, I do have a somewhat more discreet two-piece suit that should satisfy almost anyone else's lustful thoughts."

   "Well, that will have to do, I guess, but what I was about to say was that I imagine taking you in my arms, and us falling to the sand, with the surf flowing in and out around us as we make passionate love."

   "Yes, I saw that movie, too. 'From Here to Eternity,' wasn't it? To tell the truth, it always looked a little wet and uncomfortable. I would think a nice dry bed in a motel..."

   "That would work! Is that a promise?"

   "We'll see."


   Mandy came in a short time later. "Hi, Sis," Vic greeted her. "How did it go?"

   Mandy plopped down on the sofa with them. "It was a lot of fun. For dinner, we  had enchiladas - I guess you've had them before?" she said to Greg.

   "Being a native California, a state that used to be part of Mexico, I do have some familiarity with the product."

   "Oh, sure. you would, wouldn't you. Well, anyway, meat and cheese rolled up in a corn tortilla, with sauce over them, then cooked in the oven. Well, some of them didn't have meat, so Danny could eat them. Anyway, they were all cooked, so they just had to heat them up. They were very good!

   "I got to know all the students - the boys Dave and Tig, and the girls Danny and Chris. They're all about 20 or 21, and all are biology majors, so they're really into bird study. It might get a little tiring for a non-bird-watcher after a bit, but they were really quite nice and entertaining.

   "Danny told us an interesting story. Well, she's really Danielle, like you're really Victoria. Anyway, while Cora was taking her lunch order, she got talking about women's names. She likes Danielle, but she likes Danny, too. She thought both were good names for either a young person or an older person. Cora said she didn't have any trouble imagining a 50-year old woman named Danny being head of a big corporation.

   "In contrast, she mentioned Tammy. You know, so many babies were named Tammy, because of the movies. Cora thought Tammy was a nice name for a little girl, but wondered how all these women would feel when they were 50, and they were still Tammy. She just couldn't see it commanding any respect as an adult name."

   "I think there's some truth to that," Greg responded.

   "I think so, too, but she said Cora kind of backed down, later. She said that a name doesn't make a woman. The woman makes the woman! She finished by saying that there wasn't any reason we might not have a President Tammy, some day!"

   Vic laughed. "Well, she's probably right in both cases."

   "But what you're named can really change your life in various ways," Greg said. "I've thought on more than one occasion that parents should have thought a little bit ahead before they named their kids what they named them."

   "Well, we had an example of that just tonight," said Mandy. "I mentioned one of the guy's name was Tig. I asked him if that was a nickname for something, and he said it probably was, but he didn't know what for. It's just something his father started to call him when he was little. It was just kind of a name between the two of them, nothing that anybody else used.

   "Tig's real name is Hardy. It's his mother's maiden name. He didn't mind the name until some kids started calling him Hardy Har Har - you know, the cartoon hyena. It's also what some of the comedians say when they want to give a fake-sounding laugh. Well, you know, that's the kind of thing that's funny for about thirty seconds the first time somebody says it. Then, it becomes embarrassing, and pretty soon hurtful if others take up the chant. Well, he couldn't really get rid of the name at school because all the teachers had it on their class lists, and all the kids knew it. But whenever somebody new asked him his name, he just started saying Tig. it didn't stop the mean kids from saying 'Hardy Har Har,' but it kind of diffused the joke when less and less people knew what they were talking about."

   "Good for Tig," Greg replied. "That took some initiative - and also a little courage, I would guess."

   Mandy got up off the couch. "Well, I'm going to my room. It's so nice to have a room all of my own. You used to have one, Vic, but now you have to share."

   "Yeah, there are a lot of surprising changes as one gets older."


   Saturday morning dawned clear, with the temperature in the 40s. Scattered showers were predicted for later, but nothing significant was expected and no electrical activity. When Matt and Greg went down into the woods to set up the nets, there was a lot of bird song, and a lot of birds moving around. Both men were hopeful for an exciting day.

   They retreated back to headquarters, ate a quick breakfast with the others, and had everybody on their way down to the nets by 6:30. The nets near the horned owl nest had already snagged several birds - a lazuli bunting, two MacGillivray's warblers, a black-headed grosbeak, an Audubon's warbler, two house finches, and a red-eyed vireo. Greg confirmed that all but the last were "regulars" in the woods that time of year.

   "The vireo is a good one," he said. "In the big flight last year, I had a dozen or so, but according to the bird books, they shouldn't be here. Having them two years in a row makes me think they really should be here."

   Matt let each person take a bird out of the net, which proved easy once he showed them how to hold onto the bird while folding back the netting. They could see how the birds were caught in their own little mesh "cocoons," but weren't tangled at all, nor apparently distressed in any way. They banded each bird, and recorded the information, but only took photos of the vireo.

   They all moved on to the second set of nets, and found a comparable array. Those that were no surprise to Greg were three mountain chickadees, another MacGillivray's warbler, another house finch, and two Audubon's warblers. "Surprises" were another red-eyed vireo, and a black-and-white warbler.

   "I had several black-and-whites last year.  As I recall, there were other Idaho records, but not down in this area."

   While they were standing and talking at one net, they observed a red-shafted flicker fly into the other net, and get trapped. They all had a clear view of how the flicker just seemed to fall over into the net and become immobilized.

   "Let's come back to these birds, after we get the flicker out. He's big, and will probably struggle more than some of the others. He'll probably be the only thing we catch down here that needs a size 3 band."

   Matt got the flicker out of the net easily but, whereas the little birds to date had been docile, the flicker pecked at him and wiggled around. He turned the flicker loose after it was banded, removed two Audubon's warblers from the same net, then they returned to the other catch.

   The mountain chickadees were surprisingly aggressive, actively pecking at the people handing them. They couldn't really hurt anybody, but their little beaks were sharp enough to give a good pinch. The other species were docile. The vireo and the black-and-white warbler got their pictures taken.

   Moving on to the single net, they found it had trapped two lazuli buntings and a lark sparrow. "These are both species more likely to be found out in open areas, rather than in the deeper woods. That's what I thought we might get if we put one of the nets here close to the edge of the forest," Matt explained.

   "This is a good start. I think we have enough experience among us that we can split up into groups now, and each watch a net or set of nets. Let's all go back up to the first set together, and do one more round as a group, then leave some of us there, and the rest go on. Greg and I can handle the single net, and kind of rotate between the others, so that one of us will be close if an identification is needed, or when we want everybody to see anything unusual.

   "You don't need to watch your nets every minute. In fact, if you do, you might interfere with the general bird movement through the area. You can wander around, or take a nap, or whatever, as long as you don't leave anything in the net more than about fifteen minutes.

   "We won't take a real lunch break, just go off one at a time, or go grab a sandwich and come right back. It's possible that we'll have a really dead period some time in the afternoon - bird activity can get a little slow, then. If that happens, we won't shut down altogether, but we may just have somebody come down occasionally, to see if anything is going on."

   They all went back up to the owl trail, and found that both nets already had a good selection of catches - yellow warblers, Wilson's warblers, western tanager, black-headed grosbeak, goldfinches, and several more mountain chickadees. Oddities included another black-and-white warbler, a redstart, and - a real surprise - a summer tanager.

   The same pattern prevailed all morning, with nets having from two to ten birds every time they were checked, with unexpected species appearing regularly. Greg and Matt were both thrilled.

   About mid-morning, Tim showed up. He had a woman with him, about his own age - about average height for a woman, with short, curly brown hair - pretty in an outdoor-windblown-sun-browned way - slim, but clearly muscular - a farm girl, for sure. Vic was at that net, and Tim introduced the woman as Rachel Lewis.

   "I've seen you at Labor Day and Fourth of July parties," said Vic, when introduced.

   "Yes, and I know you and your sister because of Tim and Rusty working at the wildlife refuge. Call me 'Rae' - R-a-e. I like my name very much, but when people try to shorten 'Rachel,' they usually end up with 'Rach' - which I don't consider a very pleasant nickname. I ask people to call me Rae, instead."

   "Rae it is, then. Tim, you wanted to see the whole process. We've almost finished with this catch, but there's still a couple here."

   Tim moved a little closer to the net, as Tig extricated one of the two birds remaining. "As you can see, the bird is just hanging upside down in its little case, not trying to move around. I just reach in, and grasp it firmly, while holding  the net away from it, and pull it up and out. This one is clearly our common house finch, a male. The banding is just like with a duck, only a little more awkward because of the small size of the band and the small size of the bird's leg. We record the species, sex, and band number, and off it flies." He turned it loose. "You want to get the other one?"

   Tim proved adept at getting the bird safely and efficiently out of the net.

  "Oh, that's a pretty one," Rae exclaimed.

  "A bunting, isn't it?" asked Tim.

 'Yep, adult male lazuli bunting. We'll caught quite a few of them today."

 Tim helped band the bunting, then let it go. "Let's get out of the way now," said Tig, "And see if we get some more action."

  Vic moved off to the side with Tim and Rae. "So, how long have you known each other?" she asked.

  "Well, let's see," Rae began. "Not quite all our lives, but just about all our school lives. We were in the same grade, and a lot of the same classes. Tim even took me to our Senior Prom a hundred years ago. After all this time, we just mutually decided a few weeks ago that we wanted to be more than friends and neighbors." She reached for his arm.

   Tim smiled. "After high school, do they still call it 'going steady'? Whatever they call it, we've been pretty steady for a while, now."

   "Congratulations." Vic turned to Rae. "You knew that Tim was going to be Greg's best man at our wedding next month?"

   "I did. Where is this Greg guy, by the way?"

  "He's down the way, at one of the other nets. So is my sister Mandy. Tim, you know where they are. Why don't you go down there? They may be having a little more action than we are."

    They continued netting through the afternoon. There were slow periods, but none that lasted long enough that they wanted to shut down the operation. Finally, Matt suggested that they work until 6:30, then furl the nets until morning. "Does that give us time to get assembled for the evening show?" he asked Greg.

   "Sure. When we finish here, just take a little time to switch gears, then come over to the big house whenever you're ready."


   The hot dogs and salads were hits with everybody, and everybody seemed to get their fill. Matt had brought some beer. Greg figured his "kids" were either old enough, or nearly so, so didn't say anything about it. Coffee, herbal tea, and a big sheet cake of some kind that Alice had brought accompanied them into the living room for "show and tell."

   "Let me start with a brief review of the day's activity," Matt began. "I'd say it was a good day, overall. I haven't counted up, but we must have put bands on around 150 birds. Of more interest were the 'goodies' we captured. We got several red-eyed vireos, and a couple of black-and-white warblers. Greg saw both of those last year, so I'm thinking it's pretty clear that those species are migrating through here in some numbers every year. Oh, and redstarts. That's one Greg had last year, and we had two, today. Again, that's probably a regular migrant.

   "Of the others, the summer tanager had to be a real accident. It's a bird of the Southern states, and there's absolutely no reason for one to be here. Perhaps it got caught in one of the spring clashes of severe weather, and got blown way off course. Maybe it got drunk on fermented berries, and just wandered here in a alcoholic haze. Whatever, I wouldn't expect to ever see another one. That doesn't entirely rule out another being seen in Idaho someday, but again it would be accidental.

   "The wood thrush might be in that same category. It's clearly out of its range, and it's not a species - like some of the warblers - that would be part of a north-south migration over us. Still, I'm a little reluctant to just write it off as accidental, because it isn't really that far west of its normal range. I guess I'd just leave its status as a question mark.

   "We got one blackpoll warbler, one Tennessee warbler, and one magnolia warbler. Not much we can say about their status, but they are all species that could be migrating along the same route as the redstart, black-and-white, and vireo. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, twenty years from now, when there have been more bird watchers studying Idaho birds, these species will be  considered to be regular migrants.

   "As I said, that looks like a pretty good day to me. Tomorrow, I'm thinking we should run the nets until about 10:30, then start packing up to head home. That should give us about four hours or so of action. Questions, comments?"

   "You were going to tell us why you take the nets down at night," Chris prompted.

   "Oh, right. Well, there's the obvious reason that birds move around both later and earlier than we do, so there's a chance that some could be hanging in the nets for too long. But the real story for me involves bats, not birds. I was banding by myself, it was getting late, and I wasn't looking forward to taking the nets down alone. I had them set up in a meadowy area near some buildings, and I convinced myself that there  wasn't as much chance of birds hitting the nets as there would be if the nets were set up in denser vegetation. I left them up, and left for the night.

   "I came back pretty early, to keep the risk of catching early birds low, but when I came in sight of the nets, I saw a mass of something squirming on them. I had caught close to 100 bats! They had obviously been in the net all night. Some were dead, and all were hopelessly tangled. Besides that general mess, the trapped bats had been chewing all night, and had made large holes in the netting. The nets were ruined, and I had no idea how to get the bats out of them, they were so  tangled. Also, I was a little afraid.  I can handle one or two bats okay, but they do sometimes carry disease, and trying to extricate 100 dead and alive bats was pretty scary for me. Finally, I rolled up the net - bats and all - and threw it away. I didn't even try to save any of the bats as museum specimens, I was feeling so guilty and embarrassed."

   "How did so many bats hit the net," Tig asked. "That doesn't seem very likely."

  "Normally, it wouldn't have been. You remember I said I was netting near some buildings? Well, the bats were roosting in the eaves of one of them. When they left in the evening to go hunting, they dropped straight down, then swooped up. By sheer dumb luck, the net was set at just the right angle to catch them all as they started to swoop upward. Because they were in that first dive, their radar wasn't really working yet, so they couldn't avoid the net. It was pretty awful."

   There was silence for a moment as they all pictured the scene. "Any other mist-net misadventures?" Vic finally asked.

   "The only one that comes to mind is the time that a doe and a fawn walked into our net."

   "Really? What happened?"

   "Nothing, actually. We were sitting not far away, and we watched the deer walk slowly up to the net, and kind of bump into it. I don't know why it didn't see it. Anyway, she just stood there a minute, as if thinking 'how did that get here?' Then, she and the fawn just walked around the side of the net, and went on their way.

   "I kind of wondered what would happen if a deer really ran into a net full-tilt. The poles and net are pretty solid, so the net probably wouldn't collapse. A deer probably couldn't really break through the net, because of the solid cross wires. I guess it could break through the actual net, but get hung up - and maybe get hurt - on the tier separations. Luckily, we've never had to find out, and I've never heard of anything like that happening to other netters."

   "Greg was going to tell us about why he had the trail by the first net marked closed," Danny suggested.

   "Okay. Well, Vic and I were on one of my regular bird counts, and I noticed a little trail that I hadn't seen before. Well, it wasn't a planned trail. It was probably just something used regularly by deer. Anyway, we decided to explore it, to see if it got us to any particularly good bird-watching spots."

   "Suddenly," Vic interrupted, "Greg threw me to the ground, and fell on top of me. I tried to get up, but he held me down. I was actually a little scared. I didn't know what was going on. I was afraid Greg was really Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the bad side had suddenly appeared.

   "Then, he motioned for me to turn my head, and look up. Right above us, there was a very large owl, acting like it was about to dive on us."

   Greg continued. "I had just caught a glimpse of the diving owl, and didn't have time to warn Vic. The owl made another pass while we were on the ground. When I thought it was safe, I sort of dragged us both through the brush until we were around behind some trees from the owl, then we made our way back up to headquarters. With rumpled clothes, and leaves and twigs all over us, we had a little explaining to do about how we got in such a state."

   "So, why did the owl attack you?" asked Chris.

   "We got too near its nest, and it treated us just like it would treat any apparent threat to its eggs or young. It's really no different than a robin rushing at you when you're too close to its nest, or a tern diving at you when you're walking near its eggs on the beach. It's just that owls are bigger and have very sharp beaks and talons."

   "Would it have actually hit you?"

   "I think so. It was in full dive, with talons outstretched. It saw a threat, and probably wasn't going to take any chances with the threat staying around. It could have done some real damage if it had actually hit Vic."

   "I have heard of horned owl attacks where a person really was hurt," offered Matt. "They're pretty big and scary and single-minded.

   "Before we shut down for the night, I want to tell some of you who don't know what I'll be doing this summer. In a couple of weeks, I'll be going down to south Texas to lead a bird-watching tour group. Then, at little later in the summer, I'm going to be going to Africa, to work with two bird study tours there. I'll be one of the two 'experts' in Texas. I've only been there once, but I think I can identify anything that we're likely to see. If I can't, my co-leader is also an expert bird identifier, so between us we should have everything covered.

   "On the African trips, I won't be one of the 'experts,' of course, just one of the staff to handle logistics. But I intend to study African bird books from now until we go, so I'll at least have some ideas of what to expect. We'll have two really top-notch experts for those trips."

   "So, you'll be seeing lions and giraffes and zebras and such?" asked Vic.

   "I think so - I hope so. Since I've never seen any of them in the wild, that's going to be as much fun as the bird watching."

   "Can a person do that for a living?" Greg asked. "I mean, do you make enough money to really support yourself?"

   "Not on individual tours. I'll get a little pay check, but I'll have all my travel and room and board covered, so I'll do okay. But you couldn't really live getting paid that way. No, this is mostly for fun and experience."

   They adjourned after agreeing on the schedule for Sunday morning: Matt and Greg to get the nets unfurled by about 6 o'clock; breakfast, then down to the nets by about 6:30; work until about 10:30, then dismantle the nets, and get ready to drive back to Pocatello.

   Mandy walked out on the porch, and talked to Matt for a few minutes. She came inside, hugged Vic and Greg, and retired to her bedroom. Vic and Greg stayed up a little longer, then followed suit.


   "Were you watching Mandy and Matt today?" Greg asked, as they lay in bed. "Is it possible that he is shifting his affections from the tall, chestnut-tressed beauty to the tall blond beauty?"

   "He never had any aff... Well, I guess he did, at first, but he quickly learned I was unavailable and unattainable. Well, they certainly seemed to be enjoying each other's company."

   "What do you think of that match-up?"

   "You mean, like a 'going steady' match-up? Let me think." She did, for a moment. "Well, he's a nice man, and she's a nice young woman. Their age difference is a little greater than ours..."

   "You mean that they're not the same age, right?"

   She smiled at him. "Yes, that's what I meant to say. Thank you for clarifying. Anyway, I don't think the age difference is too great." She paused, again. "But I guess I wonder about long-term. From what I've been able to tell, Matt is really all birds and science. He doesn't seem to have many other interests. Mandy, on the other hand, is interested in almost everything, except birds and science. I say I'm not a 'science girl,' but she really isn't. She's not much of an outdoor girl, either. I don't mean that she wouldn't go bird-watching (especially with you!), or go on a hike, or go camping. She would - and she'd love it at the time - but she wouldn't immediately be eager to do any of those things, again. She loves reading, art, music, dancing - and is actually quite a homebody when it comes to cooking and sewing and such.

   "I guess what I'm saying is that I think they might have fun together for a while, but it's hard for me to see a long-term connection."

   "I hadn't thought of Mandy quite that way, but I see what you mean. She fits in everywhere, because - like you - she's interested in everything. But for that very reason, I'd don't see her as the girlfriend -or the wife - of somebody who only wants to study birds.

   "Well, this may not be anything more than a weekend attraction."

   "Yeah, maybe so."


   The morning dawned grayer than on Saturday, with a definite threat of rain. However, it held off until they had finished the morning trapping. The results were good, with another 50 or so birds banded, and several more unexpected catches. A black-throated green warbler, a Northern parula, and a chestnut-sided warbler were all species that could be following the same migration route as the vireo, redstart, and black-and-white. A rose-breasted grosbeak and an indigo bunting were a little harder to explain, but Greg seemed to recall both were rather regular "accidentals" in the Pacific states, and so might be in Idaho, too.

   As the nets were being taken down, Matt suggested that he could leave one of them with Greg. "It would be fun to try a little bit at various seasons, just to see what turns up."

   Greg thanked him, enthusiastically. "With our California trip, and then the wedding, there won't be much opportunity for a while, but I agree it will be fun to do more."

   "As I recall, the university had to get a special addendum to our bird banding permit, to authorize mist-netting. I assume you will need that, too, if you don't already have some special blanket permit. In any event, you're the same agency as the Bird Banding Lab, so it shouldn't be a problem getting one, if needed."

   Greg, Vic and Mandy followed the university van out to the east  gate, said a few more good byes, then drove back to headquarters.

   "You and Matt seemed to hit it off," Vic observed to Mandy.

   "Yes, he's fun. He'll be gone all summer, of course, but maybe we'll get together at college next fall."

   "Did you get to meet Tim's girlfriend, Rae?" she asked both Greg and Mandy. They had.

   "I've seen her around," said Mandy. "Her family has a farm about two canyons west of Tim, so it's easy for them to see each other."

   "I think she may make a nice addition to our 'refuge family,' Vic concluded.

   At headquarters, they collected a few personal items from the house, locked up everything, and took Greg's car into town.

   "That was a most interesting weekend," said Greg. The sisters agreed.


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