I: The Mist Net

bisecting known aerial routes
the mist net marks an ethereal
and abrupt end to the flight path,
inverting sky and ground;
its captives tangled, dangling
in netted pockets
fitful frantic fluttering,
arresting flight

II: The Bander’s Grip

immediately establish
the sure but not stifling grip;
extract the small song-strangled
bird from its
head-rush-inverted hold
in the mist net
secure enough to subdue,
preserve its strength
exhaust the possibility of a flitting escape

the hold like an ace’s split fingers on the fastball,
white-breasted nuthatch (WBNU) held between distal knuckles
of forefinger and middle finger,
fingertips closed gently around its neck
with just enough force;
delicate miracle wings contained
in the palm, thumb and remaining fingers
cradling a frantic heartbeat.

Lift a thumb to measure the wing chord
turn a palm upward, lift your thumb to free the belly
blow an alien wind on its belly to check for fat stores.

the hold is reverential,
preventing  injury to the legs
thumb and forefinger free to
secure the leg for banding

Dip the bird into its rubber tube
to be weighed, take its head back in the grip
at the other end

Marvel at this flyer
as you inspect for age and sex.

III: Field Marks

the eyering of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet;
the double breast band of a Killdeer
black caps
swept-back crests
notched tail
colour of the lore
whisker mark

IV: Field Notes

  1. Be careful of the song sparrow,
    Lying passively, kicking suddenly free.
  2. Flickers are apt to scream a lot.
  3. Never use the bander’s hold on the raptors,
    but rather use the ice cream cone grip,
    Which works great on kingfishers, crows, jays and grackles
    and which looks exactly like you think it should!

V: Release

place our weary interlocutor
in your open palm
the release low to the ground
listen for the brief indignant song
wonder at how quickly…

and when you had flight
in the palm of your hand