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Banding and bonding,Summer job is an ecological awakening

Staff writer

Kristin Vinduska of rural Lincolnville is learning a lot about doves this summer, while also becoming passionate about protecting the great outdoors.

Two years into her course studies in parks management and conservation at Kansas State University, Kristin is fulfilling a hands-on assignment close to home by trapping mourning doves and putting bands on their legs.

“The most interesting part of my job has been seeing all the hard work that goes into protecting and conserving our public lands for the benefit of all living beings,” she said. “My eyes have been opened to the many challenges outdoor industry professionals face in this line of work. Overall, I have gained a greater admiration for the grandeur of nature.”

She works for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism as a conservation technician in the Marion wildlife area at the north end of Marion Reservoir. Scott Amos, public land manager, is her boss.

Kristin started in June by placing seed piles in three selected sites to attract doves. In July, after doves were familiar with the sites, she started placing small cages over the piles.

Funnel-shaped openings on two sides gave birds access to the food. The doves get into the cages, but because of the narrow openings, they cannot get out.

There are six traps at each of the sites, which she checks twice a day. When a dove is caught, she gathers data such as age, sex, and molt. Then she puts a little silver identification band on its right leg.

Females have more of a tan or rosy color on the head and neck. Males have a bluish color on the crown of the head and neck. Young birds have pink legs. Older birds have red legs.

Kristin sends the information to a national bird-banding lab that records bird populations and how they thrive in various environments.

Vinduska enjoys handling the doves’ soft bodies.

“They’re pretty calm birds,” she said. “Once you hold them a bit, they settle down.”

The first week, she caught quite a few birds. Then she was asked to experiment, to see if dove decoys would attract more birds.

At one site, she clipped decoys on twigs on the ground, occasionally moving them to new locations around the cage.

At another site, she attached wind-driven decoys with stretched-out wings.

“It takes a pretty strong wind to spin them around,” she said. “Doves seemed to avoid them when they were just sitting still.”

The third site was left free of decoys.

The number of catches has dropped since Kristin put out the decoys. So this week she has removed them and is anxious to find out if the number of doves she catches will increase.

She has had a few recaptures from past years and plans to do more research on dove behavior.

Kristin works 32 hours a week. When she’s not working with doves, she does maintenance like mowing grass or spraying noxious weeds.

“This summer internship has been tremendously positive for me,” she said. “Even after my first few weeks, I felt I had gained so much more valuable experience than a textbook could ever give me. This position has turned out to be an amazing first step on my journey to finding my dream job within the park management industry.”

Kristin is earning two credit hours for her work. She is required to work at least 250 hours, but she has already put in close to 500, she said.

She hopes to become a park ranger and incorporate her love of photography into her work.

“The most important thing I could ever do is support the cause for sustainable management of the outdoors for the benefit of future generations,” Kristin said. “Any position that puts me in a place to be able to share with and educate the public about the importance of preserving our natural wonders would give me great fulfillment.”

Last modified Aug. 16, 2018

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