24 June 2022

Introduction/ First Week Experience

Written by: Ashley Castillo

Hello all! My name is Ashley Castillo. I am an undergraduate student attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am part of the Natural Resouce Conservation field majoring in Wildlife conservation. One thing these classes have taught me is about our environment and the importance of staying sustainable and taking care of the planet on which we live in. Growing up in an urban community there was a lack of connection between the community and nature. In most instances, the most 'nature' I saw daily were trees planted on the sidewalks. As time progressed those street trees began to disappear and my daily view of nature disappeared with that as well. 

Being an intern for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Visitor Servics, I am able to see the outreach that is being done to build a bridge to connect these urban communities with conservation and nature. The first week of my internship began with getting to know all the members stationed at the refuge and knowing the ins and outs of what a day in the Refuge is like. Every day is different and a new day brings in new tasks and a learning experience for me. I was out in the fields and even attended some meetings where I was able to see the outreach being done to urban communities and plans made for future partnerships.

The highlight of my week was the first day at the Refuge. I was brought down to the arena where they have a room built to support barn swallows nesting where mist nets were used to safely capture barn swallows for banding. This was my first time ever being able to see such a small bird up close. After the birds were captured they were placed in cloth bags where they are then placed hanging to wait to get banded. As the banding process began they showed me how they measured the wing span, the length of the longtail, and the length of the short tail. All throughout this process, they were handling the birds with such a gentle touch, but at the same time a tight grip to make sure the birds don't escape. I was then asked if I wanted to hold the bird and release them back into their natural habitat. Without any hesitation, I said yes. I gripped the bird gently with my hands and slowly released pressure so that they could fly back. This was the first time I was ever holding a barn swallow and seeing its amazing features up close, truly an experience I will never forget.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Location: Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

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