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Why to use alphanumeric flags on Red Knots that are becoming unreadable? (1 Viewer)

Mark B Bartosik

Well-known member
I have no idea why banding organizations choose flags to use on knots (or did not stop using them) which have engrave painted numbers and letters that are becoming very hard or even impossible to read on some flags in the environment knots are living.

Here one can see a few examples:

http://www.pbase.com/mbb/image/166727431

Lime green flags with black lettering are loosing black paint over the time and becoming very hard to read; impossible to read from far away or in poor or harsh light.

Dark green flags with white littering accumulating some black stuff that is becoming gray and later black; this can be confusing when reporting colors but matter became much worse when this black stuff start to overflow engraved grooves and makes letters and numbers hard or even impossible to read. Can anybody guess numbers in last two dark green flags? I was lucky to get those from the other side of the flag.

I use better than average photo equipment and have a few years experience with collecting a lot of banding data in the field but very often I need to spend much more time to get verifiable documentation of the flagged REKN than, for example, when photographing relatively tiny alphanumeric bands or flags on species like PIPL or LETE. I have seen wrongly reported bands on REKN and I cannot really blame people for making those mistake. On the other hand, one should not report the band if one is not 100% sure without making note about it and for sure databases should not accept those data.

To my understanding one of main reason alphanumeric flags or bands are put on birds is to increase the resight numbers by birders with binoculars or scopes, often no photo documentation is done or low end equipment is used to obtain the photo. As it can be seen in presented photo collage sometimes it would be easy to make the mistake and in the worse scenario impossible to read the flag no matter how good equipment one is using. I would assume that this problem is know for some time so I do not understand why those flags are not replaced by a new, improved design.

In presented photos there are two marked as new flags. I believe photos were taken in ten days or less after those flags were put on birds as those knots numbered 224-274 just ‘popped up’ on the Padre Island but I could not find any info on the internet about banding action on that island recently. Looks like at least 50 knots were flagged in second part of October - I took photos of 25 of them. BTW I had great opportunity to look at flagged REKN on the Texas shore when I found and documented 120 flagged knots in October. I posted some info here http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?p=3655710#post3655710 if anybody is interested to read about it. Perhaps a few people can answer a few questions I posted there or share their opinions.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi Mark,

I have no idea why banding organizations choose flags to use on knots (or did not stop using them) which have engrave painted numbers and letters that are becoming very hard or even impossible to read on some flags in the environment knots are living.As it can be seen in presented photo collage sometimes it would be easy to make the mistake and in the worse scenario impossible to read the flag no matter how good equipment one is using.

I find flag (and band) reading quite difficult at times, too.

One additional problem you didn't mention yet is colour-fading of the "background" ... I once reported "lime" as yellow for a Eurasian Spoonbill, for example. (The error was caught because the code didn't exist on "lime", and I had a photograph of the bird. The project has switched from coded bands to multiple coloured uncoded flags since then, with a different set of difficulties.)

I presume that to a certain degree, there are technical reasons for the use of the bands or flags in the form we know them. I suppose engraving simply is the most accessible (or affordable) way of creating numbered bands of flags.

With regard to erreneous reporting, I'm not sure all banding projects employ coding techniques that ensure single-digit reading errors are recognized: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamming_distance#Examples

Another aspect is that the typography used often makes it difficult to positively tell certain numbers and letters apart, such as 6/8/9, or 1/I/J/L/7 etc. (That's more of an issue on curved bands than on flat flags.)

I really wish a font designed to facilitate exact identification were used, such as: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FE-Schrift

Regards,

Henning
 

Mark B Bartosik

Well-known member
Hi Henning;

I just did not want to open a huge can of worms :)

You did :) - and you made valid points; especially suggestion of the font is excellent.

Behind the scene I was asked if I have suggestions for better material to use. I do not but I can made a suggestion how to possibly improve. Dark green flags with white littering are excellent when new. I would try to use marine grade epoxy type stuff to put a clear coat over the flag; just coating flat parts with letters should be sufficient. Epoxy would fill the groves and protect from dirt to accumulate inside. It would add an extra protection to the flag as well. Perhaps somebody have better idea - I received several emails from banders cursing the flags/bands they are using.

Here is one example but I am sure somebody knows or can find even better one.

SC110 is an epoxy polymer coating for metal, concrete, wood, fiberglass and other surfaces requiring a clear coating. SC110 is a specially formulated 2- component epoxy with a modified cycloaliphatic amine curative. SC110 combines a UV absorber coupled with a hindered amine light stabilizer which inhibits degradation of the epoxy from sunlight. SC110 forms a highly durable wear resistant surface that is semi-flexible, impact resistant, and resistant to water, traffic, fuel, oil, and mild acids. SC110 exhibits excellent corrosion and chemical resistance and is designed for marine grade applications as well.

If somebody will try my suggestion I would like to hear if this work or not.

Best regards,

Mark
 

ed keeble

Well-known member
Hi Mark

We have similar issues with flagged islandica Red Knot over here, with some of the older birds losing all of the black from the engraved lettering on their yellow flags.

Of course it is too late to do anything about the flags which are in service and some of these birds are 10 years old +, but for the last two seasons a laminated flag with the yellow cut through to reveal a black core has been used. Will hopefully work better.
 

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citrinella

Well-known member
Hi Henning;

I just did not want to open a huge can of worms :)

You did :) - and you made valid points; especially suggestion of the font is excellent.

Behind the scene I was asked if I have suggestions for better material to use. I do not but I can made a suggestion how to possibly improve. Dark green flags with white littering are excellent when new. I would try to use marine grade epoxy type stuff to put a clear coat over the flag; just coating flat parts with letters should be sufficient. Epoxy would fill the groves and protect from dirt to accumulate inside. It would add an extra protection to the flag as well. Perhaps somebody have better idea - I received several emails from banders cursing the flags/bands they are using.

Here is one example but I am sure somebody knows or can find even better one.

SC110 is an epoxy polymer coating for metal, concrete, wood, fiberglass and other surfaces requiring a clear coating. SC110 is a specially formulated 2- component epoxy with a modified cycloaliphatic amine curative. SC110 combines a UV absorber coupled with a hindered amine light stabilizer which inhibits degradation of the epoxy from sunlight. SC110 forms a highly durable wear resistant surface that is semi-flexible, impact resistant, and resistant to water, traffic, fuel, oil, and mild acids. SC110 exhibits excellent corrosion and chemical resistance and is designed for marine grade applications as well.

If somebody will try my suggestion I would like to hear if this work or not.

Best regards,

Mark
It looks like this should have minimal environmental impact, but I cannot find a Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet for it - do you have access to one ? My best search produced 6855 unsearchable results and I couldn't refine the search.

The two part laminated flag sounds a better solution.

When I wanted to flag peewit, the only way I could do it was joining someone else's project group where they had spare black on lime flags. Have only had one re-sighting after one year so don't know about durability.

Mike.
 
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