Monday, October 26, 2009
Well what do you know, it was a young Turkey Vulture with a green wing tag! How exciting is that!!
Deanne Miller-Jones initially saw the bird as it perched on the top of a light pole in her farm yard near Radville, SK, on Oct 15. Deanne snapped a few photos of the bird, but wasn't completely sure what she was looking at. After the email was passed around a bit it became clear that this was one of the Turkey Vultures tagged by Stuart Houston's crew this summer! Can you make out the tag on the bird below?
Deanne has graciously allowed me to post her photos here. Thanks Deanne!
The bird remained on the light pole for the entire night and departed the next morning around 10:45 AM.
After consulting with Stuart Houston, I found out that this bird, A88, was one of the last birds his crew tagged this fall. It was tagged NW of Hagen on the 30th of August, 2009. It was one of two young vultures found in the attic of an old shed. This nest site was used in 2004 and 2005, but apparently not again until 2009.
The distance from the original tagging site and Deanne's farm was 385 km. Deanne's keen eye is a example of how citizen's can assist in a research program. Without Deanne's report of this bird, this information would not have made it to Stuart and we couldn't have learned what we have learned (ie. that this bird has survived to now, survived the 4 inches of snow that was here for a few days, is still in Saskatchewan, traveled this far this quickly or slowly..., etc). Thanks Deanne for your report and thanks to Stuart Houston for the information regarding this bird.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
After submitting the data to the recovery website, (www.reportband.gov) I learned that this little guy was banding in Ontario, on Sept 22, 2007!! But that is all the detail I know at this point.
Two years ago I captured a bird from Thunder Cape Bird Observatory which is just east of Thunder Bay. The band number was only 400 bands away from the band number of this guy, so this bird likely was first banded at TCBO! This will be the second owl I have captured from their site! I don't know if this is the location where the bird was actually banded but this is my guess. Time will tell.
Looking at the molt pattern on the wing, we aged this bird as an After-Second-Year bird. You can see the different feather generations I have marked on the wing.
I will keep you posted if I find out any more information.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The weather this fall has been dismal! It seems for every night I am able to open my nets, I have two nights were I can't. This is because it is either too windy or because it is raining, or after tonight snowing!! Although it does seem like the owls are just not moving yet. A few days ago I had perfect owling weather and yet only 1 capture at a time of the season when I should have had around 10. This is the trend across the province it seems, for example Ross at Last Mountain Lake has only captured 6 owls as of two days ago!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Anyways, I have been keeping an eye out for the young Cooper's Hawks in Wascana Centre. This is 0/K's nest (the male we banded in 2006).
O/K and his unbanded mate (we were unable to catch her this year...) were successful in fledging 4 young Cooper's Hawks out of the nest. We banded the young birds (o/X, 5/P, 5/V, 5/E) on July 19th.
Unfortunately, 0/X did not make it after leaving the nest. He was found dead on the ground near the nest on Aug 4th. It is unclear why he died as we watched him flying around about a week after we banded him and cause of death was not determined by our observations.
The other three girls have been hanging around still but seem to be moving further from the nest each day. They are likely being fed infrequently by their parents (if at all still) so are having to capture their own prey now.
Randy McCulloch and his friend Boyd, came down to Wascana Centre and were able to snap some good pictures of the young females with their red leg bands flying around. Here are two of those photos. Can you read their red leg bands? These are both Randy's photos. A special thank you to him for letting me post them here.
This photo I was able to snap on July 31st. The young birds were milling about on this gloomy day waiting for a prey delivery by mom or dad. I heard the male give his single "cak" call as he approached the nest area. As soon as the young birds heard this they all flew over to the tree where the male had just landed and 5/P grabbed the meal first! She allowed me to get quite close and watch as she gobbled down this Robin.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Cooper's Hawk banding season always comes fast and flies by! We have a fairly short window of opportunity to band the birds because they leave the nest in only 28-34 days! We like to have the young birds old enough that you can precisely sex them, but not too old that they leave the nest prematurely. 2009 proved to be our best year so far in terms of the number of Cooper's Hawks banded for this project. Due to the loss of our owl earlier this spring, after never fully recovering from his initial injuries that brought him into human care, we were forced to use a mounted Great Horned Owl.
Using this mounted owl I was amazed when we caught 13 adults at 9 nests. I think the trap failed only three times, when the birds were able to detect the net and refused to come in close enough to the trap. This surpasses all of our previous years of banding adults by far! I think our highest number of adults in one year was 6.
We did not find anything unusual in terms of brood sizes or anything like that. None of the adults that we caught were banded.
We did have three re-sightings of birds we banded in previous years. As posted earlier 0/K returned to Wascana Centre again this year for his 4th year here. He and his still unbanded mate raised 4 young chicks, who I saw all yesterday all out of the nest. I will post more on their progress in the next couple of weeks. The female we banded near Craven last year returned for here second year since we banded her. Her leg was too big to put the colour band on her, but we were able to see her aluminum band on her left leg and are confident this is the same bird. Lastly, the female we banded down near Roche Percee last year returned for her second year since we banded her as well. We initially thought that she had been unable to attract a mate this year but turned out just to be a late nester. We did catch her mate this year though.
We banded Cooper's in Moose Jaw, near Mortlach, Regina, Craven, Estevan, Saskatoon and near Prince Albert. So make sure you watch for red colour banded Cooper's Hawks!!! And if you see any please contact me!
A special thanks to the folks who helped find COHA nests and helped us band, including Kathy Hedegard, Larry Preddy, Rocky Marchigiano, Martin Gerard, Marten Stoffel, and Harold Fisher!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Earlier this spring I took a job with Wascana Centre Authority in Regina. This is the organization that looks after one of the largest urban parks in North America, Wascana Park.
I am the new year round Park Naturalist at Wascana Centre.
I am involved with everything that is wildlife related. One the most enjoyable parts of my job is teaching people about the environment right in the middle of our city. Watch for the interpretive program at Wascana to take off in the next year!
But enough about that. Another part of my job is trying to manage the Canada Goose population in Wascana Centre. Canada Geese (CAGO) love the park. It is relatively predator free during the breeding season, except for a few ambitious mink and a couple of foxes. But also there is a lot of food (ie grass) and people love to feed them! This equates to a whole lot of geese nesting in the park, raising a whole heck of a lot more geese that tend to survive each year. In a more natural habitat, many of the young birds would not survive, whereas almost all of the young survive in the park.
To help mitigate the goose population and reduce the number of human/goose conflicts we move a large majority of the birds up north. This year we moved ~908 CAGO up to Cumberland House Lake, roughly 7 hours north of Regina. Because the birds are flightless at this time of year we can gather up large groups of the birds and transport them to a different location.
To learn more about how many geese return to Wascana from Cumberland House next spring we banded all 900 geese! What a job! It turned out to be a lot more work then I expected. Each goose must be age, sexed and banded. Geese, like all other waterfowl, are unlike all other birds, in terms of their sex organs. All birds have a cloaca, a hole at the end of their digestive tract that serves as an excretion point for feces and urine, but also an exit or entry point for sperm. In most birds the males cloaca simply swells to aid in depositing his sperm. In waterfowl, however, males actually have a penis, that can be popped out of the cloaca and used to pass sperm to the female.
To end this story, each goose must be turned up-side down and examined to see if it has a penis or not.... Now I will reiterate, we sexed, aged and banded over 900 geese for the round up!!!
We also have been catching and banding some of the ~200 birds that were left in Wascana after the round-up. We hope to get a better idea as to which birds have a great return rate, birds we took to Cumberland House or those left in Wascana. So far we have banded 1069 Canada Geese from Wascana Centre! But just today I still saw some birds without bands!
We use a size 8 band on the Canada Geese we have here. This is the same size as a Great Horned Owl or Great Gray Owl. The difference is though that we do not use a lock-on band like we do with raptors. This is because CAGO do not have a bill capable of removing the band, so we don't have to worry about the lock-on part. Geese legs are more narrow and long and we actually mis-shape the bands slightly to allow for a more comfortable fit.
The geese used to be banded years ago as part of the round-up, but banding ceased in 1993. Ironically, earlier this year I noticed a banded goose inside the Display Ponds (the fenced area just east of the Conexus Art Centre). I convinced a few kids who were feeding the birds to feed this particular bird and I was able to read the band number off its leg. It turns out it was banded in 1993 as a young bird, incapable of flight. That makes that bird 16 years old! Interestingly, we have not encountered that individual while banding the 1069 geese this year! Where did she go? Does she know to get out of the area for round up? Interesting stuff.
So the next time you are walking around the park and see a Canada Goose, think about the fact that that bird might just over 20 years old! Lorne Scott's oldest recovered goose he banded was 28 years old when it was found!!!
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Whenever we need a little boost, for example finding a hawk nest blown out of a tree with dead chicks on the ground, or climbing a tree that is kind of dangerous, or drilling a hole in rock hard clay to install a FEHA nesting platform, one of us calls out "All for one, and one for FEHA!".
As we travel around Saskatchewan and meet landowners and teach them about the ecological and economic value of having these hawks around, I hope that we are slowly but surely increasing the number of folks who are 'for FEHA'.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the landowners who allow us to access their land and study these beautiful hawks. Without you this project would not be possible! Whether its simply allowing us on your land, or you showing us where the hawks are, or just coming out to see the hawks with us, we appreciate your kindness every step of the way.
I am always amazed at the generosity and warmth that comes from every person we meet from across our province. There seems to be a genuine interest and desire to look after these hawks and make sure they are here in the future. I think conserving these hawks is important not only because of the benefits they bring to landowners through their proficient gopher consumption, but also just because they are such a brilliant part of the prairie ecosystem. There is not a more breath-taking sight then an adult Ferruginous Hawk flying over at sunset, calling to the vast expanse of native prairie below. Unfortunately this is a decreasingly common sight in Saskatchewan as more native prairie is lost under the cultivator. We have to travel to the small pockets of native prairie pastures in Saskatchewan to experience this now.
Once again, I'd just like to say thanks to all the landowners and friends who aided us this summer!! We couldn't have done it without you! Thanks for taking care of these hawks!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Just like everything this spring, Ferruginous Hawks are about a week or two later than usual. By this I mean that for this time of year the young birds are about a week or two younger than I would expect at this time.I have not crunched all the numbers yet, but preliminary results suggest that FEHA are doing quite well this year! We are finding a number of nests with 5 chicks, which is a big clutch for any hawk!Last year we placed blue aluminum bands on FEHA in the Bitterlake/Maple Creek area. This year we are placing alpha-numeric blue aluminum bands on FEHA from Maple Creek to Estevan. These bands allow us in future years to be able to identify our banded birds using a spotting scope or binoculars. This year we have noticed 4 banded adult FEHA's. If these birds had alpha-numerics on their legs we would know where exactly where and when they were originally banded. To find out where these birds were banded we have to catch them, which is not easy!One reason these hawks are doing so well, I believe, is because there are so many Richardson's Ground Squirrels around. These birds are ground squirrel specialists! Interestingly we have only found only 3 different kinds of prey items in the nest. Below is a photo of what we found in one nest and represents the items we have found: Richardson's Ground Squirrel, Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel, and Northern Pocket Gopher.
A family of Ferruginous Hawks will eat over 500 Richardson's G.S. during the summer!! As a landowner, you want Ferruginous Hawks nesting on your property! Just imagine if the Ferruginous Hawks that were nesting on your land were scared off and didn't raise their young on your land... 500 ground squirrels would be able to survive. Now imagine how many ground squirrels can be produced by 500 ground squirrels. A female ground squirrel can have 5-6 young. So assuming that 250 of the 500 ground squirrels are females, producing 5-6 young each, you will have 1250-1500 new ground squirrels produced that year. Now, in the following year, how many more young will be produced by 500-750 new young females? So you can see how beneficial these guys are to have around!!
Here is one of the more interesting nests we banded at this year. We found this nest in 2008 and it was active again this year.
There will be more to follow on Ferruginous Hawks.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
For the last few weeks we have gotten out to a few Great Horned Owl nests to check how many chicks were in each nest and band the young birds. Along our way we met a number of great landowners who were genuinely interested in the owls that were nesting in their yard or on their land.
This year I decided not to do very much Great Horned Owl banding, but instead have focused more of my time on searching for Ferruginous and Cooper's Hawk nests. This has actually worked out for me since I have found many more Cooper's nests than I have in previous years.
One thing we have noticed from the few nests of GHOW's that we banded this year, was they were fairly late in their development compared to last year. Chicks should be able to fly by now and many of the nests we visited still had a week or two before that was going to happen. So it would appear the harsh winter, and cool wet spring delayed the bird's nesting schedule.
A special thanks to a few folks. A family just south of Regina phoned me about a month ago to let me know they had an active GHOW nest in their yard. The two young girls of the family were very excited about the owl nest and kept close tabs on the young owl. We got out to band the little guy a couple of weeks ago. The girls got to hold the owl after a little bit of encouragement and were surprised at how soft it was. The family also noted they had had very few mice around their yard, supporting the fact that GHOW are great micers!
We also met two landowners down in the Riceton area who led us to two nests in their area. We were able to capture the 3 chicks in two nests and band them.
Lastly, I made it out to Herbert to band a few owls and a kestrel with the outdoor education class offered at the school. This is the same group who visited me for Saw-whet banding last fall. We had a great time catching a few birds. I think all the students enjoyed the outing, despite their reservations at first.
Thanks to all the people who helped find nest, watched me climb trees (ready to rush me to the hospital!) and just shared their enthusiasm with us of these great hunters of the night.
(Young Great Horned Owl in a defensive posture)
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
LMBO is a fantastic little banding station nestled in the Last Mountain Regional Park that focuses on monitoring migrating songbirds like warblers, sparrows and flycatchers. LMBO has been in operation for 20 years now, gathering valuable information on migrating songbird population trends.
Kristen and I were up at LMBO the past two weekends and will be there again this weekend. Interestling spring banding at LMBO is fairly quiet compared to fall banding. Spring is unique though because we catch many of the warblers and other species in their bright, bold breeding plumage, which is very cool to see! Unfortunately, overall daily captures are significantly lower then in the fall. So we don't catch many birds but they are pretty when we do!
If you have an opportunity to visit LMBO I would strongly encourage it. Nature Saskatchewan currently manages LMBO and you can get more information from their website. I am also one of two editors of the Black-and-white Warbler Newsletter which is a publication that highlights what is being caught at LMBO and in general what is going on. There is information there regarding dates that banding is happening and lots more.
Here are a few birds we have captured the last few days I was out.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
In total we checked 3 boxes. Two of the boxes contained 2 eggs (so the females are still laying) and to our surprise, one of the boxes contained 6 eggs!
It will be interesting to see how the relative age of the chicks compare in the 6 egg clutch. Did the female begin incubating after the 4th egg was laid or the 5th?
Monday, May 4, 2009
Finally one of them showed up on Thursday last week! We were beginning to worry that they both had perished and no one was going to return.
On Thursday morning, we found O/K breaking sticks off of a tree and flying up to add them to his nest. He then flew from the nest and landed ontop of a female, who we hadn't seen yet, and copulated with her. After this, he continued his work of breaking off branches and adding them to the nest, as his mate watched.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
We started out with our friend Kathy Hedegard in Estevan for an early morning Cooper's Hawk (COHA) survey. We were up at 4:15 AM and on site by 5:20 in the Souris river valley. Cooper's Hawks are notoriously secretive birds. Most birders observe them flying high in the air, flying away after being startled from a tree or if they are lucky, will have seen one sitting on their fence watching the tasty little birds at the feeder. There is one time of the year when COHA are vocal - at dawn during the pre-incubation period (ie. when the birds have just arrived at their nest site and are building the nest). So this is why we were out so bloody early!
We had success finding a single bird at one of our active sites last year. We were unable to see if it was banded but it was good to see one of the adults had returned! Last year we banded the female at this nest, 3/X, which I posted about last July. Hopefully when we go back later in May we will be able to ID her, if Kathy doesn't ID her first.
We then went over to another site where Kathy's cousin, Mr. Larry Preddy had seen COHA a few days prior. Success!! We found the pair of hawks and found a newly added to nest.
(You can see the pair of Cooper's Hawks, one on the bottom of the photo, and one high up on the branch. Larry snapped this as he walked by on his morning walk.)During a little searching in a campground near Estevan we also noticed four Broad-winged Hawks, roosting in a couple of trees. They seemed to just be getting active when we found them. One bird was sitting right beside the road when we drove by and so we decided to set our trap for it and waited to see if we had any luck. Well what do you know, he went for the bait and we had him caught!
(Adult Broad-winged Hawk)I had never banded a Broad-winged Hawk before, so it was really neat to get to handle one. It was a beautiful bird, but way smaller then I thought they would be. Flying in the air they look large, but this guy was a tiny little thing. Weighed only 422 grams.
(Larry releasing the newly banded Broad-winged Hawk)
On the way home we stopped to watch a few kestrels and had some luck catching some around Estevan.
(Adult male American Kestrel)
Lastly, we stopped in Weyburn to visit with Kelly Kozij. Kelly informed us he had a Great Horned Owls nest that had chicks that were quite old already, we estimated ~3.5 to 4 weeks! He asked if we had time to assist him on this nest. Of course we had to oblige. So off we went. Kelly masterfully climbed up a fairly difficult poplar tree, roughly 40 feet tall, and banded the 2 young owls. In the nest were the remains of two American Coots. Both adults were very agitated with Kelly's presence and one came in to strike but veered off at the last moment.
(Kelly banding one of the nestling Great Horned Owls. You'll notice the helmet Kelly is sporting. We have been hit a number of times by angry adult owls. Some banders, have lost eyes!)
(This isn't the crispest photo, but I like how it shows how large the white throat patch is on this clearly angry momma. When agitated Great Horned Owls puff their throat, as you can see!)We packed our stuff up again and were back in Regina by 10:00 pm. A long day, similar in length to our Northern Hawk Owl banding trip but not as many kilometers. All in all we had a fantastic time and got to see and handle some cool birds, and got to visit with some great folks!