Friday, March 20, 2009

First Ferruginous Hawk sighting of 2009

One of my fearless scouts in Morse observed a pair of Ferruginous Hawks on Mar 15, the earliest sighting this year, and a day earlier then the first sighting in 2008.
Lori Wilson observed these birds at a nest that has been used for many years and has fledged a lot of chicks! However, the nest that has been used for so many years appears to have fallen out of the tree sometime this winter or earlier in the fall!

Already these two birds are rebuilding a new nest, and building quite rapidly at that. Lori described and photographed at least one of the birds flying to a live poplar tree, breaking off branches and flying back to the nest with these branches. In just a day the birds had already made an impressive start to the nest! (seen below)

Within a couple of weeks, most, if not all, of the Ferruginous Hawks will be back in the province and another summer will be upon us!

Thanks to Lori for the photos!

An adult FEHA carrying a stick it has just pulled off a live tree.

The adult hawk is sitting on the right side of the largest tree in the middle of the photo. The new nest they are building is just above, and to the left of the middle power pole.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A new member of the banding crew!

Part of my banding project involving Cooper's Hawks, is to capture the adults. To do this we need some help - we require a special member of the banding crew, who Cooper's Hawks despise! We need a Great Horned Owl.

A while ago, I inquired to the Vet college in Saskatoon, to see if they had a GHOW that was not releasable and that needed a home. They didn't have a candidate at the time, but last week I received a phone call that an owl that met the criteria was available if we were still interested.

After getting all the proper permits in line (you need special permits to have an owl!) we drove up to Saskatoon on Sunday to pick up the owl.

This is where we met this guy (seen below). He originally was found near Moosomin, SK, with a broken leg. After being brought to the vet college, he underwent surgery on his leg. The surgery was a success and his leg healed nicely, but the vets later realized that the owl had extensive scarring on his retina in his left eye. They estimate he has 60-70% vision loss in this eye. What this means is that the owl has no or very little depth perception. So when he tries to grab a mouse to eat, he usually doesn't catch it, because he grabs at the wrong spot. Left on his own in the wild, he would likely starve to death. He is a young bird, hatched in 2008, therefore he hasn't been independent for very long, and was already quite thin when he arrived at the clinic.
So now he lives at the Display Ponds in Wascana Centre, in a nice large pen. We weren't sure what to name the bird, he did come with a name but we wanted to give him a name of our own. Due to his surgery, the vets had to shave his broken leg bare, just leaving some feathers around the foot of the bird. We decided on the name "Boots", since it looks like he's wearing a feathered boot on his left leg. Eventually the feathers will grow back, once he molts again which might not be for a while, maybe not until October!

Hopefully, Boots and I will be able to visit some classrooms in the future, but for now we are just working on getting him use to being in captivity. We'll let you know how Boots does this coming summer!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring cleaning

Finally, the cold weather has ceased and it feels like spring might actually come to Saskatchewan this year!! Taking advantage of the balmy weather Kristen and I zipped out to our American Kestrel boxes around the city and did some spring cleaning. We opened up the boxes and pulled out the old cedar chips and replaced them with fresh new chips. We also replaced a few boxes that needed repair, as well as added a few new boxes to our kestrel box trail.

All in all it was a fun way to spend a Saturday in the sun!

I am always amazed at how dirty the inside of the kestrel boxes get! Something you don't think to much about when your talking about regular stick nests is the mess in the nest - typically there really isn't any! This is because the young birds very early on, know that when they poop they are suppose to shoot it over the edge of the nest. Then the adults also remove any pellets the young birds regurgitate. In a nestbox or natural cavity with kestrels though, can the young birds really poop over the edge of the nest?... not really. They seem to have the same sort of drive to poop over the edge but with the side of the box right there, it doesn't really work. And well, when you open up the box, or take a look at the photo below you can see what I mean. Usually the sides of the box are plastered with bird droppings! Sometimes its even on the inside roof of the box!!! I'm not entirely sure how they aim it all the way up there! The parents also, do not seem to clean the box of regurgitated pellets either. Overall, kestrel boxes are messy!

Anyhow, just something to think about! It won't be long before the birds will be back and using these boxes.