Sunday, April 26, 2009

A mix of everything in one day!

Yesterday Kristen and I had a day of many adventures, involving many species of raptors, as well as a few other events.

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!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kestrels are everywhere!

Some American Kestrels are still migrating, and some already have eggs!

Five of our nine boxes around Regina have pairs of kestrels hanging around. I went out to Edenwold today and of the four new boxes we put up this spring, three of the boxes had some activity at them!

I did a loop of all the boxes today and I only saw the males at the boxes around Regina. I believe the females have begun laying eggs. On April 23, last year, a number of the females had already laid their full clutch of five eggs! So its likely some of the pairs have started, or are finished laying eggs. We will be checking the boxes in a week likely, so there will be photos of eggs soon.
In the last few days we have had some good success capturing kestrels. So far we have caught 7 adult birds.

Here are a few photos we've got over the past few days.

Adult male American Kestrel

Close up of male kestrel wing

Female American Kestrel

Our friend Sheila, releasing her first kestrel ever!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kestrels are back

It was a gloomy cloudy and rainy day here in Regina today. After work the rain subsided for a couple of hours so Kristen and I decided to go for a drive and see what was happening at our kestrel boxes.

We have about 10 boxes set up around the city. Last year we had 7 of the boxes raising little kestrels. Naturally, we are curious to see how many birds show up and use the boxes this year.

I have read in other studies of kestrels that the same birds typically do not return to the same box year after year. In other words, there is a high turn over of kestrels using the same box over a number of years.

Last year we were able to capture all 7 of the females at each of the boxes. It will be interesting to see if any return.

So far this spring, 5 of our boxes are active. The first male kestrel arrived back on March 27, and his mate showed up the next day! In contrast, tonight we saw a single male for the first time at another one of the boxes. So they are still arriving.

This evening we were able to capture two kestrels, one male and one female! The female we found not at one of our boxes but sitting on a telephone pole enroute between boxes. The male we captured was at one of our boxes, the first time we have seen activity at this box. Last year though, this pair was fairly late in nesting compared to the rest of the birds, so perhaps its the same birds? We did not see the female and unfortunately we did not band any males last year so don't know if he is the same bird.

She was a little damp from the rain but was in a fierce mood nontheless.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Banded Hudsonian Godwits

We are patiently waiting for many of the birds to come back before we can do much banding this summer. As such, we haven't actually banded anything in a while.
I came across this article today which I thought was really interesting.

I do not band Hudsonian Godwits but some banded godwits might come through Saskatchewan so people should be aware of this.

Watch for Hudsonian Godwits with colour bands!!

Check out this article -