Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Banding Ferruginous Hawks

Over the last two weeks we have been crossing all over southern Saskatchewan banding Ferruginous Hawks. This is my favourite time of year!!!

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

Great Horned Owl Banding

(My cousins, Rylie and Hunter, holding a young Great Horned Owl)

This post is a little bit late, but I hope you will all forgive me.

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.

(Kristen, Jim Nordquist, and Lorne Scott)

(Maia and Trevor Herriot, Lyle and Micheal Saigeon)

(Young Great Horned Owl in a defensive posture)