Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 30

     For those of you who have been following along, welcome to day 112 of the season. For those of you who are new to the blog, welcome to day 112 of the season :)  I have been seriously slacking on blog entries lately. There is just so much going on that by the time I enter data into the excel sheets every night it is after midnight.  I will attempt to give you all a synopsis of where things are at with the project. 
     Up until 10 days ago, there were 19 boxes where I had confirmed the presence of either eggs or young.  At this late point in the breeding cycle it is very unusual to encounter "new" boxes where so called "floaters" ( males/females that arrive very late in the season at boxes with the intent of beginning very late breeding) actually initiate successful breeding. Interestingly enough, within the last ten days I have discovered 2 more boxes where kestrels have just begun egg laying with a third box a strong possibility as well. That would bring the total number of successful boxes up to 22. I have boxes where the young left the box 10 days ago and now also have boxes with 3 eggs in them. That represents a 60-70 day window of breeding activity. That is similar to year's date ranges and has been a totally unexpected finding for this area.  To date there have been 34 nestlings banded with another 15-20 to be done in the next day or two. As pictured above, the nestlings are banded with both a metal federal leg band and colored plastic bands as well. The metal federal band has a unique number stamped into it that identifies every bird. Each nestbox has a unique color band pattern assigned to it that identifies the nestling's natal nestbox.  That unique color pattern is permanently assigned to every successful box. The only way to read the number stamped into the federal band is to recover the bird in your hand. The idea behind color banding is that in the future the color banded birds can be identified at a distance without the need for actually having them in your hand. It ideally increases the reporting of color banded birds in the usual instances where trapping is not possible. In reality, the color bands can be very difficult to detect in the field. It is had been moderately helpful to me in identifying birds not in the hand, but has resulted in no reports by other birders, etc. out on the field who might be seeing these birds. 
     This summer I also have a senior from the University of Connecticut who is doing her honors thesis work based on telemetry that is being carried out on some of the birds in the program. The basis of the telemetry work is to try and determine the post fledging dispersal patterns of the young. We really have no idea where the young disperse to once they leave the natal area.  Since the American kestrel is a threatened species in Connecticut, knowing where their critical stopover points are in migration and which corridors they may be using ( ex. the Connecticut River valley, etc.) when leaving their natal area is important information needed to help make informed decisions to aid in their recovery in the state. To date we have outfitted 4 nestlings with the tiny backpack radios. Our goal is to have 10 nestlings outfitted with radios.  Anything we learn about their movement once they begin leaving the natal area will be more than we know now..which is virtually nothing.  

This picture shows a 27 day old nestling with her radio backpack on. The only part visible is the thin antenna projecting out from the backpack. 

 An important step in the banding process is sexing the nestlings. That is most easily accomplished by examining the color of the primary feathers. The blue/gray coloration of these primary feathers identifies this bird as a male.

The brown coloration of the primaries on this bird identifies her as a female.  If the nestlings are younger than 14 days old it can very difficult to sex them since the primary feathers have not yet begun to emerge at that point. This female is approximately 18 days old. 

     The total number of box visits made by me so far this season is 948. Total miles traveled to date this season= 4,714.