03-18-15 Bird Field Note

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03-18-15 Bird Field Note

March 18, 2015

Kate Stone's bird field note describes tundra swans, winter shrubby draw surveys, and northern pygmy-owl tracking.

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Bird Field Note Kate Stone 03/13/15

Eagles throughout the Bitterroot Valley began incubating the last two weeks. Eagles occupy both of these nests.

Large groups of Tundra Swans make their way north. Most fly by unnoticed, unless they give a telltale honk.

Our draw surveys revealed a mixture of winter birds and spring arrivals. Compared to past months, bird numbers increased due to the large numbers of Common Redpolls in Sheep Camp. Springtime species included: American Robin, Western Meadowlark, Spotted Towhee, Say’s Phoebe, and Dark-eyed Junco.

A Clark’s Nutcracker took several visits to the Sheep Camp stock tank. A pair nests in the young ponderosa pines on the hills above the spring.

We saw an increase in ungulate numbers at low elevations. Several hundred elk grazed on the hill above Sheep Camp.

Mule deer browsed as we moved past them during our surveys. Most nibbled on emerging cheatgrass and bitterbrush, but a few occupied the draws, eating other deciduous shrubs.

A month’s worth of tracking revealed the general territory of the West Baldy pygmy-owl. Most daytime observations occurred within a small area, where the owl perched in Douglasfirs to eat voles. William twice saw the owl interacting and vocalizing with a presumed female. He found a promising cavity-filled snag nearby.

The pygmy-owl pair vocalized on the same tree branch.

The male took a nap while eating a vole.

Even with a telemetry signal, we sometimes had a hard time locating the owl. It used both open and dense vegetation.

In general, we located the pygmy-owl more easily than the Northern Saw-whet Owls.


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