05-05-15 Bird Field Note

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05-05-15 Bird Field Note

May 5, 2015

Kate Stone and the bird crew's field note details kestrels, a Marbled Godwit sighting, plus raptor and hummingbird research.

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Bird Field Note compiled by Kate Stone 5/1/15

On Monday April 27th, I spotted our first marked Lewis’s Woodpecker. We checked all previous years’ territories and found woodpeckers in several nest areas, including an additional two marked woodpeckers. We hope to see the remaining ten marked birds in the next week. This woodpecker guarded the same nest tree he used last year; he chased away a pair of kestrels and a starling.

I saw kestrels at or near every Lewis’s Woodpecker territory I checked. This pair sat a few feet above the cavity used by woodpeckers last year.

We’ve spotted five returning kestrels so far. The male below has been re-sighted more than any other kestrel. He was banded in May of 2012 and we’ve seen him every year since, though he has switched nest sites each year. Most observations, like this one, are close to the northern floodplain. On this day I saw him interact with two unmarked females.

William first detected this Sage Thrasher singing from a slash pile close to the Clubhouse. We rarely detect this species, though our observations have increased in the past two years.

Jeff Pippen added a new species to the MPG Ranch bird list: Marbled Godwit (right). It rested along the river with a group of American Avocets (left).

Migrating insectivores foraged amongst the blossoms of flowering shrubs in Lower Woodchuck. I saw several Orange-crowned Warblers, Nashville Warblers (top), and Rubycrowned Kinglets (bottom) on one hawthorn. Though the Orange-crowned Warblers might stay and breed in this drainage, the kinglets will move to higher-elevation conifer forest. Nashville Warblers aren’t known to breed on the ranch, but they do occupy territories on the west side of the Bitterroot Valley, in moister conifer forest.

We established hummingbird monitoring sites on April 8th. I mounted a camera on one feeder at each site. No hummingbirds returned as of April 22nd. Five feeders will go up in May, when the majority of hummingbirds return.

Feeder locations (arrows above) at the high site hang from trees near an opening with blooming Glacier Lilies. We wrapped the full feeder with metal to deter bears and painted it red to attract migrants.

Three feeders hang at the Clubhouse Pond structure (above), with two more just to the east (below).

This past week, I attended one of two training sessions for hummingbird banding, in Southeastern Arizona. We banded over 150 hummingbirds. I practiced handling and measuring many of those as a precursor to my final training in August. Hummingbird banders use a suite of miniature tools to band, measure, and inspect, some the same as those used by jewelers.

Taking measurements of the wing (above) and the bill length (below) help distinguish species with overlapping traits.

We counted 205 raptors this week. This total would likely have been higher were it not for pronounced northern winds on April 24, 26, and 29—we recorded a combined total of 7 migrants on these three days. Accipiters dominated this week’s flight, and we observed few early season migrants, like eagles and Rough-legged Hawks.

All eight Golden Eagles outfitted with satellite transmitters remained stationary this week. The adult female nesting near the MPG Ranch (white) still appears to be incubating. We expect her to become more mobile in the coming weeks as her eggs hatch and she spends more time foraging. The male Golden Eagle captured this winter (red) remains in the extreme northwestern Alaska; the distance between his summer range and the MPG Ranch is the greatest of any eagle captured to date.

Rapunzel the Osprey reached Montana! As of April 30, she was along the Clark Fork River, less than ten miles from Missoula. She covered over 1,700 miles in the ten days since she started travelling north. While she’s getting a relatively late start, we hope that she’s able to find a nest and mate this season.

Previous Field Note

04-29-15 Bird Field Note