Saturday, October 3, 2015

Update after a long...long hiatus!

Where to even begin...

Somehow June turned into October so quickly.  It went from working in 30 degree weather everyday to suddenly taking out a scarf and sweater in the mornings.  Where did time go!  Unfortunately, my goal of staying updated on here throughout the field season was suddenly downgraded by lack of sleep.  However here will be a overview of the entire last four months.

Ready to replace insect trap

I was studying Bank Swallows again this summer in gravel pits and on the lakeshore.  The gravel pits were once again full of awesome people who were engaged in learning more about these birds and how they can work around them, which was just fantastic.  In early-April I set out and installed our insect traps for the season, and boy were some of the insect hatches intense!

By the time May hit, the birds were almost all back in force at all sites.  They were busy digging for most of the month and by the end of the month had nests made and even some eggs laid.  We checked nests again at all sites where we were able to and looked at clutch size, nest success, parasite loads, and fledgling health.

Panoramic shot of lake field site

We banded a total of 209 Bank Swallows this year (adults and young), but unfortunately did not catch any of the ones we had banded last year.  One of the bank swallow young even showed signs of leucism (where some feathers on the bird have a loss of pigment and show patches of white). 

Young Bank Swallow with signs of Leucism
Young Bank Swallow

Conducting nest checks
New to this field season was the use of radio telemetry that is part of the Bird Studies Canada Motus network.  This is a fantastic network of telemetry towers across much of North America, with some towers now being built in South America too.  Radio tags, that send out signals, are placed on birds and as they fly past each of these towers the signals are picked up and data on their location is collected.  These radio tags can be used on both a permanent standing tower as well as We were trying to determine how far away from colonies Bank Swallows forage and compare these distances with lakes and gravel pit colonies.  We were hoping that the tags would also last long enough to track at least the beginning of migration for these birds, however with them only lasting 34 days, it seems like a bit of a stretch!  Luckily for us though....we did!  Since our last data download, preliminary results showed our tags showing up on towers along the coast in the Long Point Area, Leamington Area, and at Presqu'ile Provincial Park.  

Downloading data from a telemetry tower
Tracking with a hand-held receiver
Swallow with a telemetry tag
It was so wonderful to be back in the field again this year, no matter what frustrations and the exhaustion I faced.  It was so bittersweet knowing that this was going to be my last year doing this!  The views on Lake Ontario are sometimes just astonishing, and I'm so happy to have had these places as my field site.

Just after sunrise at a Lake Ontario colony

Even though we were studying only one specific species, you always see a wide variety of wildlife being outside every single day, especially in places where not a lot of people go.  Gravel pits, surprisingly also support a huge variety of wildlife and i've often seen sandpipers stoping and feeding in the ponds.   Here are just a few of our wildlife highlights from the summer!

Young Killdeer in gravel pit.  We were lucky enough to watch a family of Killdeer go from eggs to young!

A family of foxes in one of our gravel pits often kept an eye on us while we worked.
  A young Belted Kingfisher happened to go for a bit of a swim in Lake Ontario at one of our sites.  Luckily we were around to notice that it was not able to get back out of the water!  Nevertheless it looked pretty happy that we were able to come to the rescue and reunite it with the rest of its crew.

A Dunlin was found in one of our gravel pit sites feeding in a pond, a lifer for many of us!

Least Sandpipers were a fairly regular sight at the beginning and end of the season in pits and the lake.

We had a beautiful pair of loon at one lake site.  Unfortunately we never did see any young.
A family of Ruffed Grouse decided to strut their stuff while crossing the road on our way to a pit.

Along with seeing a wide variety of wildlife, we also see...a wide variety of strange things on the beach.  This summer we started a fun game of trying to find the strangest things on the beach.  While we did find every single type of sports equipment that you could find and also every type of fishing lure, these two items took the top prize:

This is an old Care Bear we found.....we nicknamed him "Scare Bear" it seems he no longer cares.

After a large storm one week a Christmas toy soldier ended up along the beach too
This summer I also got a new Iphone and with it came an incredibly fun and addictive slow-motion feature...So it definitely came in handy while releasing some of our banded birds!

 Overall the field season was quite a success and now is the long process of going through all the data that was collected!   So keep me in your thoughts while I enter the Master's journey of writing!

Goodbye Bank Swallow Field work!!! It's been swell!

And thanks to my 2015 field crew for all your work this summer and giving me so many of your hours.