Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Research Week 6

MONDAY 6/15/2015 @ Wilkes' Jacobs Property in Blakeslee

Only seven birds detected. The most interesting thing was the mystery creature that was crunching through the woods as I was doing my count. I suspect a bear. Lots of birds were heard (but not counted) in the forest surrounding the gas right-of-way. Happen to catch of photo of a Veery carrying food. 

TUESDAY 6/16/2015 @ Lackawanna State Park

Another low diversity site. No grassland specialists. Coolest thing was a Eastern Screech Owl that was still calling at 6 AM. There are only two points and, due to a detour, I found another field to survey in the park. This too, lacked any grassland specialists. We decided we're going to wait to late July and August to do veg structure surveys. Maybe that will be telling. It looks like stuff Bobolinks and meadowlarks would use.. but they don't. 

WEDNESDAY 6/17/2015 @ Lehigh Gap Nature Center and Kittatinny Ridge

The morning started at Kittatinny Ridge on top of the mountain. I made it very deliberate to locate by point on the Appalachian Trail. Low diversity with typical shrub species (Indigo Bunting, Prairie Warbler) but what a view! 

There is only one point on top of the mountain and it's a hell of a drive so I added two points in the power right-of-way at the base. Last year heard Northern Bobwhite calling. Not this year. 

Then went on the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. There I picked up Blue Grosbeak (several hundred meters away from the site where I observed it last year). There's a nest reported there too and that's too cool. Hopefully the babies will make their way to other grasslands. 

The crew met me there and we had a great day with the highlight being my first ever Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the hand! Hot dog! 

THURSDAY 6/18/2015 Rain
FRIDAY 6/19/2015 Rain
SATURDAY 6/20/2015 Dead battery 

Summer Research Week 5 (catching up!)

MONDAY 6/8/2015

Out to the Penobscot Bike Trail in Newport Township PA. Bird highlights included seven Yellow-breasted Chats, a Barred Owl, and a zillion Grasshopper Sparrows.

It started out terrible with a downpour as I just pulled up to the site. On the upside, no insects like last year when I was immediately smothered in no-see-um and biting gnats (blackflies?). 

The most outstanding aspect of the data was that the sites was being devoured by gypsy moth caterpillars. 
Cidade Chat: two in this scene

Large red oak completely defoliated by gypsy moths
Bare patches are damaged from gypsy moth caterpillars

TUESDAY 6/9/2015

Rain day - spent the day in the lab troubleshooting data entry and organizing 
WEDNESDAY 6/10/2015  @ SGL036

One of the favorite sites and always has some sort of surprise. It's a drive: just over 2 hours so I'm leaving the house just after 3.

This is an old surface mine site that is part of three townships in Bradford county. Reclaimed mine sites, BTW, are the clear leader in GMS diversity among the grassland, meadow, and savanna sites. See the comparison with the grassland at SGL 205-warm season below. 

Panoramic view of SGL036

Ground cover where there was burning < 1 year ago

This year I didn't get the Henslow's Sparrow that was there last year. I even covered the same area with playback (played digital recordings of a male's [pathetic] song - examples here). Also missed Warbling Vireo in the shrubs that dot the landscape. 

Like last year, the day starts out with a visit from a family of raucous Common Ravens. Same response to me: the come out of the forest, circle and scream, and head back to the forest. Gives me chills.

There was a Northern Harrier on the site, except this year it was closer to the parking lot site. Again, the bird was far off so pictures are  crappy.  This is also a great site for Brown Thrasher, Grasshopper Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, Field Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Song Sparrow. There's a family of Eastern Bluebird that use the game commission boxes and I spotted a Wild Turkey from afar. I'd add captions but doing so makes the position of the pictures all screwy. 

Red-shouldered Hawk
The two best birds of the day were Bobolink - a PAIR! and a Savannah Sparrow that wasn't identified until I was checking out my pictures. The worrisome thing for me is that I didn't detect the Savannah Sparrow by voice. They sound very much like Grasshopper Sparrows. So I think I'll go back through my routes when I'm done and do playback on confirm identities visually. 

Male Bobolink
Savannah Sparrow

THURSDAY 6/11/2015 @ SGL205 in Trexlertown/Schnecksville

Did my bird surveys at both the warm season and cool season grasslands. Both have low diversity. The cool season is an easy walk for now but will be a bee infested hell next time I go. The warm season field is already a pain for a completely different reason - the grasses are  thick and arc just over your boots so you end up pushing through the field. 

This year the survey was disappointing - didn't pick up either American Kestrel or Grasshopper Sparrow that were present last year. Lack of detection or just not there? Another round of surveys might be telling. 

The crew came down and caught birds and had the best day yet at the cool season grassland. Captured nearly a dozen birds and included a Red-winged Blackbird. 

FRIDAY 6/12/2015 @ Trumbower Farm in Shickshinny

One of the least diverse sites. I think this comes down to size and isolation (as Island Biogeography would predict). Still, this is a nice site and I did pick up a Northern Mockingbird - something very intriguing about these birds. The site was burned last year but still doesn't have Grasshopper Sparrows. Interesting. 

Some cool (and kinda creepy) fungus

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Books books books

Summer is the only time I read books. The other seasons are devoted to journal articles and barely so. 

I love science fiction and I just finished Piers Anthony's A Spell for Chameleon an interesting read but I was really put off by the misogyny.  Reading the online reviews I was glad to see I wasn't alone.  Next I want to read Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

But instead of going right to it I want to alternate my science fiction with books I really should be reading.  I started break with Bob Askins' Saving the World's Deciduous ForestsAn interesting book and I'll post my notes here. 

So I'm due a nonfiction (and unfun) book.  My choice? Gelman and Hill's Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel /Hierarchical ModelsYep. By choice.

I very much respect Gelman as a statistician and blogger. And I expect to learn a ton.

Summer Research Week 4

Week 4?? 

How can that be?  

MONDAY 6/1/2015 - Rain

TUESDAY 6/2/2015

Rain.. but.. lots of activity in the lab. Including more experimenting with making fake fruit and using gelatin and agar seems to work really well. 

WEDNESDAY 6/3/2015 

Surveyed Nescopeck State Park. I don't think the grasslands here are large enough to attract some of the area-dependent grassland specialists like Yellow-breasted Chats or Blue Grosbeaks. There are some five old field and are old pastures (assuming from the barbed wire fencing) but each is separated by strips of forest. The best bird, in the field seen below, was an Alder Flycatcher. The other thing about these fields is that every shrub is an invasive species: multiflora rose, several olives, and privet. But these shrubs are associated with more birds (Gleditsch, J. M. and T. A. Carlo, 2011. Fruit quantity of invasive shrubs predicts the abundance of common native avian frugivores in central Pennsylvania. Diversity and Distributions 17, 244-253).

Worst part of the day was forgetting my boots and getting saturated from knee to toe. The surrounding woods had tons of Veery and Least Flycather. I also added to points at a nearby powerline. I'm hoping to get the severely declining Golden-winged Warbler, an early successional species that I missed last year. Not at the powerline either but I did get a Bald Eagle flyover. 

Afterwards, I went up to the radio towers in Mountaintop just to check out a site with lots of bear oak that was burned a few years ago. I got lost and these are terrible roads so I headed back quickly but not before I was able to find a fading Pink Lady Slipper Orchid 

THURSDAY 6/4/2015

Bird survey at SGL221 "Cresco." I was there last week with Matt and Sebastian and helped clear a trail. The shrubs and coppice are so dense I had some difficulty finding the path we just cleared. No bears this time - last year I had FIVE bears that day. I did pick up 
six ticks - none attached. Walking up the dirt road to the trail there were a few newts on the road though nothing like last year when it was difficult to walk without stepping on them. 

If you wanted to study Gray Catbirds, this is the place. Incredibly high density of them. Lots of Prairie Warbler, Eastern Towhees, Indigo Buntings, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and a few Eastern Bluebirds. Surprisingly, there were a bunch of Veerys singing from the shrubland and a few Scarlet Tanagers -  both of which I consider forest interior birds. So much for that idea. 
Unknown caterpillars but interesting 

typical Cresco habitat 

view from standing on top of the boulder of count point 3

a bald at count point 3 with a family of field sparrows

random turkey egg

Then on to bird catching at SGL119 "Francis Walther Dam" with the crew. Great day with more birds than expected. Unfortunately, we didn't get as much blood as I had hoped. The highlight of the day was a hognose snake. That hissed, did a cobra, false strike, musked, played dead.  Last picture is a Red-winged Blackbird nest from last year. 

After catching birds, we went to the WaWa in Blakeslee and there was a Cliff Swallow colony on the CVS there. Hopefully, they won't powerwash it off like they did in the past. They were still building nests and the colony had about 15-20 nests. 


FRIDAY 6/5/2015 - daughter's graduation day