Sunday, June 21, 2015

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

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