Beginning of 2014 Fall Bird Walks

Today we had our first bird walk for the 2014 Fall season.  We are beginning to see blackbirds flock up, but we did not see anything in regards to flocks of neotropical migrants.  The following is a list of birds we did see:   Tufted Titmouse, Chickadee, Gray catbird, Great Egret, Northern mockingbird, Red-eyed vireo, Carolina wren, Common grackle, Red-bellied woodpecker, Downy woodpecker, Northern flicker, Red-winged blackbird, American robin, Northern cardinal, American crow and Hairy woodpecker.

Interestingly, Dr. Jean Boal did find a very young Cedar Waxwing outside of a late season nest.

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Conservation Biology Class & Mammal Trapping

Today, students from the Conservation Biology Class, with guidance from myself and Professor Emeritus David Zegers, set up small rodent traps and remote cameras at the new Climber’s Run Preserve in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  This was part of a Service Learning project with the Lancaster County Conservancy (LCC) Bio-inventory Survey Effort for Climber’s Run Nature Preserve.  The civil service performed by these students  will help the LCC determine the diversity of mammalian fauna found on their new property.

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Habitat Measurements at Hawk Mountain

On Tuesday August 19th, Millersville University, including myself and Angela Fetterolf, helped Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in taking and recording habitat measurements at Broad-winged Hawk Nest Sites.  Habitat measurements included taken diameter breast of height of nest trees, nest tree height, amount of overstory and understory cover around nest trees, the amount of understory rock cover at nest trees, the diversity of tree species around the nest tree sites and the size of these tree species.

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Week 3 (Final) at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station

Finished up the final week with the Conservation Biology Class at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station.  This week we discussed population modeling to guide management strategies for species conservation and also discussed adaptive management.  We then went snorkeling at the clear waters of the Chincoteague Bay eelgrass beds and then ended the week kayaking around Greenbackville to discuss habitat restoration planning and monitoring.  Had a great time with the students and hope to return next year.

Click here to see the eel grass beds from atop a flat-bottomed stable vessel, The Monitor.

Below are a few great photos taken by Conservation Biology student Heather Smith which include a Red-headed woodpecker, Delmarva Peninsula Fox squirrel and a pair of Piping Plovers.

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Week 2 at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station

Finished up week 2 with the Conservation Biology Class at The Chincoteague Bay Field Station.  Started the week with a nice early morning bird survey at Tom’s Cove at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  We saw a total of 35 bird species and a red fox.  Set up rodent traps and sparrow traps this week.  No success with rodents, but caught a few bird species including a common grackle, Northern mockingbird and house sparrows.  Also, had some fun surf fishing.  We caught a bullnosed ray, smooth dogfish shark, sandbar shark, king fish and a cownose ray.  Looking forward to next week.

P.S. All animals were released safely after capture.

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Week 1 at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station

On June 30th, The Conservation Biology Class started at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station.  So far this week we have been involved in seining for marine wildlife, conducting bird surveys, setting up traps for small mammals and visiting unique coastal habitat types.  In addition, we took a trip to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to discuss their Comprehensive Conservation Plan.  Looking forward to next week.

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Dr. Aaron Haines and Millersville University Students Help With NJ Black Bear Project

On Monday June 9th, Millersville University Biology Students Colin Hansen and Kayla Reiff and High School student Sean Light, worked with The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Black Bear Research Project.  These students were guided by Mike Madonia, a Wildlife Biologist with The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, and Dr. Tom Ombrello, a Professor of Biology from Union County College.  Students helped tattoo and tag bears for identification purposes, take blood and DNA samples and take morphological measurements.  This was a great hands on learning experience provided by the New Jersey Black Bear Research Team headed by Wildlife Biologist Kelcey Burgess.  Refer to videos links below to see these students in action.

Taking Blood From a Black Bear

Ear Tagging a Black Bear

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Cowbirds

Spring is here and birds are nesting.  If you happen upon a bird’s nest, take a quick peek and then let the parents raise their young.  However, be vigilant about what you see.  During this time of year a unique parasite is also active at bird nests.  In the United States, the Brown-headed cowbird (refer below) is also active during the spring, laying it’s eggs in other birds’ nests.   At the first opportunity, when both parents are away from the nest, a female cowbird will sneak in, remove a couple of the original eggs from the nest and replace them with her own.  The nest below shows the aqua colored brown speckled eggs of the chipping sparrow.  Also included, are the larger white eggs with brown speckling.  These are the cowbird eggs that have parasitized the Chipping sparrow nest.  The cowbird eggs will hatch first and the offspring will outcompete the native nestlings by growing faster, calling louder and displaying a bright red throat patch (refer below) which attracts the foster parents to feed them more.  Many species of birds can be negatively impacted by the parasitic brood habits of the cowbird, especially forest interior species that are exposed to cowbirds due to increasing habitat fragmentation.  So the next time you see a nest, be excited and marvel at your find, but remember, there can be a lot more going on than you think.

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