Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 songbird summary

Here's our songbird summary for 2011 (mostly written by research director Jay Carlisle)

During the 2011 autumn migration, we captured 5,196 birds of 52 species during 4,364.5 mist-net hours. This capture rate is slightly below average and the species richness is the lowest since 1999.

The ten most commonly-captured species in 2011 were:
1. Yellow-rumped Warbler --818
2. Ruby-crowned Kinglet--639
3. Nashville Warbler --512
4. White-crowned Sparrow --499
5. MacGillivray’s Warbler --355
6. Dusky Flycatcher --292
7. Yellow Warbler --256
8. Chipping Sparrow --225
9. Spotted Towhee --182
10. Western Tanager --176

For comparison, the ten most commonly-captured species for 1997-2011 (15 seasons) combined were:
1. Ruby-crowned Kinglet --15,778
2. Dark-eyed Junco --8,462
3. White-crowned Sparrow --6,439
4. Yellow-rumped Warbler -- 4,497
5. Dusky Flycatcher --4,150
6. MacGillivray’s Warbler --3,984
7. Western Tanager --3,578
8. Spotted Towhee --3,199
9. Nashville Warbler --3,009
10. Chipping Sparrow --2,657

Thus, even though Dark-eyed Junco wasn’t in the top ten in 2011, it’s the second most frequently captured species overall (2011 was the first year ever where Juncos were not in the top ten species). 2011 was an odd weather year, starting with a cool, wet May that caused many migrants to arrive late to breeding grounds. For example, we caught our first fledgling Western Tanagers 1.5 months later than normal. With a few exceptions, it was also a relatively warm fall. Thus, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised to have seen several unusual shifts in abundance, including record-shattering years for Nashville and Yellow-rumped Warblers juxtaposed with a record low for Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis; N = 173) and a near record low for Ruby-crowned Kinglet (one above the previous record low season of 638 in 2009). Importantly, this marks the 5th consecutive season in which we have captured less than 1,000 Ruby-crowned Kinglets after having captured 1,000 or more in 8 of the first 10 seasons.

Though overall totals were below average, we did have record-high capture totals for five species in 2011:
Yellow-rumped Warbler--818
Nashville Warbler--512
Tennessee Warbler--2
American Redstart--3
Song Sparrow--10

Besides the Tennessee Warblers and Redstarts, the only other rarity in 2011 was a Least Flycatcher.
2011 was also the first year in which we banded hummingbirds!

Fox Sparrow

Timberline Brewer's Sparrow

Monday, December 12, 2011

IBO e-newsletter: December 2011

This is the first official IBO e-newsletter, and hopefully the first of many to come!! Since this e-newsletter is a new endeavor for us, any comments or suggestions you may have are most welcome. jessicapollock@boisestate.edu

Highlights in this issue:

New Office

2011 Projects: Lucky Peak, Golden Eagles, Long-billed Curlews

IBO's First Annual Raptor Workshop

2012 Projects Needing Volunteers

Are you able to donate to IBO?

New Office
As most of you know, we moved into a new office space in April. After such a busy 2011 field season, we are finally getting back into "office mode" and slowly unpacking and organizing. We have new banners outside our office to showcase and attract more attention to the Idaho Bird Observatory. Our new office is located at the corner of University Dr. and Captiol Blvd...near the Quiznos Subs. Although we are still unpacking, stop by and visit us!

2011 Project Summaries

2011 was a busy field season for IBO! Our field season started March 7th and lasted until October 31st. That's an almost 8-month field season (no wonder we haven't found time to unpack in our new office yet!)! Our 2011 field work included projects researching Golden Eagles, Long-billed Curlews, Flammulated Owls, songbird point counts across northern Idaho and the Craters of the Moon National Monument, and, of course, our Lucky Peak project!

Lucky Peak

2011 marked our 19th season on the Boise Ridge! The season was a huge success due to the generous support from our donors and volunteers....thank you! We couldn't have done it without YOU! We banded over 5,000 songbirds, over 1,000 raptors, and almost 600 owls! Over 1,000 people visited us and we hosted a record 45 organized groups from around the community including school and scout groups. What a great season! A big THANKS to our 2011 crew and core volunteers: Jethro Runco, Garrett MacDonald, Morgan Parks, Blanca Jimeno, Jenna Raino, Jessica Pollock, Heidi Ware, Dave and Carol Wike, Gary Robinson, Liz Urban, Lauren Whitenack, Kerstin Beerweiler, LeRoy Fink, Genevieve Rozhon, James Butch, Ryan Mong, Erin Strasser, Rob Miller, and Lauren Lapinel. A big thanks also to our fearless leader on the mountain Jay Carlisle and our commander-in-chief Greg Kaltenecker. Way to go team! Thanks also to the Boise Co-op and Blue Sky Bagels for their generous food donations to our crew and Ed Bottum and Krista Muller at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for their support!

Golden Eagle Project

In conjunction with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the IBO crew searched across much of southern Idaho for Golden Eagles and their nests. Our surveys took us to the South Hills, the Albion, Cotterell, and Deep Creek mountains, the Bennett Hills, and beyond! Until this project, Idaho lacked basic information on the distribution, population size and nesting locations of Golden Eagles outside of the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. IDFG was interested in meeting these information needs by conducting an inventory of nesting golden eagles throughout southern Idaho. Moreover, the recent growth in renewable energy development (specifically wind turbines) in southern Idaho spurred this project since Golden Eagles are sometimes known to collide with wind turbines and/or are electrocuted by their distribution lines. The information IBO collected on this project will help land managers identify potential impact "hotspots" (i.e., near occupied nesting territories), and hopefully enable a proactive approach to evaluating potential impacts to Golden Eagles from energy development. Funding for this project came from the BLM Idaho State Office. The IBO crew located 99 Golden Eagle nests!!! Overall the project (in conjunction with IDFG and other partners) discovered or verified 168 distinct Golden Eagle territories and 384 unique nests across the entire state!!! A big thanks to the IBO Golden Eagle crew: LeRoy Fink, Genevieve Rozhon, Lindsey Keser, Dustin Maloney, Mark Pollock, Yozora Tadehara, and Jessica Pollock.

Long-billed Curlew Project
This was the third year of the Long-billed Curlew project, which is also being conducted in conjunction with IDFG. 2011 was not a good year for Long-billed Curlew numbers in our study area. Reproductive effort was very low compared to previous years. The crew found only 3 curlew nests (compared to 17 and 20 in the previous two years), and only 1 of the 3 nests was successful. Thanks to the 2011 crew members and volunteers: Morgan Parks, Alex Lamoreaux, Anna Fasoli, Heather Craig, Shaun Olson, Eddie Shea, Lauren Whitenack, Dave Wike, Alessia Cantaboni, Cheryl Huizinga, Patty McGrath, and Sandy Vistine-Amdor for all their hard work!!Long-billed Curlews are declining throughout their range and we don't know exactly why. Contributing factors may include habitat loss and degradation and/or human disturbances. Some threats may be during migration and/or on their wintering grounds. But the problem is that we don't even know where the curlews that breed in Idaho go in the winter! Our knowledge about what curlews do once they leave Idaho is extremely poor, hampering our ability to explain population declines. Basic questions about which we lack information include:

What migratory routes do curlews take to reach their wintering grounds?
When do Idaho curlews arrive on their wintering grounds, and where do they winter?
What habitats do curlews require during migration? What about in winter?
What threats are they facing on their travels between Idaho and their southerly wintering grounds?

The Long-billed Curlew is a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Idaho, and is also a species of concern with the BLM, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Environment Canada. Satellite transmitters can provide valuable insights into the species' migratory routes, timings, and habitat requirements across Canada, the US, and Mexico. This information will help researchers in their efforts to conserve curlews!!

Photo: Alex Lamoreaux

Did you know?....A satellite transmitter study in Montana documented a Long-billed Curlew traveling nearly 1,250 miles in just 27 hours!!! Wow!!!

Would you be willing to sponsor a satellite transmitter and create a unique opportunity to follow the migration of your very own curlew?

Adopt a Long-billed Curlew!!!

Along with weekly blog and/or email updates about your curlew's migration progress, donors will receive a portrait of their curlew and will be recognized in our annual newsletter. In addition, full sponsors will receive a footprint cast of their bird and the opportunity to name their curlew. All donations are tax deductible. We are a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization. You can also support education in Idaho by requesting your donation go toward a "classroom bird" in a local school! Your donation will allow schools to name and track their own curlew in the classroom each week, while learning about ecosystem interactions, conservation, geography, migration and curlew natural history!! To sponsor a Long-billed Curlew for you or as a gift for someone else (or if you have any questions) please get in touch with Dr. Jay Carlisle at the Idaho Bird Observatory: jaycarlisle@boisestate.edu or call us at 208-426-5203.

IBO's First Raptor Identification Workshop a Success!

We hosted our first raptor ID workshop from September 23-25 and had local folks attending plus many from across the country. The workshop was a successful fundraiser for IBO and participants had a great time learning about raptors in the classroom and viewing them on migration at Lucky Peak. We are planning another raptor ID workshop for next year, and hope to provide other bird-related workshops throughout the year in the future. Do you have any ideas? Potential future workshops may include one on banding, songbird ID, etc. If you have a desire to learn something specific, will you let us know? Email jessicapollock@boisestate.edu with any workshop ideas you may have.

2012 Field Projects Needing Volunteer Support

We can always use support from volunteers eager to get some "hands-on" field experience working with birds. We have a few projects where volunteers or aspiring biologists can help us out.
- Our Long-billed Curlew project will be from mid-March - June. Anyone interested in learning how to nest search for these elusive birds is welcome to join us! The field area is northwest of Caldwell, and is an easy day trip. Email jessicapollock@boisestate.edu if you are interested.
- Our hummingbird banding project is starting up again next year, likely from June-August. We are hoping to have a site in Idaho City where there are breeding Calliope Hummingbirds. Volunteers are always needed, so if you are interested in learning how to capture hummingbirds, handle them correctly, and record important information, let us know! jessicapollock@boisestate.edu
- There is potential for volunteer support for a White-faced Ibis project in eastern Idaho from mid-April to early July 2012. If you live in eastern Idaho and can donate some time to surveying for this species contact jaycarlisle@boisestate.edu
- Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) songbird banding at Lucky Peak in June and July. Contact jaycarlisle@boisestate.edu

Are you able to Donate to the Idaho Bird Observatory?
We rely on your support - please make a tax-deductible year-end gift today. For those that don't know, the Idaho Bird Observatory is funded almost completely through grants, contracts and largely by donations from individuals like YOU!! There are two areas for which we are currently seeking funding:

Annual Fall Migration Project
We always need to secure funding for our annual fall migration project, which will continue into its 20th year next fall. Since Lucky Peak is at the core of what we do as the IBO, it's hard to imagine not being able to continue this project. We operate the Lucky Peak project efficiently and cheaply using volunteer labor and in-kind donations, but there are still some hard costs associated with this effort. We require close to $30,000 each year to maintain our standardized monitoring of songbirds, raptors, and owls during their autumn migration, and to conduct our ever-popular public education work. This funding supports a dozen full-time interns and buys necessary equipment and supplies. Please email gregorykaltenecker@boisestate.edu if you have any questions about donating to this project. Please specify "Fall Migration" in the memo line of your check to ensure donations are routed to the correct project.

Hummingbird Project
In 2011 we banded hummingbirds along the Boise River at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival property. Although hummingbird numbers were lower than expected, we had almost 200 visitors, many of which got to see hummingbirds up close and in the hand! We had many children that learned all about hummingbirds and helped us release the birds. Our goal in 2012 is to establish a hummingbird monitoring site at a higher elevation near Idaho City. We already have the site selected and know that there are many hummingbirds there, including breeding Calliope Hummingbirds, a target species of this project. We are hoping to raise close to $5,000 to run this project in 2012. This money will support a full-time biologist and will pay for necessary fuel and banding supplies. Please email jessicapollock@boisestate.edu if you have any questions about donating to this project. Please specify "Hummingbirds" in the memo line of your check to ensure donations are routed to the correct project.

The Idaho Bird Observatory is an academic research program of Boise State University, and accepts donations through its 501 (c)(3) sponsor, the Boise State University Foundation, Inc. Idaho Residents who make a donation to a state educational entity receive a 50% tax credit on that donation, and donations to the Idaho Bird Observatory qualify for this tax credit. To donate, please make checks payable to the Idaho Bird Observatory (please specify in the memo line of your check which project you are donating towards), and mail to:

Idaho Bird Observatory c/o BSU Foundation, Inc.
1910 University Dr.
Boise, ID

Or you can donate online through Boise State University at the link below:https://giving.universityadvancement.org/

Select "Other" as the designation and specify "Idaho Bird Observatory" in the Special Designation. Please also specify which project you are donating towards (e.g., Annual Fall Migration or Hummingbirds)

Any support you can provide will be greatly appreciated!! Your donations are tax deductible and you will receive a receipt for tax purposes.

Happy Holidays from the Idaho Bird Observatory!!!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Update from Spain #2

Hi all,
Here's another update on our student exchange program in Spain, written by Micah.

Hello again from the southernmost province of Spain! After three great months our time here counting raptors has come to end. We said our goodbyes to the observatories at Cazalla and Algorrobo on Sunday, October 9th. The passage of birds had slowed noticeably over the weeks leading up to this with less than 100 birds counted at each site on our final day. However, we had a nice showing the previous Friday in which we counted an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle, two Bonelli’s Eagles, a Lesser Spotted Eagle, Rüppel’s Vulture, a Long-legged Buzzard, a pair of Peregrines, and the season’s first Hen Harriers (a new lifer for me!!).

Short-toed and Booted eagles over Cazalla

Some of these species, specifically the Rüppel’s Vulture and Long-legged Buzzard, are African species whose presence has thought to have been increasing in the past years. However, it is also possible that these species were always present in small numbers and went relatively undetected until formal monitoring programs such as those implemented by Migres have gone into effect. To see more of what we counted this during the raptor migration this season you can visit the Migres website at www.fundacionmigres.org. Here are the overall numbers for the season for this season:

Black Kite—141,696

Black Stork—3,058

Bonelli’s Eagle—20

Booted Eagle—40,253

Cinereous Vulture—1

Common Buzzard—89

Common Kestrel—14

Egyptian Vulture—2,772

Eleonora’s Falcon—5

Golden Eagle—2


Griffon Vulture—303


Honey Buzzard—64,288

Hen Harrier—1

Lanner Flacon—4

Lesser Kestrel—302

Lesser Spotted Eagle—8

Long-legged Buzzard—16

Marsh Harrier—293

Montague’s Harrier—615


Peregrine Falcon—23

Red Kite—20

Ruppel’s Vulture—9

Short-toed Eagle—27,842

Spanish Imperial Eagle—4

Sparrow Hawk—2,317

White Stork—100,055

TOTAL –384,458!!!

In total, we counted 29 different species of nearly 400,000 birds! Some of the counts for birds from the sites were omitted from this data to avoid double counting. For example, we counted nearly the same number of storks at two sites, but only use data from one of these sites.

Melanistic Montague's Harrier at Cazalla

While the raptor migration has tapered off for the majority of birds, the migration of Griffon Vultures in the Strait has just begun! Each year thousands of juvenile Griffon Vultures disperse from their breeding colonies to make a temporary move to North Africa. The postnuptial autumn movements of these birds show concentrated peaks at the end of October and early November with roughly 80% of the migratory population crossing the Strait within a period of a few days. Many of these birds then spend the next several years in Africa until they reach maturity and return to their natal breeding colonies.

a Griffon Vulture with White Storks

In addition to the Griffon Vulture migration, the marine birds are also on the move. Every year there is a spectacular passage of Cory’s Shearwaters (>150,000!!!) departing the Mediterranean on their way to winter feeding grounds in the northern Atlantic. The Strait is also an important migratory pathway for many Balearic Shearwaters, Gannets, Mediterranean and Audouin’s Gulls, and Lesser Crested Terns. Our watch site is posted on the southern most point in the European continent on the Island of Tarifa.

View to Morocco from Tarifa

This small Island more recently served as a military training post until 2005 (and for thousands of years prior a watch site for invading Moors from Morocco). Now the island has been designated as a natural area and is generally closed to the public.

Sanderlings on Tarifa



Sea watching has been an exciting and new adventure for me. To think that many of these birds lead completely pelagic lives only coming ashore to breed is truly amazing. They impart a feeling of truly pristine nature, a wildness that your average passerine can never dream of…In addition they have also proved quite the challenge. Most of the birds are sited far off shore with distinguishing characteristics like…hmmmmm, black and white plumage? Oh yea, everything appears black and white against the distant backdrop of ocean and sky. So, out with the old field markings and in with flight style or jizz as the sea watchers call it.

Yellow-legged Gulls

Today is also Martina’s last day in the hostel. Tomorrow she leaves for Barcelona and then back to Argentina. We wish her the best and thank her for all her help and companionship she provided these past months!

A final note to students who wish to collaborate with Migres in the future, Martina and I agree that this has truly been an outstanding experience. Speaking for myself, this has been perhaps the premier field experience of my life. While my Spanish is far from perfect I have made great strides towards learning another language to which I was nearly naïve to before this trip. With that said, I believe that anyone considering this would benefit greatly from a few formal lessons before arriving. In addition, you will make your life a lot easier if you spend some time watching migrating raptors before coming. While the species are different, an eagle still looks like and eagle from a distance, as does a harrier, hawk, or falcon. So get up to Lucky Peak all ready and start volunteering!! For those interested in learning more, We would be happy to share more of my experiences with you and can be contacted at micahscholer@gmail.com and martina.zucchini@gmail.com. Thanks again to Boise State and the IBO for making this possible. In particular, Martina and I both send our thanks to Greg Kaltenecker and Dr. Bechard for their work in arranging this travel award. Hope you all can visit this outstanding migration site sometime in your life. It is one of a kind!

Happy Briding,

Micah and Martina

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

August totals

Hi all,
Here's an update of our totals through August, plus pictures of what we've been up to lately :)

Top Ten:
1. Nashville Warbler-432 (NEW ALL TIME RECORD!! and the season's not even over yet!)
2. Audubon's Warbler-317
3. MacGillivray's Warber-284
4. Yellow Warbler-238
5. Dusky Flycatcher-216
6. Chipping Sparrow-162
7. Ruby-crowned Kinglet-104
8. Spotted Towhee-93
9. Western Tanager-73
9. Warbling Vireo-73
10. Oregon Junco-57
Three American

Least Flycatcher

Calliope Hummingbird

Townsend's Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Jay with the Rufous Red-tail he caught

The first of now 10+ Flammulated Owls this season

The first Common Nighthawk ever caught at Lucky Peak!

Common Nighthawk

Video of a Common Nighthawk Growling :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Boise State Students in Spain

Hi all,
As some of you may know, IBO is always trying to establish contacts with people from other countries who also study migration. Both this year and last year, two Spanish students have been able to come to IBO to work on our migration project as part of an exchange program; and this year two of our own raptor grad students were able to go to Spain and see migration there!
So, here's a guest blog post from Micah and Martina with an update on their first month there:

Greetings from southern Spain! We have been working with the Migres Program for one month now to help survey for migrating raptors, storks, passerines, and marine birds as part of a student exchange program between Boise State University, the Idaho Bird Observatory, and Fundacíon Migres. The goal of the Migres Program is to monitor population changes of migratory birds in Spain and the rest of Western Europe. The migration observatories are situated on the coast of Spain looking out over the Strait of Gibraltar. Each year hundreds of thousands of soaring birds and an estimated 20-40 million songbirds pass through this area as they cross the Strait at its narrowest point (approximately 14 km) on their voyage between Europe and Africa. This makes the Straight one of the most excellent places to study the phenomenon of avian migration!

Griffon Vulture soaring over head. This species is migratory but not until the end of October. We see many each day and monitor the numbers seen so the wind farms can use this information to help mitigate collisions. Griffons are the most commonly killed soaring birds by wind turbines.

Sparrow Hawk saying "I see you too"

The Migres Program operates several observatories which are used at different times of the year. Each observatory is strategically placed to capture the majority of migrating birds for different species. Our most inland observatory, Facinas, is used to count the bulk of the White Stork migration. Approximately 71,600 Storks are counted here each year! This observatory is up and running from July 25th to August 25th after which the observatory of Algorrobo is utilized. At Algorrobo we are able to view the majority of migrating Honey Buzzards. Nearly all of the migratory Honey Buzzard populations pass through in just two weeks with some days having upwards of 20,000 birds flying overhead. The main observatory, Cazalla, is located near the coast and looks out of the city of Tarifa and across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Moroccan coast. The greatest diversity of raptors are counted at this site, the most common of which is the Black Kite (approximately 78,000 each year). Here is what we have counted so far from the main observatory at Cazalla…

Black Kite-104,826
Black Stork-4
Booted Eagle-316
Cinereous Vultur-1
Common Buzzard-8
Egyptian Vilutre-92
Honey Buzzard-194
Lanner Falcon-1
Lesser Kestrel-9
Lesser Spotted Eagle-1
Long-Legged Buzzard-1
Marsh Harrier-21
Montagues’s Harrier-199
Peregrine Falcon-1
Red Kite-3
Ruppel’s Vulture-1
Short-Toed Eagle-625
Sparrow Hawk-11
White Stork-71,352

TOTAL- 177,667!!!!

Another 100 thousand birds were also counted at Facinas as well for a grand total of approximately 300,000 birds counted so far this season. You will notice that we have nearly surpassed the average number of storks and Black Kites counted and we still have another two months of migration yet…it has been a great year so far!!

Observatory inland (Facinas)

Main observatory of Cazalla

View from our hostel (yes, we have a swimming pool)

"the bosses" Greg Kaltenecker (IBO Director) and Dr. Marc Bechard (BSU professor)

In addition to counting soaring birds we have also had the opportunity to trap and band (or ring as they call it over here in Europe) Black Kites (Milano Negros) and passerines. Trapping raptors here is particularly difficult. When birds arrive at the Straight they are on a mission to cross and are therefore usually uninterested in food. However, when the weather is poor birds will forage along the coast. We trapped Black Kites on just such a day. There had been strong winds for two days prior and poor visibility across the Straight making it ideal conditions to bait a walk in trap for Black Kites. We had moderate success in the morning with 38 birds captured. After processing the Kites we re-opened the door to allow more Kites to enter while we took lunch. An hour later we returned to find about 150 birds inside!!! Needless to say we were busy for the next several hours banding and processing birds. We took measurements and blood from only a portion of the birds captured and released the rest after ringing them.

Walk in cage trap full of Black Kites (around 150!!!)

Black Kites waiting to be processed

Martina releasing a Black Kite after it was banded

Once every two weeks we also mist net Swallows (Golondrinas) in the natural reserve of La Janda about 40 km north of Tarifa. We attract the birds to the nets using a playback call just before dusk. This last week we were also fortunate enough to capture two Bee Eaters! Bee Eaters are another common migrant seen here traveling in flocks of 5 – perhaps 50. Stunning colors!

Micah releasing a European Swallow

Adult Bee eater being processed (juvies lack the red eye)

We hope to keep you all posted on more of our activities here as we continue to experience a different culture, learn about new birds, and participate in monitoring avian migration at one of the most important migration sites in the world. Esparamos que todos esta bien con el migratión in los estodos!!

Happy Briding,

Micah and Martina

Mission: to contribute to the conservation of western migratory landbirds through cooperative research and public education