Sunday, June 29, 2014

Field Trip Report: Sagebrush Songbird Nesting Research

Big thanks to Jason for taking us out to his PhD study area in the sagebrush sea and to him and his crew for being such wonderful tour guides! We saw Brewer's Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Horned Lark, and Sage Thrasher nests and young at a variety of stages - eggs, nestlings, and fledgings.

It was a beautiful day with larkspur, lupine, bitterroot, and Sego lilies all in bloom. We enjoyed wide-open vistas while being serenaded by cicadas.

 Jason and his eagle-eyed crew showed us how they find sagebrush songbird nests, including the impressive feat of relocating them with just UTMs and a sketch of the area. We successfully tracked down a radio-tagged Brewer’s Sparrow fledgling. They appear to depend heavily on camouflage to keep them safe during this life phase, as the one we tracked sat quietly in a sagebrush shrub while we all got a good look at close range.

We ended the day with Jason banding and placing radio-backpacks on Brewer’s Sparrow nestlings. Despite their tiny size, they were only a few days away from leaving the nest. We all got to take part, with members of the group selecting the bands, preparing them to be placed on the nestlings’ legs, and recording data. 

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