Sunday, June 30, 2013

14.5 Hour Day: Hummingbirds, Bunchgrass Ridge and Mist Netting

Because of scheduling issues, Shannon, Liam and I ended up going along with three projects on Friday.  This made for a long day, but I think that it was worth it.  Especially considering that we will not have the chance to see some of this work later in the Summer.

Catching Hummingbirds

At 5:30 AM, we went behind on of the apartments to observe the hummingbird project.  Hummingbirds are caught, measured, tagged, and released to get an idea of the biodiversity.  I think that some of the data might also be used for phenology.  This is part of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network. We were working with Sarah and Adam Hadley.  They have some great photos and information on their blog.  For example, I just learned that "Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) are declining at a rate of nearly 3% per year."  The Hadley's also work with hummingbirds in Costa Rica.

 Five hummingbird feeders have been set up for a while.  On the day of the collection, three of the feeders are taken away, while the other two are mounted under a trap seen in the background.  The trap looks like an upside down crab trap.  When the hummingbird approaches the feeder, the research team allows the birds to drink a little to maintain their energy and then they release a string that drops the trap.
 Once the bird is trapped, it is easy to reach in and collect them as Adam is doing here.
The tiny hummingbirds are put into a net bag like this and lined up in the order that they have been captured.
Sarah takes measurements of the birds including length, feather length and condition, weight, gender, the amount of fat they are storing in a pocket near their neck, and whether or not they are carrying eggs.

 Here is the rufous hummingbird with it's tail flailed out.  They also put little tiny leg bands to identify the birds if they are ever recaptured.  I wish that I had a close up to show how small they are.
 Once all of the data is collected, the birds are force fed a little bit more sugar water and then they are set free.
I am releasing one in this picture.  It was in my hand a split second before the photo was taken.

Here are a couple more waiting to be measured.

Bunchgrass Ridge
Between 6:30 AM and 5 PM, we did our work on Bunchgrass Ridge.  Today was our first day of actual data collection on Bunchgrass Ridge.  I'm finding myself getting more comfortable with the plant ID.  In fact, now that I am home fore the weekend, I have been able to walk around my yard and notice some of the diversity of weedy-looking plants that I have growing here.  I will describe the field protocols in more detail later, but here is a brief overview:

We start by laying a transect diagonally through the 10 m X 10 m subplots. 

 Within that transect, we observe four quadrats at predetermined distanced along the transect.  This is the first quadrat that Zach and I measured on the first day.

Within the quadrat, we identify what species are present and measure the percent cover that each species represents within that 1 m X 1 m square.

My partners and I were able to get through 3 transects with 4 quadrats each.  Eventually, each person should be able to get through about 16 quadrats by themselves per day.  It was about 8 hours of standing in the sun counting plants.  Charlie has been telling us to take it easy if we find ourselves beginning to get exhausted.  The data is no good if we our tired and not paying attention to detail.

Mist Netting for Birds

From 5-7 PM, we went out to mist net for birds.  This was similar to the hummingbird project.  The birds are collected, banded, measured and released.  Their poop is also collected to see what the birds have been eating.  

A mist net is placed in a corridor between the trees.  One researcher sits in the bushes and plays recordings of the territorial songs of the different birds that may be in that area.  When the real birds come down to defend their territory, they become tangled in the mist net.

 The researchers must carefully remove the bird from the net.  I think that this is a chestnut-backed chickadee (Parus rufescens).  It got itself really tangled in the netting.

 It's fun to see the mass measured since the birds just sit upside down in a small piece of PVC tubing.
 The poop is collected in a small bottle of preservative and sent back to OSU to be analyzed.  The undigested mandibles, legs, and other insect parts and counted to see what the diet of the birds has been.  I guess that the birds will always poop after they have been left in a dark box for a few minutes.

 Here is a Dark-Eyed or Oregon Junco (Junco hyemalis).
 Liam got to release the junco.  Many birds will lay still when placed on it's back.  When traveling with animals, my partner Jennifer and I once traveled several miles with an African grey parrot laying on the dashboard of the van.

With a little prompting, this junco eventually flew away.

At the end of this long day, I was able to enjoy some leftover lasagna and homemade pizza with the people from my bunchgrass team and my roommates from the team studying pollinators.  Fruit and barbeque sauce pizza stood out to me, but the sweetened condensed milk pizza was my favorite.


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