Sunday, March 18, 2012

First Monitoring Outing

We waited till late afternoon before we  both felt brave enough to take a shot at doing the first nestbox monitoring.  (What with the nutso weather, hail, rain, snow, hail again, rain again, sunshine for a while.)  We've got six nest boxes put up either on Dryad Ranch or on adjoining neighbor's places and we were eager to see if any birds had decided to check them out.

We gathered up the ladder, the clipboard and monitoring data sheet, a long pole and a specially-made plug for the nest hole and headed out.  We didn't see evidence of kestrels, but two of the boxes had evidence of another species, probably starlings, and as we approached a third, we saw a bird fly away from the vicinity of the box.  We are leaning strongly toward thinking it was an owl of some sort, possibly a Western Screech-owl.  That box had definite signs of interest, with a depression in the wood shavings we'd placed in it, and no evidence of grass or sticks that would indicate starling activity.  The other three boxes - no signs of bird interest yet.

I also got out and about before lunch to do a decent fungus hunting foray in between raindrops and was gratified to find some.  It has been a very disappointing year for fungus because of the lack of rain and I didn't want to let a good opportunity go to waste.  Of course, tomorrow would probably be even better, but alas, I'll be trundling off to work in the a.m.

Here is a shot of our pretty landscape this morning from the top of Ant Hill:

And of course!  What you were waiting for, the requisite fungus shot.  This little darling was found in a crevasse in a big downed pine not far from Altar Rock.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

California Farmland

One of the joys of doing the nest box work was being outside in the (mostly) beautiful spring weather, in the range and farm land of our beautiful state.  I am fascinated on a regular basis by the fruit orchards so common as we go about the back roads.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nest Boxes

The last several weeks have been All Kestrels All the Time.  Yesterday, Dino and I installed the last of a total of 79 nest boxes designed to attract American Kestrels.  Dino has been working non-stop on this project since December and we were celebrating yesterday evening for sure.

Dino got some great help from quite a few other volunteers from the local Audubon Society, hosting work parties in our shop building to manufacture the boxes, not to mention assistance in erecting the metal poles and nest boxes in the various locations around Madera and Merced counties where the boxes were placed.

It was really a lot of work, but the hope is that the boxes will attract a multitude of kestrels in these open grasslands areas where there are few naturally occurring nest cavities they can use.  We did hear the other day from a fellow Audubon member that she had seen a male kestrel on one of the first boxes that got put up, so fingers are firmly crossed.

The boxes will be monitored through March and April, possibly into May, meaning that volunteers will visit each nest box every couple of weeks to see if it is being used for nesting, which species is using the nest, how many nestlings hatch and so on.  The data will be used by the Peregrine Fund which provided some funding for purchase of the nest box materials, in an ongoing project they are starting this year to study kestrels.

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