Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Male (right) presenting grasshopper to female

Image via Wikipedia


Kestrel Watch of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center is trying to solve a mystery:     

Since about 2000, The Raptor Center has seen a precipitous decline in the number of kestrels admitted to the center; from 107 admissions in 2000 to only 22 last year (see chart in Statistics).  At the same time, admissions of Cooper’s hawks have doubled, from 54 admissions in 2000 to 114 last year.  At this point, no one knows whether these findings are correlated, or even whether the reduction in kestrel admissions represents a decline of the species in the wild…     

Graph From Kestrel Watch


Through Kestrel Watch, The Raptor Center hopes to decode the rapid decline in American kestrel admissions.  To join Kestrel Watch, all you need to do is brush up on your observation and reporting skills.  When you see a kestrel, record the day and time of your observation.  Make note of what the bird was doing.  Was it hunting? Perched? Feeding?  How many kestrels were there?  If you feel comfortable identifying the bird’s gender, report that, too.   

You can submit your observations and photos on the Kestrel Watch website. They also have great information on identification and natural history. You can even see on a map where others have spotted Kestrels.    


I checked out the HawkCounts for Hawk Ridge in Duluth, MN, and it looks like Kestrels should be migrating through that area until early November. Kestrels also stay year round in southern Minnesota. But you don’t have to be in Minnesota to participate. Observers have been reporting in from all over the Midwest.     


While I was at the Hawkcount website, I also checked out the number of Kestrels seen migrating through Hawk Ridge since 2000. I even made a quick line graph because I’m a dork cool like that.    


From the graph, it seems that the number of observed American Kestrels migrating through is decreasing. However it is variable and dependent on the number of hours of observation, weather, ect. Their data goes all the back to the 70’s, but I wasn’t feeling that ambitious (all the data is online though if you are interested).  I was going to also graph the number of Cooper’s hawks observed to compare with the Raptor Center’s data. However, Cooper’s Hawks don’t  migrate much to the north of Lake Superior so they only see up to a couple hundred per year at Hawk Ridge.   


So, Are American Kestrels being taken over by Cooper’s hawks, or are Cooper’s hawks just becoming more accident prone while Kestrels are getting smarter? What do you think? Whatever the case, The Raptor Center doesn’t know and needs your help to find out.    


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On Saturday, I went to Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge to help with their annual, open to the public duck banding. The refuge is on flat terrain and is mostly wetlands because it lies on the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz (named after Louis Agassiz: the original glaciologist).

Banding programs for waterfowl help scientists and managers make decisions on hunting regulations and estimate survival rates, migration routes and other biological information. Because of the wet conditions in the region, there was an above average number of ducklings hatched this year. Agassiz is one of Minnesota’s Important Bird Areas with 294 species of birds.


Overlook at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge- very flat



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Roundup of citizen science, wildlife, conservation, and ecology news, stories and events.



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On Saturday, September 18th from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, I will be helping band waterfowl at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge . Jealous? Well you can join too as the public is invited to help! It is free and you do not need to pre-register. Just arrive on time to the refuge headquarters to take part. Click here for more information.

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Over Labor Day weekend, I headed south with the Monarch butterflies (not far south enough though). Now that I am back, it appears they have all left as I have not seen one over the last two days.

While I didn’t get to catch any butterflies it seems I did catch a cold over the weekend. But there is good news! Laying around has given me plenty of time to find a new project: eBird.

eBird is a citizen science program where you can report your bird observations online. It is an online checklist of birdwatching activities where you record the presence of birds at a particular place and time. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society put together this program to investigate questions on bird populations, geographic ranges, migration routes and timing, and the impact of climate change from everyday birdwatchers’ observations. In addition, all of this information is accessible to you, the user. I spent a couple of hours today making graphs, maps and bar charts. You can do anything from create species range maps to find out all the different bird species that have been observed (and reported) at a particular site. It also does a great job of keeping track of the data you input and making it useful to you. eBird will even send you sighting alerts for rare birds or species you haven’t seen in an area.

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