Monday, November 30, 2009

Dip, Dip, Dipping

Finished another 3 days of cross country skiing. I am definitely dragging butt today. That brings the total for the season to five days on the snow. Not a bad year so far. The forecast isn't quite so promising though.
On Saturday morning, as we were waiting the arrival of our friends, Karyn and I took some time out to search for wildlife. Unfortunately the wolf hunting season has decimated the Phantom wolf pack which normally inhabit the area where we were. We searched for wolves, foxes, and other mammals to no avail. (we would later find a fox and a few coyotes).
We did however find a number of my favorite winter birds - American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus). We stopped in 4 different places and found dippers in 3 of them. A pair of dippers in one location. Pretty cool.
American Dipper. Photo: Karyn deKramer.
Its amazing in temperatures in the single digits, that these birds jump in and out of the water.
American Dipper. Photo: Karyn deKramer.
The dipper has water proof feathers so it doesn't get wet. The water temperature is also well above the air temperature, so they lose little additional heat while under water.
American Dipper. Photo: Karyn deKramer.

Dipper flying.
Each day as we would pass a particular section of river we would find an adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and a male Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). They were each keeping their eyes on the river.
Adult Bald Eagle. Photo: Karyn deKramer.
To finish out the weekend, on the way home we saw a number of another one of my favorite winter birds, the Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus).
Rough-legged Hawk. Photo: Karyn deKramer.
There were other birds present as well such as Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), Black-billed Magpies (Pica pica), and the ever present European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Into the Wind

While many Boiseans were enjoying Boise State's crushing defeat over the University of Idaho, a few of us bird nerds were out exploring the avian species near Bruneau Idaho.
Heidi, Jay, and I were planning to get an early start to the day, then link up with the Audubon field trip heading out to the same general area. As it would end up, we didn't actually find the field trip group until after 4pm. Not to worry, we did see plenty of avian wildlife including 5 new life birds for me!
The real issue of the day was the wind blowing at 30 - 45mph! This put a damper on the movement of the birds as well as our resolve to stand in one place an observe them. We did find some great vantage points with at least a reasonable amount of protection. Jay provided a good lesson in gull identification at a few of the stops, increasing my life list by a few birds - Bonaparte's Gull and Herring Gull. A particularly large group of grebes provided a nice side by side comparison of Western Grebes and Clark's Grebes, the Clark's being a new lifer!.
Being the very gracious tour guide that he is, Jay enlightened us by introducing us to a new birding hot spot - the feedlot. Not one, but two different feedlots! We were all quite impressed. To his credit, the first feedlot did reveal a Merlin, likely hunting the European Starlings, Red-winged, Yellow-headed, and Brewer's Blackbirds, and the occasional Cowbird.
When we needed a break from the wind, we hiked through a dense Russian Olive stand in search for a Barn Owl. My guides once again delivered with a brief view of one Barn Owl - another lifer! The search continued for a Long-eared Owl, but that would remain elusive.
Near the end of the day we arrived at Bruneau Dunes State Park. We were searching for Loons and Scoters, but none to be found. There was plenty of bird life around, the winding being a little lighter here.
Western Bluebirds and a Cedar Waxwing.
The Western Bluebirds were a bit of a surprise. Not sure if they over winter here or not. The lakes were covered in ducks of many varieties. Swarms would take flight, circle around and then descend again onto the lake.
Ducks over Bruneau Dunes.
On our way toward home, we finally found the last group of birders from the Audubon field trip some 6 hours after we had planned to link up with them!
The 5th lifer was a Marsh Wren observed early in the day at a stop near the reservoir. It was an impressive day, especially given the conditions.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Migratory Bird Research Abstract

There hasn't been a lot of activity on this blog as of late. My summer activities have ended so I don't have any new photos popping up. I have also been working on a number of other documents as of late. Multiple essays for scholarship applications, the first draft of my research manuscript, an abstract for an upcoming conference, and an extended abstract package for a travel grant to the conference have all sapped my writing energies.

The first phase of my research is proceeding nicely. My proposal, status update, and another status update have been posted on my blog. We decided to focus the first phase of the research on the weather aspects alone as the statistics of the predator prey relationships are a bit more complicated. We later discovered that so were the weather aspects, but that's a different story. We have worked through most of these issues.

In February there is a joint conference in San Diego of the American Ornithologists' Union, the Cooper Ornithological Society, and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists. I have submitted the abstract below to the conference hoping to be invited to present my research. I am also hoping to receive a travel grant from the conference to offset the costs of getting there. In the coming weeks I should find out if my abstract is accepted and if any additional support will be provided.

The writing was difficult as I have a lot to say, but the abstracts are limited to less than 180 words. The extended abstract for the travel grant was limited to three double spaced pages with graphs and references. This was also very tight. There wasn't any room to talk about the results of weather on the individual species. This is where some of the most fascinating results have been found. I guess its good to filter down now as my presentation would be limited to a 12 minute presentation followed by three minutes of questions. My first draft manuscript is pushing 25 pages with only limited graphics! I always thought it would be more difficult to write long manuscripts. I'm having the opposite problem!


The effect of weather on avian migration across diverse geographic regions remains to be determined. We evaluated the impact of regional cold fronts and localized weather phenomenon on the autumn migratory timing of multiple landbird and raptor species. The analysis focused on total landbirds plus the top ten individual species by volume along with total raptors plus the top five individual species. Using 11 years of data from the Idaho Bird Observatory (1997-2007), we determined significant migratory timing patterns which differ from the established literature with regards to the effect of regional cold fronts on autumn migration. Our data show a depression of migratory volumes of most species on the days immediately before, during, and after the passage of a cold front, with peak flights for most species occurring several days later. Multiple hypotheses may explain the unique impact of weather phenomenon on avian migration in the western United States; most notably that most avian species choose to migrate during calm winds and high pressure when the opportunity presents itself.