Monday, January 21, 2013

Night Out With Biologist

Mike Morrow, who has been here for over 20 years.  He took us under his wings as we walked all over this prairie tracking and capturing the chickens that are wearing radio transmitters.  We had done telemetry at Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR tracking bobcats and we were eager to do it again with the prairie chickens.

That's Mike on the right of the picture at our pot luck (blog coming later).

This is the radio transmitter that gets attached to the bird.

This is the receiver.  The knobs at the bottom are tuned to the transmitter number of each bird that is being tracked.  

We were ready to go at 6:30pm and returned at 11:30pm.  We were both weary from walking through ankle deep water (potholes), rose bushes, head high grasses with big clumps at the base (blue stem), and crossing under barbed wire fencing  in 40 degree temperature.

The first bird was caught at 7:40.  A nice young male.  Mike showed us the bird as he pointed out identifying features, the yellow eyebrow, the yellow air sacs, and the beautiful long neck (pinnae) feathers.  This one was very healthy with a full crop.

Mike carried the receiver and antenna and led the way as we listened to the beep beeping from the bird's radio.  The closer you get, the louder the sound becomes.  Wallace carried the net.  When Mike got close, the net was handed off to him.  Our instruction was to stay put until the bird was caught and then to come forward to help.  We then bagged fecal, noting on each bag the date, time, and number of the bird.  Then the bird was put into a wooden crate.  When we captured three, it was time to  drive to the van (portable lab) where they were weighed, measured, aged etc.

The bird Mike is holding took us on a looong walk!!!  She had flushed twice before being caught.  

I have mixed feelings about all this.  I feel for the birds, what they go though during the process, while at the same time knowing all this information is necessary.  

When Mike stepped out of the back, he told me to get in there for a better look.  It was quite interesting indeed!!!

This is one of the blank data sheets that gets filled out about each bird captured.  There was a total of fifteen birds captured that night.

This is one of two trucks with antennas that are rotated manually from inside that pick up the transmissions while driving about.  They go out twice a day 5 days a week.  Some birds go missing, some are fatalities.  There are 75 birds that are wearing the radios.

We left the group at 11:30, they stayed out until 5:00.  They have gone out three consecutive nights.

The research was done to see how well the captured birds are faring since they have been released onto the refuge.

Our adventure continued as we tried to find our way back at night in unfamiliar territory without any landmarks.  We finally came upon Horseshoe Lake and then we knew where we were.

Until next time...

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