Skagit Raptors Field Report November 30, 2013

By Ben Vang Johnson, Project Lead

On Saturday we went out on a banding trip.  It was overcast with occasional drizzle.  Raptors seemed scarce to find at first.  We made an attempt to trap a hunting female American kestrel.  She was hunting a field from powerlines.  We placed a bal-chatri trap baited with mice nearby.  She seemed to watch it for awhile, but then continued to hunt the field.  We then set a second bal-chatri trap baited with a house sparrow to try to entice her down.  Again she watched it, but then went back to hunting worms in the field.  We saw her make several successful captures of worms, which she would then eat while perched on the powerline. When it was obvious she wasn’t going to go for our traps we picked them up and went looking for other birds.

In the same area we saw a nice merlin perched on a conifer.  We set our phai trap with a house sparrow and really expected this merlin to go for it.  It seemed to be in a perfect position.  It took off from it’s perch and we thought it was coming in.  But instead of coming for our trap, it chased after a wild songbird and disappeared over a barn!  Too bad.

Recaptured female kestrel. Photo by Ben Vang Johnson

Later in the day we spotted another female kestrel in a different location and set out a bal-chatri with sparrow.  She came in right away and was captured.  Turns out she was one of the birds we banded last winter!  Another piece of data showing winter site fidelity.  She was number 03 (red band).  She was originally banded 2/2/2013 about half a mile away from where we caught her this weekend.  We processed her and let her go. She looked very healthy.

Less than a mile away we came across another kestrel, a male this time.  Again, hunting worms from a powerline.  We noticed immediately that he was already banded with our red bands, so instead of putting out the trap we setup our scope to try to get a resighting. We watched him make several successful captures of worms.  We were able to determine the first digit of his band was “0”, but had difficulty with the second digit.  It was either 00 or 04, but we just couldn’t be certain.  He was located along a busy road and he was very active making hunting attempts in the field.  It was also very windy and the scope was vibrating quite a lot, making the resighting difficult.  I suspect it was 00, a male banded on 11/11/2012 less than half a mile away from this location.

Our last trapping attempt was made on a red-tailed hawk which we put out a bal-chatri baited with mice.  The red-tail was in a good location to see the mice and we found a good spot to watch from.  While hoping the red-tail would take the bait, a vehicle came down the road and stopped right under it.  The raptor got spooked and flew off.  Oh well, the challenges of trapping in populated areas. Although somewhat frustrating day with our misses, it still felt good to get some valuable site fidelity data from a recapture and partial resighting.


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