In late June Frank, Twan, and I lead a breeding bird survey training session on CAS' 155-acre Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to our Fairfield center located on 2325 Burr Street, Fairfield. Described here in the 2010 Connecticut State of the Birds report, there is a growing need for volunteers trained to systematically collect the information necessary to best protect our birds and their habitats. We wanted to impart the protocols, techniques, and tips for how to discover and categorize a species as a possible, probable, or confirmed breeder.
Our group started things off right. As we gathered in the parking lot, we had a fledgling Tufted Titmouse in the tree over our heads. It was fed by an adult who was taking seed from the CAS center's feeders. This was a quick breeding confirmation. Listening for begging calls or the voices of young is one of the easier ways to confirm a species as breeding. Fledgling Black-capped Chickadee sing or call with half the effort of an adult, putting out a scratchy and shortened version that can be identified from a far distance.
In the above photo, the group is watching and recording both House Wren and Tree Swallow going in and out of nest boxes carrying food. Nest boxes not only provide a safe home for the birds, but they can make monitoring breeding even easier, and provide many enjoyable moments. If you have never erected one in your yard, come to one of our centers to purchase some for next season. Our staff can help you decide on what breeding species your yard habitat could support.
Below the group was listening to a Great Crested Flycatcher that we would soon see flying in and out of a nest cavity about 25 feet up in a tree. These can be difficult to locate. When I took the photo Twan was instructing the group that if you can find a male singing at a location more than a week apart the species would be classified as a probable breeder. This is particularly useful in dense forest where you may not be able to see or locate a nest. Ovenbird, a species we heard repeatedly during our walk, have an inconspicuous nest but an easy song to hear and identify that they sing frequently all spring and summer.
On the way out, we stopped at farm pond near the entrance to the 155-acre sanctuary. The turtle on the left is an eastern painted turtle. Twan explained to the group that the turtle on the right was a red-eared slider, an invasive species. They are often released as former pets. If you look closely, you can see the "red ear" that gives the species its name.
Releasing former pets into the wild is exceptionally damaging to the local ecosystem. We will have to trap and remove this turtle, placing it in captivity again.
Breeding bird survey work is sorely needed across the entire state, especially in Important Bird Areas or other bird sanctuaries. As you may have seen in previous entries, Twan and I have tried to conduct a breeding bird survey at every CAS property or sanctuary this summer. We are about 80% done. Even though we are experienced in the protocol, there is still simply not enough time among all our other work for us to complete it by ourselves, let alone monitor the IBAs or other vital habitat. Please consider volunteering in the future.
Photos © Scott Kruitbosch