Snowy Owls Return

Snowy owl at Port Mahon - photo by Chris Bennett-DNRECIt’s another snowy owl year. The last time a snowy owl influx made news was the winter of 2011/2012. Not so long ago.

Read this blog post from the Vermont Center for Ecological Studies,
this blog post from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, featuring eBird data,
or this press release from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Photo: Great snowy owl at Port Mahon – November 29, 2013. Photo: Chris Bennett/DNREC

Delaware Studies Owls; Montana Builds Nest

Barn_owlDelaware Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists began banding barn owls at the beginning of June. Since the annual banding project began in 1996, the biologists have banded 598 barn owls, a division press release says.

The bands let the scientists collect data on the birds’ life span, home range, nest site fidelity, and migratory patterns, and also allow them to estimate population size. Birds banded in Delaware have also been spotted in Maryland and New Jersey.

Read the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife press release here.
See the action on the Delaware DNREC YouTube channel, here.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks teamed up with the Audubon Society to rebuild a great horned owl nest in a state park this season. Great horned owls don’t build their own nests, the article in the Seattle Post-Intellingencer explained. The nest the owls had been using for years was falling apart.

Normally, a great horned owl pair would move on to a more freshly built nest, at this point, but visitors enjoyed have the owls nesting in the park, so a new nest was built. The Associated Press article, which ran in the Seattle paper, reports that the owls approved of the new nest. They raised three owlets in it this season.

Read the AP story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here.

Photo: Barn owl by Dr.Thomas G. Barnes/University of Kentucky, used courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Deer Disease News

The most recently Wildlife Health Bulletin from US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center includes a list of resources for hemorrhagic disease, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetonge virus.

The bulletin is a two-page long PDF, but includes links to reports and news briefs as well as contact information for relevant personnel at the National Wildlife Health Center.

Find the bulletin here.

In Delaware, citizens, and particularly hunters, are being asked to report any dead deer that have signs of EHD or show no apparant sign of death. The Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife hopes to track where the outbreaks are occurring in the state.

Read the Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control press release, here.

Photo: A healthy white-tailed deer, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife.

Citizen Science Season: Turtles, Birds, and Disease

avian boultism monitoring volunteerWhere did the turtle cross the road? A citizen scientist has the answer, particularly in Massachusetts, where over the last few years citizen scientists have been tracking turtle crossings as part of the Turtle Roadway Mortality Monitoring Program. Volunteers are trained by Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife, a partnership between Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), Department of Transportation (DOT) Highway Division and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The training will take place next week.

Get more info on Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife, here.
Read the press release in iBerkshires.com

Next week is also when Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control wildlife biologist Matthew Bailey will introduce volunteers to monitor the state’s endangered piping plovers and other beach-nesting birds, and protect them from disturbance.

Read more about the training session, here.

There will be lots of training sessions for avian botulism monitors on Lake Michigan, perhaps because avian botulism is no where near as cute as either a piping plover or a turtle and you need to cast a wider net to get people to volunteer. Still, 44 citizen scientists volunteered with the US Geological Survey’s avian botulism monitoring program last year.

Read more about the program, here.

A home-grown citizen science project, the SeaBC Sea Bird Count, which encourages long-distance boaters to observe ocean birds and report them to eBird, took another step recently by creating a poster that can be displayed at marinas or posted on-line.

View or download the poster, here.

Photo: Avian botulism monitoring project volunteer, courtesy of the US Geological Survey

White Nose in Delaware

Fort Delaware

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced on Friday that white nose syndrome has been detected in bats at Fort Delaware State Park.

White nose fungus had been detected at maternity colonies of bats in Delaware in 2010, but this is the first time bats showing symptoms of the disease have been found. Because the bats were discovered in a popular state park with a Civil War fort and prison, the emphasis will be on educating visitors and limiting the spread of the disease when the park opens on May 1.

Read the DNREC press release, here.
Read the article in DelawareOnline.com, here.

Fort Delaware photo courtesy of Delaware State Parks

March Roundup of New Research

Spring is here and a bunch of wildlife surveys are underway around the country.

In Delaware:
-It’s the fifth and final year of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas.
-A special effort is being made in 2012 to tally owls as part of the atlas.
-Horseshoe crabs are being tallied again, and volunteers are being trained.
-The annual osprey count is offering a volunteer training for the first time since 2007.

Maryland is two years in to four years of surveys for an amphibian and reptile atlas and is looking for volunteers.

In Kansas, they are searching for lesser prairie chicken breeding areas, or leks, from the air with helicopters. Field crews will train on March 29-31 and conduct official survey work across all of western Kansas until the middle of May. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is also asking people to report leks. The survey is part of a five-state effort, and the survey technique will be evaluated.

In North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department has launched a two-year study of white-tailed deer in intensely farmed agricultural areas.

In Maine, biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have visited up to 100 dens each winter for 37 years, making the survey in the nation’s oldest radio-collar monitoring program for bears. This year the Maine Sunday Telegram wrote a story about it, with lots of pics. Read it here.

And in Washington, commuters have been reporting wildlife sightings for over a year on the I-90 corridor in anticipation of road improvements. The project’s first annual report was released recently, generating articles in the Everett Herald  and The Seattle Times, and coverage other media.

Photo of I-90 Wildlife Watch billboard by Paula MacKay/Western Transportation Institute, used by permission.

Nutria in Delaware: They’re Back

An alert fur-buyer tipped off the Delaware Department of Natural Resources to a breeding population of nutria just barely on the Delaware side of the state’s border with Maryland in the northern part of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Nutria, an invasive, nonnative rodent, have been found in the Chesapeake Bay/Delmarva Peninsula region for decades. But mostly they are in Maryland, and in 2002, Delaware thought it had eradicated the last of the its own breeding population of the animal.

Read the Delaware Department of Natural Resources press release on the find, here.

Read a news-story from Delaware Online, a Gannett Company, here. The story includes a link to a Google map showing the pond where the nutria group was found.

Find out more about nutria in the region from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project, here. This Web site has a map of nutria presence on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlilfe Service