Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Project NestWatch Update: June 2016

By Anna Autilio  
Environmental Educator 

Baby bird season is well underway all over Vermont, and here at VINS we are monitoring the 16 nestboxes on our campus for Project NestWatch. This citizen science program, run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, aims to monitor the status and trends in bird reproductive biology, including when nesting occurs, how many eggs are laid, how many of them hatch, and how many hatchlings survive to leave the nest. Literally anyone can participate in this global project, provided you can find a bird’s nest, and can safely keep track of its inhabitants throughout the spring and summer seasons.

Our boxes at VINS, which stand 6 to 7 feet above the ground and all have north-facing holes, were built to house cavity-nesting songbirds like Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. So far in 2016, 10 of the nestboxes are occupied with growing families, including one House Wren nest (Troglodytes aedon) with five hatchlings, and nine Tree Swallow nests (Tachycineta bicolor) with 3-6 hatchlings each.

Throughout the summer, we will be checking in on these birds and their young once a week, to minimize disturbance to the nests, but ensure that enough data is collected to accurately assess breeding success of these species. Critical points in the breeding cycle of birds include nest construction, egg-laying, young hatching, and young fledging.


The boxes were all checked for the first time on June 2nd, and only contained eggs. Hatchlings began to appear during the next check on June 9th, but two nests still contained only eggs. Stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Baby Bird Season Begins at VINS with lots of Barred Owlets


By Jordan Daley
Science Outreach Coordinator


Did you know that Barred Owls are Vermont's most common owl? They inhabit our old forests and wetland areas. They love large dark trees with cavities and plenty of prey around. These silent flyers will sneak up on anything they can get their talons on, from rodents to crayfish.

They are fascinating birds with striking patterns and huge dark eyes that make even the most calloused birder melt. Their calls are wild and varied depending on their age and season, but the "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?" is a classic! Like most owls, they've got an air of mystery. They're nighttime hunters, relying on their camouflage during the day and their excellent sense of hearing at night.


And if the adult version doesn't entice you to absolutely adore these amazing raptors, maybe the baby version will.


Meet our first baby barred owl of the season: BDOW 16-055. (A charming name, I know. We don't name our rehab patients. The goal is to return them to the wild.)

This bird was brought to us after falling from a nest. The nest was located but the little guy was just too small to climb or fly back up and after careful observation and a couple attempts to reach the 50 ft cavity, we made the call to admit this baby. He's already been at VINS for about two weeks and is growing healthy and strong!


He didn't get to spend much time alone in his cozy little enclosure.


An enormous thank you to our Vermont State Game Wardens, who presented our second baby barred!

BDOW-16-063 came to us just a few days later. He was presented by Warden Carey who brought him in from Chittenden, VT. This little guy had a similar story to our first patient. He also fell from a nest, but we were unable to locate either a nest or parents.

Game wardens are our partners in wildlife conservation. We regularly receive patients that they've rescued from illegal possession scenarios, accidental or malicious gunshot wounds, our simply displaced babies. In this case, lots of people worked together to get this young owlet to a safe place for care.

Side-by-side these two chicks started feeding together and interacting as siblings in the nest.

Welcome to Owlet #3, a tiny Barred Owl from St. Johnsbury!

A couple stumbled upon this tiny fellow while hiking in the Northeast Kingdom. It is unclear how this bird came to be on the ground, but in our dense Northern forests, it can be difficult to locate a barred owl nest. This chick was initially discovered by the couple's dog who picked it up. Luckily this dog was gentle and the owlet didn't sustain any puncture wounds.

This couple logged over 20 miles on trails to get this bird safely to VINS. So young that his vision still isn't developed this bird has taken to his older nest-mates well and often looks to them for food and warmth. We're happy to see him habituating nicely and grateful for the long hours the presenters put in to get him to safety!





UPDATE: Baby Barred #4 is here! 
This fellow came in a little bigger than we had expected and that is because he had been living in human hands longer than we knew. If there is any important lesson we want our friends and readers to learn it's this: humans don't make good wild animal parents. Not only that, but when you have rescued a raptor or any other protected bird, it is a legal requirement that you report the finding to your state wildlife agency or a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility within 24 hours. 

While we appreciate the rescuer's good intentions, the wisest step they took was bringing the owlet to us. Most people don't keep their kitchens stocked with owl food- but luckily we do! Most people don't have owl masks and puppets for preventing feeding- but VINS does! Most families don't have time to feed baby birds every 15, 30 or 60 minutes, let alone the correct mix of nutrients and tools we use to mimic feeding in the wild- but our rehabbers are experts! For now this baby barred owl is doing well with his fellow nest-mates but we'll be watching closely for signs of imprinting.

Thank you again to everyone who is keeping an eye out for orphaned and injured birds! You're the first step in a line of care that is essential to returning those birds to the wild. Please consider helping to support these owls with a donation to the VINS Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation!


UPDATE: And then there was 5!

That's right, you read it correctly. There 5 baby barred owls at VINS Center for Wild Bird Rehab. Yes, we're amazed too. And these 5 babies are starting test their wings! They're all eating amazingly well and hoping about in their new outside enclosure. You can watch them live on our VINS Patient Cam. This last fellow came to us just this week and is already well acclimated. He was found with a droopy left wing in Coolidge State Park, VT. After just a couple days of resting the wing he is already looking great! Once this guy can fly well and hunt for himself we'll be sending him home!


Stay tuned as these owlets grow up healthy and strong and return to the wild! We're updating our friends on social media using #babybarredvt



What can you do to support our rehabilitation facility? Adopt a raptor!