Birder's Guide

AUG 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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7 August 2018 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community refuge staff can oversee and intervene as needed. Since its completion earlier this year, the playa has enticed 17 species of migratory shorebirds—based on eBird reports—to stop in for a visit along their route to northern breeding areas, includ - ing the first county record of American Golden-Plover. To learn more about the incredible work happening at VdO and to support them by joining their Friends organiza - tion, go to or check out their Facebook page. Make sure to stop by and see the progress next time you're in Albuquerque. Safeguarding Boulder's Barn Owls: Bigger (Nest Boxes) are Better ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Barn Owls have long been nesting in Boulder County, Colorado. While many local populations are in decline across their global range, likely the result of urban development and the removal of nesting habitat such as old dead trees and dilapidated human structures, overall the Colorado population seems to be on an upswing—based on recent findings from the second Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas. So why the increase in Colorado? Surely some of the increase can be at - tributed to projects such as the one spearheaded by Scott Rashid and mem- bers of the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute in Estes Park, which is organizing volunteers to build, place, and monitor Barn Owl nesting boxes in Boulder County and beyond. In 2014, 10 horizontally positioned boxes (15" depth x 15" width x 30" length) were constructed based on blue - prints from credible online sources. Tiny cameras were placed in the boxes to get a closer look at the owls' courtship be - havior, nest timing, chick development, fledging success, and mortality, among other things. Of those 10 boxes, only one was active in the first year of the project. In early May of 2014, a male Barn Owl was filmed inside the nest box belting out seductive screeches and screams to the dark outside world. He left frequently and returned with the desiccated bodies of deer mice and voles, which he placed in a pile as an offering to potential mates. It wasn't long before a prospective mate answered his cries. And who could resist a pile of day-old rodent carcasses? The owls did what owls do and nesting sea - son was under way. Ten eggs were laid—on the high end of what's reported for the species—and all 10 of them hatched. Nesting continued as expected, with the male owl bringing gobs of small rodents for the first few weeks. Eventually the demand for food was higher than what the male could pro - vide on his own, at which time the female began leaving the box on nightly hunting escapades. With so many owlets eating so frequently, their regurgitated pellets were really piling up, and despite the mother's attempts to clear the nest box, things were getting awfully crammed; the nest which started with a depth of 15 inches had been reduced to only 7 inches near the entrance. The overly cramped quar- ters ultimately led to the death of three owlets, which were seemingly trampled by the seven older individuals. The nest successfully fledged seven, though the deaths may have been avoidable. It was back to the drawing board. Based on observations made in the 2014 nest, and after reconsulting the literature, the decision was made to re - place the boxes with boxes of larger di- mensions (18" depth x 15" width x 40" length). Success! Since the replacement of the smaller boxes, there have been zero owlet casualties as a result of box cramming. In 2017, Scott and his team monitored 17 nest boxes, seven of which were active, resulting in 38 successfully fledged owlets. To watch live streams of the Barn Owls in their nest boxes, and to donate to the cause, visit Amy Simso Dean: Inspiring Young Birders Through Project FeederWatch ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Summers are short in Minnesota and once the winter grabs hold there are few oppor- tunities for Minneapolis elementary school students to explore the outdoors. That didn't stop Amy Simso Dean from ensur- Raymond L. VanBuskirk Albuquerque, New Mexico n A Barn Owl peers down from the security of its nest box. Photo © Stephan Telm

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