Friday, January 22, 2010

Bird Migration

Male Prothonotary Warbler at nest along boardwalk at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest by Mark Musselman
At the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, we are set to begin the second year of Project PROTHO. With the help of schools like R. H. Rollings Middle School of the Arts, we are collecting 1/2-gallon milk/juice cartons that will be transformed into nest boxes by students, including 5th graders from St. James Gaillard Elementary School in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Three. Master Naturalists, including graduates from the Lowcountry Institute on Spring Island and Coastal Master Naturalists from the Caw Caw program, will be volunteering to place the nest boxes in degraded areas of the swamp where Prothonotary Warblers cavity sites for nesting. Project PROTHO is truly a CITIZEN-science project!

The only component that we are missing is the Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea)! Of course, like other species, these birds have migrated south for the winter and will not return until the last week of March. We'll be ready! In the meantime, we would be keenly interested in where the Francis Beidler Forest birds winter in Central America or the northern coast of South America. It is possible that a banded bird could be captured or a dead bird found and that information relayed to the Bird Banding Laboratory (North America), but it is unlikely due to the limited number of birds we have banded and the lack of studies on their wintering grounds. It would be nice to outfit the Beidler Forest birds with tracking devices similar to the ones used to map the migration patterns of the Arctic Terns.

While we wait, students will continue to construct nest boxes and we'll debate which one of us will see the first flash of yellow or hear the first "tsweet tsweet tsweet tsweet!"

Image by Mark Musselman

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