Sunday, June 7, 2015

Counting Heads!

I have begun seeing my first chicks! They usually can't be seen for about ten days if you are watching from the ground. It is so thrilling when you can start counting heads during a feeding. I watched one nest today where the male was doing the feeding of two little guys....who were spending a lot of time establishing the "pecking order". Literally. Pecking at each other, motoring around the nest a bit. Mom sat on the sidelines and watched, and quietly food begged. The pecking phase seems to pass and feeding times become more harmonious on many nests, when seniority is clear and fish are abundant. It is so exciting when we get to start counting heads. I like to do it as soon as possible and then keep counting as the season goes on, so we can document the mortalities. Inevitably, some little guys don't survive. We continue to monitor and count heads until after fledging, to make this productivity study as accurate as possible. Many chicks die between now and fledging and numbers can become quite inflated if nests are not checked throughout the season. The mortality rate was somewhat high last year, so we are paying close attention to outcomes.

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