Spring has arrived

The 2019 field season is upon us! A warm welcome to our new and returning citizen science volunteers! Unlike the start of the 2018 red-headed woodpecker breeding season, this spring has been much slower in terms of green up and subsequent activity of many of the insects and animals we find at Cedar Creek. Many areas of the U.S. have experienced cooler than normal temperatures this spring, and the slow start to the breeding season is likely linked to these patterns, given that temperature is a primary cue for many birds that migrate.


While the slower start to breeding is apparent this year, some of the red-headed woodpeckers that we are studying are right on schedule. As of last week we confirmed 5 active (eggs present) nests and as of today we have a total of 13 active nests that we are monitoring. Two of these active nests already have nestlings and it's highly likely that this number will grow in the weeks ahead.


Red-headed woodpecker in nest cavity. Photo by Jim Gindorff.

Another exciting development over the last few weeks has been our observations of a number of red-headed woodpeckers that have returned to Cedar Creek after leaving for the winter. Some of these birds are still wearing GPS pinpoint devices and geolocators that we attached last year, and if we can recapture them this summer, we'll be able to determine where they wintered by downloading the location data from the GPS units. We observed about 20 birds at Cedar Creek during our counts this winter, but for now your guess is as good as ours as to the wintering locations of the birds that decided to leave Cedar Creek last fall. Geolocators store light-level data, which will give us information on how birds use nest cavities and nighttime roosts during the breeding season and roosts during the winter months. We're excited to share these results once we have them.


Female red-headed woodpecker wearing GPS pinpoint device and geolocator. Photo by Jim Gindorff.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. Happy spring and happy birding!

© 2018 Elena West

All rights reserved. Images used with permission.