Monday was an enjoyable 74 degrees and overcast. Due to some technical difficulties with the battery in my Daisy electronic point sight attached to my scope (probably had something to do with me leaving it in Croom the other night…but that’s another long story .. =)..), I arrived at Cluster 18 at 6:50 and it looked like a ghost town. I waited around for an hour hoping the last chick, who was the runt of the group, was laying low waiting for Dad to come feed her. Around 8:00 AM all was still quiet and I decided to go looking for the RCW family hoping to confirm if she fledged. First I headed south then west without hearing them. Disappointed, I thought I would take a break and come back later. It was now 9:00 AM so I headed back to my truck to go check on Cluster 26.
Cluster 26 – Around 10:30, I took a break from Cluster 18 to check on Cluster 26. Vince reported eggs last Monday, and today is day 11. I arrived at the Cluster around 11 AM and all was very quiet. I found a shady spot to wait for 10 min to see if anyone would show up. Soon a Red-bellied nest caught my attention, so I positioned myself where I could watch both the RCW cavity and the red bellieds feeding. At 11:15, an adult RCW flushed from the nest and flew south without making any calls. At 11:45, an adult RCW came back with food and proceeded to enter a still very quiet nest. I left Cluster 26 at 1:00 PM and had seen the adult RCW enter the nest with food three more times. I assumed the chicks were newly hatched due to the silent nest and feeding.
I monitored Cluster 18 from 6:30-10:30 and returning again at 1:30-2:30. The female chick from yesterday is happily chirping with her head sticking out of the cavity… But currently has no desire to explore the outside world.
Hours-6:15-2:45=7.5 hr, 2.5 hr drive
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5/10/12 – Cluster 18
After a much needed rain last night, the forest was crisp and damp but the sky was clear and it was a pleasant 68 deg. I arrived at the Fire Tower at 6:18 AM and waited until 6:30 for Bev and Al until I realized the sky was getting to be way too light! I jumped back in my truck and hurried over to the power lines to find the Hansens white Subaru and was relieved to see it was only me who screwed up the time. This was what I worked so hard all year out in the forest for….was to see these little guys have a successful nest! As I approached the nesting tree around 6:45 AM, I heard the call of the RCW’s, saw Al hunkered down like a sniper in the brush scoping out the nest, and soon Bev popped out from behind a clump of turkey oak to greet me. It was determined that the RCW’s had not fledged yet, but the parents were feeding frequently and the female chick looked strong as she would extend her head all the way out of the cavity for food. We observed the birds until approximately 7:30 AM. Then Bev and Al decided to go on to check other Clusters while Istayed put to watch the nest. After 15 min. I decided that it could be a while before the chicks fledge. I headed back to the truck to grab a chair, a sandwhich and an ice cold coke (nothing like being prepared!). I arrived back to the nesting tree at approximately 8:00 AM and heard an immature RCW call….but it was not coming from the nesting tree. I dropped my things and grabbed the binoculars to check around and saw a fledgling next to an adult pecking on a nearby tree. She was clearly smaller in size. I grabbed the scope and was able to verify the bright clean bands on the right leg (O/O/LtB). I called Bev and Al to let them know one chick had fledge and they soon joined me to verify the sex and wait patiently for the next one to fledge. The second chick also looked strong as she would poke her head completely out of the cavity to feed and often times just to take long stares down at the ground. On more than one occassion we did manage to see the bands of a leg inside the cavity with O/LtG. Bev and Al left around 11:00 AM and I stuck it out until 1:00 PM hoping to get a glimpse of this chicks awkward first flight. However, my efforts went unrewarded as the second chick was reluctant to leave and we were not sure that the third bird was still alive. I am looking forward to meeting Bev and Al tomorrow morning to hopfully find both chicks safely clinging to a pine tree.
Volunteer hours: 6:30 AM – 1:00 PM = 7 hours, plus 2.5 en route
4/26/12 – Sunday
It was a Dark and Stormy night……..
I woke up at 4:30 to check the weather and was happy to see a window of relief between storms. I was excited about seeing my first banding at Cluster 18 and took a chance that the weather was going to hold out and that Vince was going to show.
I headed up to Citrus early to check on Cluster 26. I arrived at tree 591 at approximately 7:05, dad was already out answering to moms calls and in flew two more RCW’s. At first there were four birds. After about 5 minutes one bird flew off to the east, dad and mom started copulating, then mom, dad, and one helper flew off to the west to forage together. Then before I could gather up my scope, two more birds started copulating on a nearby tree. I raised the binoculars to my eyes to reveal two eastern bluebirds. (that is one for the BBA’s I need to enter for Bev!) There was also lots of pecking sounds in all directions as there were three Red-headed woodpeckers continuously chasing each other, two Red bellies working on a nearby snag and a big ol’ pileated knocking dead branches off a nearby pine tree.
I followed the family west as they would circle around back to tree 591 and work on it. Then they would repeat the same pattern. I watched as two RCW’s would take turns entering the cavity for a few moments then switch. Then the three birds would fly off again. I can only surmise that they are diligently working on the nest getting the nursery ready for egg laying. It was overcast for the first hour making it hard to read the bands in the low light. But the sun came out around 8:00 AM and I was able to get good looks at the right leg of dad R: LB/S and the 2009 male R: Y/S. I assumed the third RCW was mom because there was copulation. Although there was still plenty of action, I pried myself away at aproximately 8:40 to meet Vince and Erin for the banding at Cluster 18.
Cluster 18 -
I arrived at the Cluster parking area in the power line easement around 8:50 AM – just in time to carry a ladder to the heart of Cluster 18. The sun was out and it had warmed up to the low 80′s. This was exciting for me to see baby RCW chicks for the first time! At 9:04 AM Vince successfully pulled the first two chicks out of the cavity and tried a few more times before he finally was able to nab number 3. He stored all three chicks safely in a soft padded NASCAR cooler to ensure a safe journey down the ladder. The banding went off without a hitch as the birds were back safely in their cavity in just under 20 minutes. As the ladders were taken apart the weather turned and rain began drizzling from the sky. We hurried back to the trucks and called it a morning.
Volunteer Hrs: 2.5 hr, 2.5 hr drive