Sunday, March 24, 2013

RINS trip #2

Colleen and I went out to our Raptor Inventory Nesting Survey (RINS) territory to try and find some raptor nests before the leaves fill in the trees.  The idea is to find active nests, figure out what is living in them, and then determine whether they produce chicks in the summer.

The first challenge is ignoring the eight million magpie nests in the area. Then you had to filter out all the big nests that are part of the Great Blue Heron rookery.  Fortunately, those are occupied now so it's a lot easier.  No mistaking a heron for a hawk or an eagle.
Turkey Vultures are raptors and we saw quite a few of them.  The challenge is that no one anywhere in RINS (all of Utah) has found a vulture nest.  They must nest somewhere and it has to be fairly big. This could be our big accomplishment this summer.
We started slow, finding a few hawks but no recent nests.
We finally found a few interesting nests and things were picking up.  We had gone past a city park that had previously had some, but seen nothing.  Colleen decided we should go back again and double check.  Great call!  If you look closely you can see one eye and ear of a great horned owl.  She was laying so low in the nest that she might already have eggs.
Just down the road we watched some Red Tailed Hawks building a big nest up on a cliff.   The nice part is that we should be able to get pretty close to both these hawks and the owls, hoping to check for babies.
I think we will get a lot more from this.  We saw Bald and Golden Eagles and lots more hawks.  We have created a fairly long list of "fresh" nests.  We just don't know who will use them this year.
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