Delaware County Conservation – 2018 Early July Updates

Tree Swallow Pair on Post - Photo Earl Harrison

Carolina Chickadee - Photo Earl HarrisonEarly July is not the best time to report on avian nesting seasons since most species have not finished their seasonal use of nestboxes, nestjars, and nest platforms. Only Carolina Chickadees have completed their nesting season with four successful nests that produced 23 offspring after eight attempts with eggs. This was a terrible year for chickadees when compared to 2015 when 59 fledglings took flight. I list other species below.


Osprey on the Wing - Photo Earl HarrisonOf seven nest platforms that stand in the county, two nestlings are doing well above Delaware Lake near the Rt. 229 bridge. Also, two nestlings occupy platform H-2 nearest the Galena boardwalk at Hoover Reservoir. Hoover’s H-1 platform had been claimed by Canada Geese that forced the evicted Osprey to nest in a natural nest on the nearby island.

Four platforms at Alum Creek presently host four families. Three fish hawk nestlings are in the most northern nest, AC-1, while the next platform, AC-2, has an unknown number of nestlings due to a later nest that followed the hatching of a Canada Goose family. It usually takes two weeks after Ospreys hatch before you can see the heads of young with a spotting scope. Platform AC-3 has two young while the last platform, AC-4, at the southern end of the line also contains two young.

Now is a good time to watch these nests if you or your family needs some good entertainment. Also, I plan to present a history of the Delaware County Osprey Project from 1982 to the present, with its scientific conclusions, at the 2018 Ohio Avian Research and Conservation Conference at Denison University on October 20. Hope to see you there.

Prothonotary Warblers

Prothonotary Warbler center - Photo Earl HarrisonFirst the good news; I have attached U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum leg bands to six families of nestlings totaling 25 golden swamp warblers. I checked all 45 nestboxes and nestjars on July 8 and found three more active nests totaling seven eggs and hatchlings. I will be diligent launching my canoe as needed since the latest historic first-egg-date for this species at Alum Creek is July 14.

The bad news, or I should say the routine news, is that House Wrens have evicted 23 eggs from five nests since my project is set up along the north and western shores of Alum Creek Lake near the Osprey platforms. The shore line is brushy wren habitat. If I could establish a Prothonotary project where beavers have felled, girdled, or flooded trees with their ponds, then I could space boxes far enough from brushy habitat to avoid wrens. So far, such habitats have been missing from North America for the last three hundred and more years. Wildlife management for the beavers’ return is taking place in more states each year and I will report on this when I write my annual reports about my warbler and Tree Swallow projects at the end of their seasons.

American Kestrels

American Kestrel on Wire - Photo Earl HarrisonAgain, I will have lots to report on after our small falcons have completed their seasons. For now, kestrels have claimed 15 of the project’s 18 boxes and have fledged 48 from 11 boxes while four nests still house nestlings and one box contains a second seasonal clutch of four eggs. Dick Phillips and I have banded 62 nestlings and the family of four eggs will hatch around July 15, then toward the end of the month they will be old enough to sex and band. We like to band our families between 14 and 24 days after hatching and they fledge about a month after emerging from eggs. It has been a very successful year for the falcons.

Panhandle Road Grid

I will also report on the success of blending two nestbox grids to make one grid of 55 boxes in one field. For now, it has been a spiritual experience each time when I invested an hour or more monitoring the grid boxes plus two boxes that are paired five yards apart east of the area’s parking lot. Every box location has housed nesting Tree Swallows.

On April 6 and 25, I trapped and killed two male House Sparrows after one had killed a male swallow. On April 25, swallows were busy adding nesting material to boxes and bluebirds already had laid one egg in Box-50. I immediately paired a second box, labeled “X”, six yards from Box-50 that was quickly claimed by swallows. When I left the grid that day, I knew that all box locations would be claimed by swallows.

The conservation goal to raise 214 swallows was set after adding the number of swallows raised in separate grids (112 and 102 swallows) in 2017. As of July 9, the number of Tree Swallows raised after two grids were blended into one is 241 fledged and 10 nestlings remain in their nestboxes. The blending worked to enhance conservation.

Delaware’s Smith Park

Eastern Bluebird - Photo Earl HarrisonSmith Park is located along Troy Road on the west side of Delaware. Twenty boxes now stand 25 yards apart in a drainage ditch that parallels the road and leads to a pond. Tree Swallows had claimed 11 boxes and have produced 48 fledglings with five nestlings to go. Three pairs of Eastern Bluebirds have fledged ten, and two nests hold a total of nine nestlings awaiting their chance to experience the park’s splendid habitat. Their success at this moment is partially due to a trapping campaign between March 28 and June 19 to eradicate 45 alien House Sparrows. The sparrows were humanely dispatched on site and most are now in my freezer and will be transferred to several university museums to be used for educational purposes. None will go to waste. Before their removal, the park’s sparrows managed to kill a female bluebird in addition to destroying eight bluebird eggs in two nests.

Other Locations

Delaware State Park with its 164 boxes, the original office at Alum Creek State Park with 18 boxes, and the Olentangy Environmental Control Center with 50 boxes, each has its own story that I will report on in the future. For now, the birds are doing a fairly good job of perpetuating their own kind as they entertain an aging conservationist. Conserve on!