Kestrel Incubating April-10-2021

I have several topics that I want to spend time on but I feel I don’t have enough time. So, I’m going to write a mostly chronological history of events that took place starting on January 13, and then in the future, I will give more depth for some adventures. Here goes.

On January 13, I had just gone to bed and turned my TV off, and minutes later, I heard something in my bedroom that I first thought was a scampering  mouse, but the noise got louder and closer,  so I turned my light on  to see a bat flying in circles under my bedroom’s ceiling. The bat did not like the light and flew behind a stack of  books to perch in a vertical position. 

After my breakfast the following morning, I drove the wayward bat to the Ohio Wildlife Center where it was admitted to be cared for until a warmer season would make it possible for it to be released back to the wild. I like bats; they always “smile” at me.

On January 26, I received my first Pfizer COVID shot in Shelby, Ohio.

Between February 8 – 25, I reinstalled 57 nestboxes on the Panhandle Road Grid for Tree Swallows located along Panhandle Road on the Delaware Wildlife Area. Weeks later,  after the snow melted, the Division of Wildlife had the five-acre field brush hogged and the swallows love it. If you want to enjoy a positive interaction with wildlife, try tossing feathers for the swallows. April and May are the best times and white feathers are preferred. Make sure your feathers are legal and the Internet has sites that sell feathers. The Panhandle Road grid is perfect for feather tossing since the vegetation is short enough so a fallen feather can still be harvested by a swallow. And if you hunt pheasants, the grid’s field will grow tall to be ready for the hunting seasons next fall and winter.

On February 19, I received my second Pfizer shot.

On February 21, I accompanied Tom Domin and Erik Lindman as they cleaned the old Osprey nest off of  the most northern platform at Alum Creek Lake, named AC-1. They knew what they were doing and did not need any help from me and I enjoyed the visit.

On February 26, I arrived at the Chappelear Drama Center on the Ohio Wesleyan University campus to fill its bird feeders. As I approached the feeder platform that held four feeders, two of which are gallon milk cartons with four windows cut in the plastic to allow birds access to black sunflower seed, I could see a bird standing inside one of the milk cartons and it failed to fly. Then, I noticed that one of its eyes was completely swelled shut and its other eye was almost sealed. My hands entered the carton from opposite sides, but the bird, now identified as a female House Finch, flew out a third opening. Its flight was short as it flew into the front wall of the drama center. It fluttered to the pavement below and I quickly took off my sock hat and sneaked over to drop my hat over the partially blind bird.  I drove my car with one hand while gently holding the finch in the other. Once home, I placed the unlucky bird in my small transportation cage and drove it to the Ohio Wildlife Center.

Alum Creek PROW Map
Three zones make up the AC-PROW project

On March 9 and 10,  I reinstalled 14 nestjars in the northern portion of Alum Creek Lake near Osprey platform AC-1. About half of the nestjars have 1-3/8 inch entrances for Tree Swallows and the remaining half have 1-1/8 inch holes for Prothonotary Warblers. When the lake is at “winter pool,” its depth is managed at 885 feet above sea level by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Summer pool is managed at 888 feet around April 1. So, in March,  I can return my nestjars to their pipes by walking on the exposed lake bottom.

In my data books, the project is listed as AC-PROW with the last four digits being the official  alpha code for Prothonotary Warblers. Since my hobby car and canoe can only hold one third of the nestjars at a time, I have divided the project into three zones; A, B and C. Zone-A is the most northern.   

March 10: I saw my first Tree Swallows at the PRG.

March 11 – 13: I salvaged 18 winter-killed bluebirds from nestboxes at Delaware State Park. All were presented to the OSU Tetrapod Collection on March 25. In box-92, a male bluebird had a leg band that had been attached on June 11, 2019 by one of my ten students that were participating in OWjL Academic Camp for talented and gifted middle school students at OWU. We only banded nestlings of bluebirds, Tree Swallows and House Wrens. I would hold the nestling and present its tarsus in a horizontal position to the opened band held in the jaws of the banding plyers. Once everything was lined up, I would say, “squeeze,” and the camper would close the band with their hand-held plyers. Campers were always intense at focusing on keeping their moment safe for the nestling. My coarse is called Bluebird Trail Management and the class  that banded the unlucky bluebird was composed of  ten girls and no boys. 

On March 16, Dick Phillips and I checked all 18 nestboxes of the Delaware County American Kestrel Project that was launched in 1993. We added white pine bedding to seven boxes. Nine boxes had kestrel cups and two boxes had bedding but did not show a cup that would fit to a kestrel’s body. Most exciting was that we counted 16 falcons near the boxes that included five pairs, making the season’s future promising.

March 17: I called Kyle Miller to officially retire from OWjL Camp after teaching 750 campers during  31 years between 1989 – 2019. One of the reasons for my retirement is the threat of unpredictable weather. In 2019, high water closed Delaware State Park for one and one half weeks of  the three one-week sessions of OWjL Camp, caused, I believe,  by climate change. I will miss the middle schoolers. Like me, they say what’s on their minds. A good trait that I enjoy.

On March 27, I had a pacemaker installed in my upper chest after experiencing periods of weakness and interrupted sleep. I saw my doctor on Friday afternoon and soon found myself in Riverside Hospital awaiting surgery on Saturday morning. Apparently, a set of nerves in my heart had stopped working. All went well with the surgery and a taxi took me back to Delaware on Sunday morning. I must not lift things with my left arm for up to six weeks which affects my hobbies. I won’t be able to use my canoe until mid-May.

Team Members Zone C
Three team members can be seen along the debris filled shore line of Zone-c on April 6, 2021.

Communications set in motion a plan to finish reinstalling nestjars for AC-PROW. Craig Flockerzie of Preservation Parks organized a team that agreed to meet on Tuesday, April 6 at 3:00 along North Old State Road that parallels the lake as it goes north to join Kilbourne. I used my right arm to load 14 nestjars in my hobby car and parked in the grassy dip along the road at 2:30 where I proceeded to use twine to tie pairs of nestjars together so they could be easily carried. Each helper could then carry a pair over each shoulder.

Everyone arrived in their personal cars at 3:00. The list included Craig, Anna Cotterman, Kevin Parrot and Wesley Wingert. The horse trail was very near to where we were parked and after plans were announced, off we went to walk the trail and seek access to the exposed lake shore. The shore had many downed trees but the reinstallation went well and we had a good time with many good observations and conversations along with many spring induced bird calls. Zone-C was now ready to offer nest sites to the Tree Swallows, the warblers would show up weeks later.

Clearing Log Alum Creek Zone C
The team is getting ready to roll a log away from two anchor pipes on April 11, 2021.

Plans were made to finish reinstallations on Sunday afternoon, April 11. I arrived early to unload the next group of nestjars and everyone else arrived at 3:00. Craig and Kevin returned for their second time and Logan Dunn, Chris Roshon, and Gabe Ross were eager to help the prothonotaries for the first time. Zone-B made for a longer walk to its exposed lakeshore, but the lakeshore was bare compared the dead tree debris that was along Zone-C. The reinstallation had no drawbacks and the walk to and from was very scenic. Both expeditions stimulated many conversations about many aspects of nature and enjoying the outdoors. All involved had professions that involved interactions with the natural world and everyone was dressed for the weather and the horse trail. Everyone had a good time.

I think that most folks would enjoy hiking the horse trail and you can start out by visiting Hogback Ridge Park that has an Equestrian Trail that links up with the horse trail on the east side of the lake. Alum Creek State Park has an Equestrian Day-Use and Bridle Campground on the westside of the lake. Give the horse trail a try.  

Kestrel Incubating April-10-2021
A female kestrel is incubating eggs on April 10, 2021.

On  April 10, Dick Phillips and I found 14 active kestrel nests with eggs among the project’s 18 boxes. I should say that  Dick found the active nests since only he lifted and carried the ladder to look into the boxes. As my left side healed, I could only ride along. The kestrel season if off to a good start.  

Well, my report of updates is long enough for now. I’ll sign off and we’ll see how the seasons unfold in 2021. Conserve on!