As of June 26, Dick Phillips and I have made nine monitoring trips to 18 kestrel nestboxes that make up the Delaware County Kestrel project that was launched in 1993. Since the project’s first nest in 1996, our continent’s smallest falcons have fledged 1,164 offspring.
Five of our latest visits, starting with May 20, we have added U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leg bands to 14 families for a total of 66 hawklets. We will check all 18 boxes during the second week of July to see how many of the 66 successfully fledged while we also expect to find some boxes with second clutches of eggs. The latest first egg date for Delaware County’s kestrels is around June 12.
During the early part of the season, we try to check the boxes every two weeks to make sure European Starlings fail to hatch eggs. Starlings attempted 12 nests while occupying the same four nestboxes and we removed a total of 72 eggs. Starlings do not lay any first eggs beyond the first week of June since they are still on a European schedule.
Hopefully, the 2019 season will remain positive.
I don’t watch Osprey nests as much as I used to, but at my last count I saw nestling heads on three platforms at the far north end of Alum Creek. Only AC-3 lacked an Osprey nest since it raised a Canada Goose family at the start of the season. A natural Osprey nest in a dead tree along the western shore and across from AC-4, is active with three young. Added to the three platforms with three young each, there are 12 young Ospreys that can entertain anyone with the right optical equipment.
In an analysis of 35 Osprey nests that I did during a period when I was a compulsive watcher of our “fish hawks,” I revealed that 80% of Osprey families fledge between the first week of July and July 22, so try to enjoy the drama of first flights at Alum Creek.
Fortunately, the Osprey nest south of the Rt. 229 bridge over Delaware Lake made it safely through the latest high-water challenge and I watched a parent and its young on June 29. It was hard to see the birds since the platform has not been cleared in years and the old nest material now supports the roots of blooming plants. It is our greenest nest!
H-2, the Osprey nest that is closest to the boardwalk at Galena has failed. The nest is extremely shallow, a sign of an incompetent or absent male. A nest without two competent parents is doomed to fail. The nest south of the boardwalk, H-1, is doing well and had three young the last time I counted.
The cliffies in Delaware State Park became victims of bad luck when the lake rose to prevent further flooding downstream. The lake’s normal summer pool level is 915 feet above sea level. On June 22, the lake rose to more than 942 feet to completely cover the beach’s restroom. I don’t monitor the park’s Cliff Swallows since I am too busy with other species and I would need a tall step ladder and flashlight to peer into their vase-like nest cavities made of saliva-glued mud.
I always count their nests, and this year, the restroom building had 24 nests on the north face below the roof overhang, and five nests stuck below the overhang on the south side. Unfortunately, all nests were lost when they became engulfed in flood water. Had any of the families fledged before the flood? I don’t know.
Also, Cliff Swallows always nest under the Rt. 229 bridge and it also submerged in flood water. So, hopefully, this species will have better luck next year.
The restroom at Delaware State Park stands, in the photo, with the water level at 932 feet above sea level, still 17 feet above summer pool.
I maintain 45 nest structures along the north and west shores of Alum Creek Lake that share the area with our four Osprey platforms. Most of the structures are nestjars made from four-inch drain pipe. Nearly half of the structures have 1-3/8 inch entrances for swallows and the remaining jars have 1-1/8 inch openings for prothonotaries. From my canoe, I returned all tructures to their pipes between the last week in March and April 6. The first monitoring took place on May 24 when ten warbler nests were counted along with 20 Tree Swallow nests and six House Wren nests. I banded 22 prothonotaries from five families during follow up trips and three families of 5, 5, and 4 eggs and young have not been banded due to many distractions after my last visit on June 11. Monitoring will resume July 1 or soon after.
Presently, Carolina Wrens are nesting in a Wood Duck box in the back of my property. The nest cavity has a diameter of ten inches and is made of fiberglass since it used to be a soft water cylinder. The small wren has made a horizontal cave of leaves, moss and other materials so anything looking into the cavity from the entrance hole cannot see eggs or nestlings. Even I can’t see anything so I will leave it alone and hope for the best. I sometimes have to ignore my compulsion to record data.
Bluebirders throughout Ohio are reporting massive deaths of swallow nestlings with the number one reason being rainy weather with low temperatures that grounded flying insects. I can agree with this to a degree, but I have much more to say. At the moment, I want to wait till the end of the season when I have time to compare previous years’ production rates. As with this year, there have been smaller clutches and increased mortality once hatching occurs that I relate to a shortage of flying insects. I will write about this later, and I will include what I think about warm temperatures during the winter and its effect on hibernating insects.