Getting ready!

February 25, 2013 | Greg Dodge

It’s that time again, spring time. It’s time to spruce up the bluebird nest boxes, do any mantainance that needs to be done on the Wood Duck/merganser nest boxes, and start thinking about turtles.

A bluebird checks out one of the nest boxes for future use.

All of our bluebird nest boxes (6), are being cleaned, repaired if necessary, and new data sheets printed up and ready to go. I’m a bit anxious and excited to see what happens this year. I discovered the first eggs of the season last year on 2 April. It won’t be long before the birds start bringing in nesting material.

One of the duck nest boxes in the Wetlands.

Ranger Rock and I have already done some minor repair work on one of the merganser nest boxes in the Wetlands and trimmed away any large branches or vines that might have interfered with access to the box by the ducks or that could have provided unwanted access to the box by predators.

We still have at least one or two pairs of Hooded Mergansers swimming around our Wetlands. Up until a few weeks ago when the Wetlands froze over for a few days, there were anywhere from 2 – 20 mergansers present on any given day. The bulk of those birds left for open water when our little pond froze. They apparently liked wherever it was they went, they haven’t returned.

One of the nest boxes is mounted on a tree on a small island in the Wetlands. I’ve noticed that at least one pair of the ducks spends a great deal of their time out in front of the nest box. I’m not sure if they’re there because of the great fishing around the island or if they’re eyeing the nest box for future use. I’m a little hesitant to go out and do any pruning while the birds are there, don’t want to spook them.

However, the box is on an island and therefore less likely subject to predation. I may decide to put off any work on the box so as not to disturb the birds. I’ll keep an eye on the ducks over the next few days and see if I can squeeze in a few snips of the pruning sheers while they’re preoccupied elsewhere (fat chance, they don’t miss a trick).

A pair of mergansers preens during the fading evening light.

Turtles! Yes, turtles.

If you remember (if you don’t, look here), last year I captured and marked female aquatic turtles as they came ashore to lay eggs. I plan to do the same this year. I captured 12 different turtles of three species last year. That doesn’t seem like a lot of turtles, but that’s the point, I want to see how many of the turtles are making the trip ashore, whether there’s an assortment of individual turtles coming in to lay eggs or a handful of them making repeat trips.

A notch filed into one of the turtle’s marginal scutes (turtle # ybsl-00-02).

Last year, there were many reports of turtles seen on days when I was not present, so I know that I missed marking some turtles. But there were also turtles that I caught two and three times on different days. I wouldn’t have known they were the same turtles had I not marked them. They look similar to each other so it can be difficult to distinguish one from another. And, all of the adult Yellow-bellied Turtles that I caught were within 3/4 of an inch in length of one another so size differences are minimal. The notches in the turtles’ shells are the only reliable way to determine who is who.

I’m anxious to see what happens this year. And, of course, I’ll be writing about it here.

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