Newsletter of the Columbia Audubon Society | Summer 2022

Wed. May. 11, 2022

Columbia Motus Station detects its first migratory bird — and I helped tag it in Costa Rica

by Sarah Kendrick, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Biologist and Midwest Motus Coordinator

by Sarah Kendrick, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Biologist and Midwest Motus Coordinator

The Columbia Motus station has its first Motus tag detection – and it has a great story!

The Columbia Motus Station at Moss-Waters Memorial Wildlife Area on Old Hwy 63 south of Stadium Blvd.

In late 2021, a Motus station was purchased by CAS in honor of Brad Jacobs and placed in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) at the Waters-Moss Memorial Wildlife Area (Figure 1). The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is an international collaborative research network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to track Motus-tagged migratory animals for research and education. Motus is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with hundreds of collaborating researchers and organizations.

Missouri’s Motus network began with its first station placed in Jefferson City in 2018 and has since grown to a network of 20 stations. Eighteen of these stations have been placed and are managed by MDC with two partner stations managed by the St. Louis Zoo and the Audubon Center at Riverlands. Missouri’s stations are placed in two strategic east-west latitudinal arrays, one in the northern plains portion of the state roughly along Highway 36 and the second in the Ozark Highlands roughly along Highway 60 (Figure 2). The beauty of Motus is its use of incredibly lightweight tags that can be placed on our smallest, long-distance migrants, which have only now become available at an affordable price. Tracking migration using Motus helps us to learn more about migratory pathways, timing, and stop-over sites to focus habitat management and protection at important locations for a wide array of migratory species, many of which are declining or threatened. The Columbia Motus station was deployed on December 30, 2021 in honor of Brad Jacobs and a news story about the effort was published by the Columbia Missourian.

Yellow dots indicate 20 active Motus stations in Missouri – 18 placed and managed by MDC and 2 by partner organizations St. Louis Zoo and Audubon Center at Riverlands.

In my previous role as state ornithologist with MDC, one of the grants that I led to increase Motus stations in the state and Midwest region was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Competitive State Wildlife Grant with 9 other partners – state agencies and organizations like SELVA, a non-profit in Colombia dedicated to bird conservation efforts and learning more about migration. This grant is placing 60 new Motus stations across 8 Midwestern states and Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia and supports three Motus-tagging research projects.

One of these research projects funded by this grant was a partnership with MDC and SELVA to deploy 50 tags – 25 Motus tags on Golden-winged Warbler and 25 on Wood Thrush on the wintering grounds pre-migration. To execute this grant objective, I traveled to Costa Rica in early March to deploy as many tags as we could in a week with SELVA’s Nick Bayly, Costa Rican partner Paz Irola and Ernesto Carman, and two bird experts I took along with me from Missouri – Dana Ripper of Missouri River Bird Observatory and Kristen Heath-Acre of the University of Missouri. On the trip, we tagged five Wood Thrush and four Golden-winged Warblers at various sites.

This male Golden-winged Warbler was tagged in Costa Rica by SELVA and MDC and later detected on two Missouri Motus stations, including Columbia on May 8. Motus tag on the bird in second photo.

The first detection on the Columbia Motus station was a male Golden-winged Warbler that our group tagged on March 5 in Ernesto Carman’s bird-friendly coffee farm, Finca Cristina (Figure 3). This bird has been detected twice in Missouri – first on May 1 on the Hurley station in southwest Missouri and the May 8 detection at Columbia (Figure 4). Not only are these detections just mind-blowing, but they also give us data on a seven-day stop-over on spring migration for this bird. The bird stopped in Missouri, possibly in Ozark forest, to refuel and regain energy along its journey north. Our goal for tagging these birds pre-migration is that there are more Motus stations in the U.S. and Canada than down on the wintering grounds, so we were hoping to increase the probability of detections with this strategy as the birds moved north toward our receivers. Another goal of the southern Motus array was to capture potential movements of birds through our contiguous blocks of Ozark forest that we suspect are serving as stop-over habitat for forest birds – these detections (and others) on our Motus stations are helping us to validate these assumptions with data.

A second male Golden-winged Warbler that partners Paz Irola and Ernesto Carman tagged after our team left Costa Rica has been detected at another Motus station in Missouri at the MDC Southwest Regional Office in Springfield on April 29; that bird was tagged March 29 in Costa Rica.

Pathway of Golden-winged Warbler detection on the Columbia Motus Station. Tagged on Mar. 5 in Costa Rica, detected on May 1 at Hurley station and May 8 at Columbia station.

This provides further evidence that the more Motus stations you have across the landscape to build a strategic network of receivers, the more we can learn about migration ecology and the more tags will be deployed with that strategic network together.

What are the odds that one of the four birds that we handled would pass through Missouri and be detected on not one but two stations? Incredibly slim. But it feels pretty darn special that the first detection on a Motus station placed in Brad Jacobs’ honor right here in Columbia would help us to learn more about bird migration and target conservation.

Happy birding all! What a migration it’s been. Fingers crossed for more detections. Birds are awesome!

 

Tue. May. 3, 2022

Tree Removal at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area

by Brady Lichtenberg, Missouri Department of Conservation

by Brady Lichtenberg, Missouri Department of Conservation

We’ve received some questions about the tree removal projects we’ve been working on for the past few years at Eagle Bluffs CA, so I am hopeful that this article will help to answer the common ones.

In pool 2, we removed mostly cottonwoods and some willows because waterfowl were not utilizing the habitat in that pool. The trees were getting taller every year making it more difficult for birds to navigate between them and the trees along Perche Creek. These trees also provide nothing beneficial for water birds and serve as hawk perches which doesn’t allow ducks to feed and rest comfortably. The trees were also casting a lot of shade and stealing nutrients from the open marshy areas which reduced the productivity of the moist soil plant community, causing poorer habitat quality for migrating birds that rely on these areas.

Toward the very south end of the area, on the south side of the pools 14 and 15 levee we removed some trees that were getting large enough to potentially compromise the integrity of that levee. Tree roots can grow through levees and cause water leaks as well as preventing mat forming grasses from growing that serve as a tarp and allow water to flow over levees during flood events without causing much erosion. As some of you know, many of the levees on Eagle Bluffs CA have very large trees growing on them that are now too large to realistically remove, so we are trying to be proactive in preventing this from becoming the case on even more levees.

In pool 8 we are working on removing some willow and cottonwood trees as well. Similar to the reasoning in pool 2, we are removing trees to increase moist soil plant community production and make the area more easily usable for waterfowl.

In the north part of the area, before you get to any of the wetland pools, we did a thinning in a tree planting along the road. In 2008 a mix of sycamore, bur oak, pin oak, and pecans were planted. Sycamores grow much faster and aggressively than the other species, which was stunting their growth and limiting their potential. Also, all the others are mast producers (something that EB does not have much of). For these reasons we cut/killed roughly half of the sycamores in that area to open up the canopy so the other species can receive more sunlight, water, and nutrients. There are still some “weed trees” (eg. Boxelder, Callery pear, Eastern red cedar, etc.) that we plan on removing to further promote the mast producers. The downed trees also serve as good cover for small animals, deer, and ground nesting birds.

In the northwest region of pool 1 and west of there toward the Missouri River, Nelson Tree Service was hired by Ameren who owns the powerline right-of-way. They are going to do some repair/replacement of the big powerline support that’s right there so they are cutting some of the trees that are in the way and encroaching toward powerlines.

All in all, the trees that grow on EB are some of the most common species in MO. There are thousands more on EB along the river and Perche Creek, and within other pools, so any critters that rely on those species don’t have to go far to find what they need. A lot of what we do in the realm of wetland management on EB is based around replicating historic conditions (prior to river channelization and extensive levee systems). Historically, areas of moist soil habitat that would flood in the fall/winter and dry out in the summer did not have many trees if any at all. Wetlands are the same as all other habitat types in that too many trees and trees in the wrong place cause more issues than the benefits they provide, so cutting trees is a very important part of habitat management.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me via email at brady.lichtenberg@mdc.mo.gov

Columbia Audubon Society is supported in part by a generous contribution from


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