Tracy Aviary Conservation: Alta Nest Box Hikes

 

Tracy Aviary's conservation department has a lot of volunteer-friendly community science programs. These opportunites are unique ways for people of every age to enjoy the outdoors while taking action toward increasing their knowledge of birds and their natural habitat. We have something for people of every commitment level, with hikes and surveys for both families and for those looking for a challenge.  Dont just take our word for it, though. This is what one volunteer had to say about her experience with Tracy Aviary's Alta Bird Monitoring Project.

 

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This spring I volunteered for the Alta Nest Box Monitoring Project.  A training session was held at Tracy Aviary before the season started and volunteers were introduced to the importance of collecting data on nesting birds in Alta and on the history of how the project began. We learned how Tracy Aviary monitors nest boxes and how to take pictures inside owl and song bird nest boxes by using a camera attached to a paint roller extension pole. We were able to practice taking pictures inside the boxes by either placing the camera in the entrance hole of the owl box or by lifting up the top of the songbird box.  We were also taught how to use a GPS to locate the nest boxes at Alta and how data is recorded for each nest box. 

The actual nest box monitoring adventure began in March, on snowshoes and we were always accompanied by Cooper, Bryant or Lucila from the conservation department at the Aviary. I have never worn snowshoes before and it was a lot of fun, but definitely more strenuous than regular walking or hiking.  I fell down every weekend, sometimes on my face but I loved every minute of it. It was so beautiful being out in the wilderness snowshoeing to the nest boxes. I was surprised at how low the boxes were to the ground because the snow pack was so high this year and I was impressed with how knowledgeable Cooper, Bryant and Lucila were in pointing out which species we were hearing and seeing in the area while we were going to each nest box. They always answered any questions we had and I learned something new every week.  Early in the season we only monitored the owl boxes and unfortunately we had no owls nesting this year, but it may take several years for an owl to decide to nest in one of the boxes. 

 

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It was really exciting when the song birds started nesting later in the spring. We were able to learn what the different types of nests looked like depending on the species. I saw mountain chickadees and house wrens up close along with eggs and babies in the nest boxes. It was wonderful to watch the parents actively feeding the babies and to hear them inside the nest box. I really enjoyed watching a house wren chick poke their head out of the nest box waiting for the parent to come back with food.  It was very rewarding to know there was a successful nesting attempt and to see the babies grow up and eventually leave the nest.  It was great when people hiking by stopped us to ask what we were doing and we could tell them about monitoring the nest boxes.  One individual even borrowed binoculars to look at an active nest with a house wren feeding it's babies.  It was great to share the experience with them and to watch their face light up with excitement as they watched the adult feed their young. 

Volunteering for the Alta nest box monitoring project was very gratifying and I looked forward to going every weekend.  I highly recommend this wonderful experience where you can get outside, learn about the birds at Alta, get hands on experience in nest box monitoring and work with the great people from Tracy Aviary.

If you are interested in volunteering with Tracy Aviary's community science programs, please click the link below: 

http://www.tracyaviaryconservation.org/application

 

 - Melanie Jones, Tracy Aviary Volunteer