Bird Blog From Follebu, Toppen Farm.My first week in Norway has been incredible! I arrived in Øyer on May 14th and had a few days to adjust to the 6 hour time jump. I met my two supervisors, Kathy and Even shortly after arriving (May 16th) and was taken on one of the lower routes, named "Our Bette". The loop walks down the road and around the lower pasture. It just so happened that a Coal Tit was sitting in Nest Box 100 on 7 eggs that hatched that following Saturday (May 21st). I didn't officially start until May 18th since the 17th of May is Norway's National Day. So In this post I will cover from the 18th through the 27th of May.
At the beginning of the day Kathy and I go over which routes we have to walk and which boxes need to be checked. There are four major routes with smaller mini routes attached to them, there is a total of about 110 nest boxes to check. We alternate the upper forest/mountain routes with the lower pasture/forest routes where we check boxes that have eggs regularly and do complete nest checks once a week. We then grab the GPS and the ladder and head out for the routes of the day. We are researching the growth of four different species of birds: Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Greater Tits, and European Pied Flycatchers. We have to open the nest boxes and check whether it is empty, the birds are in the process of building a nest, it is a nest (there is a circular indent that indicates the bird has finished building and will begin laying eggs soon), there are eggs (and how many), whether a bird is sitting on the nest, or finally, if there are chicks (which then includes more work but more on this later). We write what we find in each nest in a journal and then continue on the route. We walk each day for about three hours and then head back to input and look over data.
Once the Coal Tits in nest box 100 hatched there was more to learn. Kathy taught me how to measure their weight, culmen, head, tarsus, feet, and wing. To make sure we didn't mix the chicks up we painted their nails to be able to track their growth until they are old enough to be banded. We repeat these measurements every two days. The second time we went out to measure the chicks we sadly discovered that the Orange-Green chick had passed away, it had previously been the largest chick weighing in at 2.06 grams.
A second study being conducted includes Northern Lapwings. Kathy and I travel to a field where they have been found nesting recently. We have to use binoculars to spot where the Lapwings sit on their nests, then one of us takes the trap while the other keeps their eyes on the spot that the bird is sitting. The one with the trap runs out to the spot to try to find their nest on the ground. Their nests are extremely hard to see so finding them is quite difficult, especially in longer grassy areas. The trap is placed over top of the nest with the opening facing our direction, so when the parent returns to the nest they can't escape because they try to fly away from us. This process takes a very long time, a lot of it involving long waiting periods as these birds are very timid and shy, they don't immediately return to their nests after they are originally scared off. So far we have only been able to catch, band, and draw blood from two Lapwings. The blood samples will be sent to another research partner who is studying relations to Lapwings nesting in this field since the population of them in Norway has decreased significantly.
So far I have learned a lot about the different birds we have been working with, and it's been such a great experience! On Friday (May 27th) we noticed that most all the nests we checked that had eggs had birds sitting on them. We believe they should hatch this coming week, which will increase the amount of work there is to do, but I look forward to it!