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Chester River

Field Research Station

Research & Monitoring

Our primary research focuses on monitoring seasonal movements of migratory birds which move between their breeding and wintering areas twice a year. By placing uniquely numbered aluminum bands on birds we are able to monitor population levels and document migratory pathways. We also monitor productivity of local breeding birds through our banding efforts. Data from the spring and fall monitoring programs has been used to chart the timing of migration of many species of songbirds moving through the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

We conduct numerous research projects in addition to our monitoring effort. Here are brief descriptions of some:

  • Wing lengths of Orchard Orioles: Wing lengths can be extremely useful in determining sex of monomorphic young birds prior to molt. The currently published guidelines to sex hatch-year Orchard Orioles do not seem consistent with the birds we are capturing. We are reviewing the wing lengths of known sex birds in an attempt to update the current criteria.
  • Woodpecker molts: Scoring molt on new and recaptured Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. We have molt data on birds from their first year of life to over seven years old. Discernible molt patterns in known age birds may improve current ageing criteria.
  • Tracking Lyme disease through ticks: We are collecting ticks from birds and sending them to Dr. Maria Diuk-Wasser of Yale University. She is attempting to document the dispersal of ticks by birds and how those movements could also be spreading the pathogen which causes Lyme disease. We have collected many ticks of 8 different species and so far several have tested positive for the Lyme disease vector. To learn more about Dr. Diuk-Wasser’s work click here: Do birds effect Lyme disease risk? Range expansion of the vector-borne pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi (PDF).
  • Osprey Banding: Spearheaded by long-term volunteer Bill Snyder, FBBO has banded over 90 young Osprey. Ospreys build their nest on platforms placed on top of telephone poles, usually not far from water. During early summer we monitor Osprey platforms for nesting activity and return in June and July to band the recently hatched nestlings. Each year, volunteers and interested guests, under the supervision of Bill and master bander Jim Gruber climb the platforms and band the chicks.  Despite having banded a relatively small number of Osprey, we have had two recoveries. A nestling banded in July 2002 was found in Trinidad in November later that same year. Trinidad is approximately 2,100 miles from FBBO. Our second recovery was of a nestling banded in July of 2008 that was found in Ecuador in November of 2008. Ecuador is approximately 2,700 miles away from FBBO.  Osprey banding at Chino Farm provides a great way for volunteers to interact with these icons of the Chesapeake Bay region. The data collected from banding Osprey helps us determine how far they travel during migration and where they might winter. It also provides an opportunity to determine how many young Osprey hatch and eventually fledge from the nest platforms on the farm.
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl Banding: In cooperation with Project Owlnet, FBBO conducts fall Northern Saw-whet Owl banding. We run nets for about four weeks playing a standardized audio lure to attract these owls on their southbound migration.
  • Eastern Bluebird Box Trail: We monitor over 100 nest boxes during the breeding season. We keep track of various aspects of breeding phenology such as nest building, egg laying, hatching and fledging. While we hope to attract bluebirds to our boxes, we also have Tree Swallows, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, House Wrens and Great-crested Flycatchers nesting in them.