Posted | filed under Weekly Reports.

Spring migration monitoring officially ended June 10, throwing us into what will be our busiest time of the year. Traditionally our summers were spent just doing our MAPS program (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) – which involves banding breeding birds at four specific locations deeper in the forest, and getting caught up on net repair and data entry from spring. Over the last few years, though, we have been putting more and more on our summer plates. The last two years we were conducting an independent research project looking at the fine-scale habitat selection of Canada warblers using telemetry. We are finished with the field component of that project but the University of Alberta wants to build off our work following similar methods to answer some questions about the effects of industry on Canada warblers. This is one the extras we will be undertaking: helping the U of A catch and radio-tag birds for their project. The other, and bigger, extra is helping a fellow named Kevin from Manitoba to deploy 40 geo-locators on Canada warblers throughout the Provincial Park. Before I dive right into geo-locators though, I’m sure many of you are wondering, ‘what’s the deal with these Canada warblers? Why is the LSLBO so obsessed with them? The Canada warbler was listed as a threatened species a few years ago due to huge population decline (80% decline in the last 40 years). Interestingly this decline is far more pronounced in the eastern half of Canada. All around Lesser Slave Lake, they are actually doing quite well. This puts us in an excellent position to study them; our project focused on the breeding grounds, but as with all migratory species, that is only a tiny part of their range. That is where the geo-locators come in; they will help us piece together the warblers’ entire migratory route. The geo-locators will show us where the birds go, if they stop for any length of time in specific areas and where they ultimately end up spending their winters. Geo-locators are really neat technology, they keep track of the date and time and minutes of light. The data can then be inputted into a computer and based on the date and how much light the locator was exposed to, a latitudinal and longitudinal position point can be calculated. Some units also record the temperature, which, when compared to the location points will give altitudes. Geo-locating technology has been around for quite a long time but units small enough to be used on birds have only been engineered within the last 5-10 years. They need to be small because they have to sit on the bird’s back. Held on by a flexible string harness the geo-locator will stay in place until the bird is hopefully recaptured the following year and the unit is removed so that the data can be retrieved (the locators are too small to have any data transmitting capabilities). What is really exciting is how far this technology has come in only the last few years; when researchers first started using geo-locators on birds they were limited to larger species because the units weighed almost two grams. Now they have locators as small as .3 grams, and that is what Kevin has. This year, in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park will be the first time that geo-locators are being used on a Canada warbler and although it will require a heap of effort and time to catch and outfit 40 birds with geo-locators we are stocked to be a part of it!