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Project Team Heads to the Mid-West

The trapping crew from Lenoir-Rhyne University (Dr. John Brzorad & students Brittany Coursen, Josh Keener and Caitlin Rubow) will trek west to Wichita, Kansas on Thursday, May 16th to join up with fellow egret ecologist Dr. Alan Maccarone (of Friends University) and his students.  Great Egrets are cosmopolitan and the birds breeding in the mid-west presumably winter in Texas, Mexico and possibly points south.  Putting one of our GPS/GSM tags will allow us to compare birds between very different regions.  The birds in Kansas put their breeding colonies in housing developments (much to the dismay of residents) and breed with snowy egrets, little blue herons, and black-crowned night herons.  Yet the most abundant bird in those colonies are cattle egrets. In the Wichita colony they out number the fish eating egrets 10:1.  Cattle egrets are much more gregarious and feed in fields following tractors, horses, or cattle as they disturb the multitudes of insects of the grasslands. They also like land fills if the trash is exposed (which attracts insects).  Kansas is hundreds of miles from a coast, so Great Egrets forage in rivers and ponds.  How does the foraging range of Great Egrets vary by region?  Do birds in Kansas have to fly further to get the same amount of food as coastal birds? 

Another goal of the trip is to "calibrate" the activity sensors in the GPS tags.  These units have motion dectors that record changes in position along the x, y, & z axes (3 dimensional space is made up of these axes).  These accelerometers record every 4 minutes for 3.18 second bursts.  We now have volumes of data on the 5 birds we have out in NC, NY and MA.  But we have yet to watch to see what the birds are doing at the time the device is active.   Once we do this with the bird we hope to catch in Kansas, we will be able to match up video feeds with the accelerometer tracings.  This will allow us to interpret the data we already have.

We will also be contacting K-12 teachers and studnets in Wichita for you to communicate with.


Stay tuned.......

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Brittany & Caitlin Seining toward camera.jpg860.13 KB
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