Restarting Redstarts

2 06 2007

AMREnest

Many of the interesting things happening in Sapsucker Woods can be seen during a single visit to the sanctuary; yet there are also a suite of compelling stories happening on a much longer timescale.

If we go back 60 years, there was a student named Oliver Owen that studied the birds of eastern Sapsucker Woods under the tutelage of Lab of O founder Dr. Arthur A. Allen (I actually used to rent a house from his son and daughter-in-law!). If we consult Owen’s breeding bird surveys, we’d find that American Redstarts were present, but not in high numbers (he found 1-2 breeding pairs in the 2 years of his thesis research). Dr. Allen also initiated a set of 15 breeding bird surveys off and on for the next 30 years, using sampling points along the trail system, and noted only two years where there was a single instance of breeding American Redstarts. By the time Tom Litwin did his thesis in 1979-80, he recorded no instances of breeding Redstarts during his surveys.

Fast forward to the present.

The northern edge of the pond, nearest the building, is alive and resonating with the songs of male Redstarts on territories. Within the last week we have found more than three nests (though one has already failed), and at least two have birds incubating on them.

So what gives? We’re in the process of figuring it out, so you’ll have to wait for the answer in a future post. But until then, I’ll leave you with a video I shot this morning showing what an incubating female does when she gets hungry.

CAUTION: this video contains extreme violence and death for one unfortunate caterpillar.

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