MORails 2014 Wrapup

Every year of fieldwork I do seems like an additional argument for Murphy’s Law and Long-Term Research. No two years are alike, and this year was the year of thunderstorms and rain. 2012 was a drought and 2013 was drought-like (it rained earlier in the year, but not much during the season). Despite the weather’s best efforts we were able to get in all the surveys we needed to complete and picked up on some weird patterns along the way. This year had no clear peak in migration (unlike the previous two field seasons) though we saw essentially the same number of birds, they just came through at a more steady rate throughout the year.

This was the first year of our crossover experiment, which other then some severe flooding on a few sites, went very well. We were able to document a positive response by Sora to the early flooding (August 1st) vs the later flooding (September 15th) throughout the season. The next step is the wetland managers doing daily waterfowl counts throughout the fall/winter so we can compare the response of the waterfowl to these two treatments as well.

Then next year we will flip the treatments (so what was early this year, will be late next year) and see if we still see similar relationships. This will help us identify if the Sora are selecting for the treatment or some other variable that is unique about a given wetland impoundment.

Highlights from this fall:

Heaviest Rain and Biggest Lightning Storms I’ve Ever Seen!

Getting a radio transmitter on our first Virginia Rail


Getting video of a Sora diving


Got some great pictures of American Coot feet, they have the coolest feet.

First year of the cross-over experiment was largely a success (minus crazed flooding in some areas)

HUGE Thanks to my awesome technician Nick Seeger, his level-headed problem solving brain is one key reason that this fall went as smoothly as it did.



By the numbers

We saw just over 1200 rails, almost all Sora (1 Yellow and about 2 dozen Virginias).

Over 160 hours of surveying

Over 500 hours on ATVs (between surveying and veg work)

Over 10,000 miles driven, in the truck (probably around 500 on ATVs).

7 Trips to the ATV repair place

2 Flat Tires

3 Stuck Trucks

Written on October 8, 2014