The project team spent the first two weeks of December trapping at Cross Timbers Wildlife Management Area and was able to deploy four transmitters. We saw an increase in bycatch during trapping in late November and early December, mostly consisting of seed-eating songbirds such as sparrows and blackbirds. More surprising was the capture of an American kestrel in mid-December. It appeared it had entered the trap to get a red-winged blackbird that was already caught in the trap. Both birds were found unharmed and released.
Due to necessary visits at the other three project WMAs to look for downed transmitters and the holiday break, no trapping took place during the remainder of the month, causing a notable drop in the number of birds transmitting for December. We anticipate being able to build the number of transmitting birds fairly quickly at the beginning of 2020.
We recovered eight downed transmitters during December, with three recovered from Beaver River WMA, three from Cross Timbers, one from Packsaddle, and one from Sandy Sanders. Six of the eight transmitters showed signs of predation, with three being attributed to raptor predation, two to mammal predation, and one to predation by unknown predator. One transmitter was found in a wing box at Cross Timbers WMA and had presumably been harvested by a hunter at that location. No obvious cause of mortality could be attributed to the last transmitter.
During December, we had a total of 10 active transmitters across the four WMAs, with four active GPS transmitters at Cross Timbers, four at Sandy Sanders, and two at Beaver River. All transmitters were of the type with satellite-download. In total, we have now collected 41,981 individual locations since the launch of the first transmitter in July 2018. We hired two new trapping technicians at the beginning of December. They have now taken over the trapping duties from our previous trapping technicians that left mid-month.
The 12 wildlife cameras positioned on the research plots at each of the four WMAs continue to record wildlife use at each treatment plot. Across all four WMAs, the 12 cameras captured 39 images of wildlife during December, with 30 images of white-tailed deer, three each of coyotes and feral hogs, two of unidentified animals, and one of a Harlan’s hawk (a subspecies of red-tailed hawk that breeds in Alaska and Northwest Canada and winters in the south-central United States).
We finalized the computerization of vegetation data collected during the past summer in December and continued preliminary analysis of bird survey data and vegetation data, and movement data from the GPS transmitters.
(This project is funded in part by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's State Wildlife Grants Program, Federal Aid Project F18AF001-10.)