As any field researcher knows, failed attempts are just part of the work flow for most projects! We try, we fail, we adjust methods, we try again. After a spring season of several near misses—and a couple of face-plants in the salt marsh muck—trying to capture additional Great Egrets for our GPS study, we are very excited to report to you that our team recently has captured two adults, both with breeding plumage, at Toms Point, Tomales Bay. The captures and tagging went very smoothly. After release, the birds took off and flew out of view toward the Walker Creek delta, their lightweight solar GPS backpacks collecting a range of movement and behavioral data.
As for the three birds we tagged last year, the one that wintered south east of Sacramento has returned to Tomales Bay and seems to be spending most of her time around the mouth of Walker Creek. The bird that wintered in the Tulare Basin down near Bakersfield has flown back up the Central Valley, spending a couple weeks around Los Banos, and now the last couple weeks out to the south east of Vacaville. The bird that stayed in the Two Rock area all winter has returned to Tomales Bay and from the tag data we’ve gotten it appeared she may be nesting at the large colony near Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay. After many hours searching the colony for the little tag antennas, today ACR avian ecologist David Lumpkin finally found her nest and confirmed that she has at least 1 chick!
The data we’ve been getting from these iconic wetland carnivores is already teaching us so much about these birds, but now being able to monitor the nesting outcome of a tagged bird and compare that to its patterns of movement and habitat use will really improve our ability to inform our community on the habitat needs of these birds.