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|Winter home of the Black Swift revealed||| Print ||
The answer was a tiny geolocator that was developed by James W. Fox and his colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey. This same technology was used back in 2006, but for larger birds. This small light-level geolocator unit weighs about 1.2 grams to l.5 grams, about the size and weight of a dime and is attached to a bird’s back which looks like a child’s backpack. The device measures and records the times of sunrise to sunset.
From this, one can calculate the latitude and longitude to get the location. The Black Swift, which is 7 ¼” in length, is the same size as the mountain bluebird — qualified for this small geolocator.
Thus, this was the beginning of a long process for a trio of Colorado bird researchers, Jason Beason, Carolyn Gunn and Kim Potter. A backpack harness system was modified by Carolyn Gunn with strips of Teflon above and below where the wings join the body. Consideration and all particulars were taken for the bird’s safety. The trio placed the light-level geolocator on four Black Swifts in two different locations with one of the locations being here at Box Canyon of Ouray.
On Aug. 29, 2009 I went with this trio to Box Canyon to a nest site to observe and help in any way. The plan was to capture one of the Swifts to place a geolocator on its back. This was no easy job due to the difficult accessibility to the nest. Ladders, light, lots of equipment and a hand-held net were required. The trio was successful working as fast as possible so not to cause much stress to the bird. Data on the bird was recorded and our bird was a healthy two year old male. The work was done for now, and the wait was on for next year, 2010, to see if the bird would return to the same nest site. The geolocator would have to be retrieved.
In 2010 when the Black Swifts arrived I noted an adult on the nest site which looked encouraging; maybe the mate would show up. It was hard to see one or two adults at this location being deep in a crack and dark. Later on in the summer it was certain two adults were feeding a chick.
On Aug. 14, 2010, the trio returned again with all of their gear and we were hopeful that we could recapture the adult with the geolocator. At the nest site we noticed the two adults by the side of the nest. One of the adults looked very attentive, taking everything in and appearing like it was going to fly out. At that moment the bird flew and landed hanging onto a rock ledge with its back in view. It was at this instant we saw the geolocator pack! The bird flew again but was caught. The geolocator was taken off, more data was collected, bird examined and appeared healthy, then released.
It is amazing and hard to imagine this aerodynamic bird carried this geolocator pack on its back for almost a year. What an ordeal and I have never seen so many happy faces.
Now, the trio of researchers can retrieve, download and make an analysis. The migratory path, timing and winter destination was solved. The geolocator showed all three of the Black Swifts spend the winter in “West Brazil of South America” — in the lowland rainforest. What an incredible bird!
Note: You can read the manuscript written by the Colorado researchers which was published Mar. 1, 2012 in the Wilson’s Journal of Ornithology.
|SOUTHWEST/SOUTH-CENTRAL STORM UPDATE|
The storm is intensifying and as of 8:14 a.m., US 160 over Wolf Creek Pass (10" of new snow measured this morning) is closed due to adverse weather and zero to low visibility (check CDOT's still cameras on www.cotrip.org--go to Road Conditions and/or see camera icons on map). Conditions are similar on US 550 passes (Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain). Coal Bank has recieved 12" of snow so far, Molas 14" and Red Mountain 9.5", as measured by forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which contracts with CDOT.
|2013-14 Winter Guide|
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|2013 Summer Guide|