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The MAC Project 2014: And the Work Begins

Missed Blog 1? You can find it here

Headed out this morning at 5am with high hopes – we caught 10 rufous fantails by 8am yesterday morning! Unfortunately the morning was cut short – squalls. Left at 5am only to drive into a gully-washer, then a steady rain.  Yesterday morning we actually had to bail early only because US troops were staging a military practice exercise on the runways near our sites (no ammunition!), so we were politely asked to vacate by 8:30am to avoid being part of the mission. 

Tinian, The MAC Project, Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program
Image 1
: Sunrise over a WWII airstrip near the bird trapping site. 

We have a total of 31 fantails in holding so far, with a goal of 48 and a need for a few extras in case some of them don’t gain weight in holding – we want only the healthiest, less stressed birds to go to Sarigan. New site, new island for me – Herb and Peter scouted an old site they used in 2010, and this fresh team picked out sites to put up our nets and place a bird processing base camp. 

Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, The MAC Project, Ken Reininger, NC Zoo
Image 2
: Ken Reininger, General Curator, NC Zoo, finishes setup of one of the net lanes. This net is furled, and when open will reach approximately 4m high and 12m long. 

Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, The MAC Project, Herb Roberts, Memphis Zoo, Bridled White-Eye, Sandy Wilson, Sedgewick Co. Zoo,
Image 3:
 Herb Roberts removing a bridled white-eye from the net with Sandy Wilson, DVM, Sedgwick Co. Zoo, observing. This species has already been translocated, so we immediately release “incidental captures” at the net sites after recording date, net, time, and species in the records. (Photo by Kim Kessler, Zookeeper, Honolulu Zoo

Fields Falcone, Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, The MAC Project, Memphis Zoo, Rufous Fantail
Image 4
: Taking my first rufous fantail out of the net for the season! The birds hit the net and gently fall into 1 of 4 pockets created by trammels running along the length of the net.  The “mist nets” are so fine that they are hard for the birds to see. I’ve walked into them myself! (Photo by K. Kessler

At the bird processing station, rufous fantails are banded and other metrics taken, then placed in a transport box and fed flies in the field before being transported back to the holding room at the hotel. Tinian monarchs are only held in the field for a few minutes and the first fecal is collected for a stress hormone study being conducted by Disney. 

Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, the MAC Project, Joe Smith, Ft. Wayne's Children's Zoo, Memphis Zoo, Fields Falcone
Image 5
: The bird processing station – in this photo I am blowing on a fantail to look for fat deposits and general body condition with the aid of Joe Smith, DVM, Ft. Wayne Children’s Zoo. 

Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, the MAC Project, Memphis Zoo
Image 6
: The monarchs are so curious! They come down and investigate what we are doing, and in this case we had one that just hung out in the box for a little while after being given the green light to fly off. Eventually he shot out, landed above the camp, and scolded at us! (Photo by J. Smith

We have our first CNMI intern! Shirley Taitano is a natural resources management student at Northern Marianas College in Saipan, and she joined us for a week in Tinian to participate in all aspects of the MAC Program – field work, husbandry, prepping for translocation, and the hours of brainstorming we do… She has proven to be a quick study and an invaluable asset to the program this year. 

Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, The MAC Project, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Shirley Taitano
Image 7
: Shirley Taitano, MAC Intern, extracts her first Tinian monarch! (Photo by J. Smith

Hoping for dryer weather for the duration… it’s been a little “iffy” the entire trip. Between the weather, the rustic accommodations, and the booney bees (little wasps that leave their mark!), we are up for the challenges! I’ll fill you in about fly-trapping for the fantails another day… with the forewarning that flies like decay… 

Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, the MAC Project, Herb Roberts, Memphis Zoo
Image 8
: Herb takes one for the team on the way back from the field – only so many dry seats available! (Photo by K. Kessler

Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program, the MAC Project, Micronesian starling
Image 9
: A juvenile Micronesian starling watches the action from a safe distance.

Posted by Zoo Info at 10:29 AM

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