Surveys, Surveys, Surveys!

Since arriving at the Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands, my primary assignment has been to help conduct wildlife surveys. In an effort to increase nesting sites for Swanson’s and ferruginous hawk, multiple elevated platforms had been installed around the national grassland. However, it is not good enough to simply install these platforms, we need to know if the hawks are using them or if they prefer certain locations over others. As the RA, I’m often tasked with driving to different units that have had hawks nest there in previous years and see if they are still using the platforms. This survey also allows us the measure the success of each breeding pair as we visit the nest multiple times during the season to see if it’s still active. This means I often get to see cute cotton ball chicks flapping their chicken wings in the nest <3!

On top of the hawk nesting surveys, we have also been participating in the nationwide bat monitoring survey. Now, most people wouldn’t there are bats living in the Great Plains, me being one of those people, due to a server lack of caves. However, I have learned that local bat species like the pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) have adapted to hide in brushes or large cacti during the day and seek out bodies of water to catch bugs. In order to locate and track these bats, we use special audio equipment called SMABat which is designed to pick up bat calls. We find a location where water is present and leave these “Bat Boxes” overnight and, by using the kaleidoscope program, pick out individual bats and identify them based on sound.

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