May 2003 PRBO Riparian Songbird Study Post-fire Observations Along Wilson Creek
I found 5 active American Magpie nests on Wilson Creek this morning: 2 with eggs, 1 with 2 day young and 1 that just hatched today. 3 of these nests were in unburned willows within 50 – 200m of the northwestern edge of the burn. In the past 3 years, there has been a Magpie colony of about 9 nests in the area of the burn. I found 3 of them, so it is likely that at least 1 and possibly up to 6 active American Magpie nests were destroyed in the fire. Nests that now have young were first initiated around April 12 of this year. Our earliest first egg dates for American Magpies in 2002 was April 10.
Several other bird species were foraging in and around
the burn area including American Robins, Song Sparrows, American
Kestrels, Western Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows. A flock of about
30 American Pipits were foraging in the burned and blackened meadow.
Flocks of Turkey Vultures, California Gulls, Snowy and Great Egrets
were perched on Tufa and Willow around the fish hatchery. Presumably,
these carrion eaters and opportunistic foragers were enjoying the
benefits of the fish kill, although I did not observe any birds
foraging on the dead fish. In past years, the burn area has supported
nesting Song Sparrows, Red-shafted Flickers, Western Meadowlarks,
Red-winged Blackbirds, Savannah Sparrows, Mourning Doves, a Long-eared
Owl and a Common Yellowthroat – all which initiated their nests in mid
May in past years, so it is unlikely that they had active nests at the
time of the burn. The exception would be Red-shafted Flickers, which
began nests as early as May 3rd last year, and could potentially have
started earlier this year. Mallards also started nests as early as mid
April in past years, but we have never found Mallard nests in the
immediate area of the burn.
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