Monday, August 29, 2016

Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary Small Mammal Survey

Post contributed by Erin Carter, volunteer Restoration Supervisor with Saint Paul Natural Resources:


Natural Resources Technician,
Emily Dunlap, displays a baited trap.
If you were out walking through Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary during the last weekend of July, you may have noticed some small metallic boxes to the side of the path. These are Sherman Traps and are used for capturing live small mammals. 2016 is the third year that Saint Paul Natural Resources has used a grant from REI to conduct a small mammal survey in Trout Brook. For decades, trains ran through what is now Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary. Over the last few years there has been an effort to clean up and restore the natural habitat of the park. One measure of determining the health of the ecosystem is by surveying the animals in the area and seeing whether each year has brought changes to the number or diversity of small mammals in the park.
Volunteers set live mammal
traps on the prairie transect.

On Friday evening, the Natural Resources staff and volunteers gathered at Trout Brook to learn how to set the Sherman Traps. We also set out a few larger traps and track plates. The track plates are baited with peanut butter in the center and the edges are painted with a graphite mixture. Contact paper is placed on the track plate, sticky-side-up, so when an animal walks through the graphite and across the plate you can see the tracks they leave behind. We set the small traps in three different transects of the park: woodland, prairie, and riparian and then baited these small traps with peanut butter and oats. This process was then repeated Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings. In the morning, a mammologist from the University of Minnesota, along with several staff and volunteers would open the traps to see what animals we had caught. One year, we unexpectedly caught a flying squirrel! I showed up on Sunday morning with my camera, eager to see what we would find this year.


Dakota Rowsey holds up a white-footed mouse.
As Dakota Rowsey from the University of Minnesota opened up trap after trap, I quickly became familiar with the white-footed mouse. Seven of our traps contained these critters which are common throughout much of the state. Two of our traps contained short-tailed shrews, the largest shrew species found in Minnesota. One of our track plates showed evidence that a raccoon and skunk had walked across it, as well as another animal that wasnt as easily identifiable. Perhaps a mink? Im thrilled to have been a part of monitoring the health of this new park and am looking forward to continuing to watch Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary evolve into a welcoming habitat for native plant and animal species as well as Saint Pauls human residents.



Determining which animals crossed the track plate.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Como Park Bluebird Trail: Final Update 2016

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:


Nesting season is done and the last box has been removed for winter storage. This year, a total of 55 birds fledged from 11 boxes: 33 bluebirds, 10 tree swallows, 9 chickadees, and 3 cowbirds. Of the 50 bluebird eggs laid on the trail, 66% successfully hatched and fledged. In the nine years this trail has existed a total of 273 bluebirds have fledged.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: August 8th, 2016

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

Eight bluebirds fledged from this box in the woodland!
Only two boxes remain active on the trail—one has 3 soon-to-fledge bluebirds and the other has 2 just-over-a-week-old bluebirds. I removed the other nine empty boxes for cleaning and winter storage. In the past two weeks 10 more bluebirds fledged, bringing season totals so far to 29 bluebirds, 10 tree swallows, 9 chickadees, and 3 cowbirds.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: July 25th, 2016

Male bluebird feeds nestlings
Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

This week, there are active bluebird nests in five boxes. One has 3 eggs in it; four have a total of 15 bluebirds of various ages in them. Fortunately, the extreme heat of the past week seems not to have harmed any eggs or young. Two more cowbirds fledged from two bluebird nest boxes, but sadly none of their 7 bluebird nestmates survived. The cowbird nestlings either smothered the smaller bluebirds or outcompeted them for food. Six boxes are now empty.
Fawn and mother in the woodland

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: July 13th, 2016

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

In the past two weeks, 10 tree swallows and 1 cowbird fledged. Eight nest boxes are still active. In those boxes there are 14 bluebird eggs, 8 recently-hatched bluebirds, 2 young cowbirds, and 2 bluebird nests without eggs.
Hungry bluebirds and cowbird
(cowbird's mouth is pink)


Fast-developing cowbird with pin feathers
and two bluebird siblings

Monday, June 27, 2016

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: June 27th, 2016

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:
Bluebird and cowbird eggs

So far this nesting season 19 bluebirds and 9 chickadees have fledged from the 11 boxes on the trail. In round number two of nesting, there are currently 8 bluebird eggs and 3 cowbird eggs in 5 bluebird nests. Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, usually one or two eggs per nest. The cowbird eggs hatch sooner and the young birds grow faster, giving them an advantage over their host birds. Up to 11 tree swallows will fledge in the next week. Four boxes are now empty.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: May 23rd, 2016

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

Newly hatched chickadees
This week, no more bluebirds have yet hatched, but 4 out of 6 chickadees in one nest did. The first 4 bluebirds to hatch are now a week old and doing well. In three boxes there are 15 bluebird eggs: 6 white ones and 9 blue ones (these should hatch very soon, if all is going well). Another chickadee box has 7 eggs. There is one tree swallow nest that probably contains eggs under all the feathers and three partially made not-yet-identifiable nests in three other boxes. One box is still empty.