Expanding Research with Cutting-Edge Technology

In 2020, we expanded the project with the deployment of archival GPS nanotags to track non-breeding season movements of Oregon Vesper Sparrows breeding in the Rogue Basin. We successfully captured 10 males at our Howard Prairie study site and placed GPS backpacks on them using a leg-loop harness. Because the GPS tags are very small, and the batteries are not powerful enough to transmit data, these birds will need to be found and recaptured in 2021 to retrieve tags and stored data. This subspecies has never been tracked year-round, and our work will uncover important information about the migratory routes and overwintering areas used by this imperiled subspecies. This will help answer a question critical for future conservation efforts – what challenges might these birds be facing during migration and winter? To read more about this effort and see photos, check out the Klamath Call Note blog at https://callnote.klamathbird.org/2020/08/18/how-to-track-an-oregon-vesper-sparrow/. This new GPS research was made possible with funding from the Carpenter Foundation and Oregon Wildlife Foundation.

Vesper Meadow Motus Antennae (c) Klamath Bird Observatory
Vesper Meadow Motus Computer (c) Klamath Bird Observatory

2020 also saw the installation of the very first Motus station in Oregon at the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve, supported by Montana’s MPG Ranch (www.mpgranch.com). The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (www.motus-wts.org) is a collaborative research network using automated radio-telemetry arrays to study the movements of small organisms. Tags are small enough to be carried by birds, bats, and even bees. Motus tags emit a radio frequency that can be detected by a nearby Motus station anywhere in the world. Future research plans include tracking local Oregon Vesper Sparrows movements using the Motus technology at this site. Further, our Motus station will provide location data for other research projects, recording any tagged organism that passes by on its own migratory journey. The east coast has a well-established Motus network that has led to exciting new discoveries in animal migration. We are excited to be on the forefront of developing a Motus network in the western U.S.

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