Saturday, March 21, 2009

Waterfowl Management, Part Two


As a followup to the prior post, this series will show the installation of a solar backpack on a female black duck. Prior to assisting with the project, I realized that transmitters were inserted in ducks but did not realize the technology had improved to include solar backpacks as well. Below is a side view of a one of the backpacks with recovery information blacked out.

Only adult hens are utilized. Before the process begins the hen is weighed to determine that she is capable of carrying a backpack. The first step is to place black sock over her head. This relaxes the duck while the backpack is installed. Next, a couple of elastic bands are placed around the duck's upper and lower body. These bands flex (allowing body movement) and connect at the top of the upper back where the backpack is placed. In the picture below you can see the sock and the installation procedure beginning.

The elastic bands are next secured to the backpack on the duck. This is an intricate process of sewing the bands for strength/endurance and then covering the stitch with heat shrink tubing for weather perseverance. The two images show Dr. Gary Costanzo doing both the sewing and tube process.


The entire process of trapping and installation is usually completed within the same day (unless the ducks are caught in late evening, then we will do an early morning release). Once the backpack is installed, the duck is ready to be released. Below is one of our hens right after the installation and prior to release. As you can see she looks quite content.

We always release the ducks in the same location that they were captured. Below is a photo of Tom and I with two ducks just prior to release. The next photo is of a hen with the backpack installed, immediately after she is released. As you can see she flies fine and is ready to provide GPS readings for tracking within 24 hours of release.


Next week's post with show the transmitter implant process. I will also include the web address where you can actually see the tracking results of ducks installed with transmitters.

Blue Skies.

17 comments:

Philip said...

Very interesting post Ken it is amazing the technologie nowadays everthing is so small if that unit was invented just 20 years ago it would of been bigger than the Duck :)

Twisted Fencepost said...

Great informative post, Ken.
One question.
Do you ever get the backpacks back?
Just curious.

Natural Moments said...

Quite the little backpack. I used to see them on eagles, but this is the first time I have seen one up close on a duck. And solar powered, cool. You guys look happy out there. Seems like a good project to work on. The hen looks so relaxed that she seems to be a decoy.

Willard said...

That's a beautiful close shot of the ducks head and a very interesting post.

I have not yet seen a duck with a transmitter attached. I suppose that will yield some very interesting scientific information about waterfowl movement patterns.

fishing guy said...

Ken: What a neat close-up on the ducks head, nicely done my friend.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Isn't this new tecnology fantastic!!

Pepe Soria said...

Quedo a la espera de ver tan sorprendente sistema.
Saludos

Juan C. Aguero said...

Good portrait and excellent information, thanks for his comments Mr Ken

T and S said...

Ken : The process seems to be so intricate and laborious. Thanks for sharing it with us with these beautiful images.

Bradley Myers said...

Thanks again for the education, it was interesting, I did not know they were solor powered and have never seen one flying around with a back pack on. Looking forward to your next post.

Andor Marton said...

That's interesting ... I never heard about solar backpacks. Do they transmit the data in real-time to a satellite/server or do You need to capture the ducks one more time to recover the backpack and unload all the data?

Tim Rucci said...

Really fascinating stuff, Ken. Thanks for the explanation and photos. Now I'll know what I'm looking at if I ever see a duck with one of those things on its back.

Salty said...

Interesting information Ken.

Studies like these are vital to wildlife’s survival. Thanks for being a part and thanks very much for sharing.

gidje said...

So how long do you end up tracking them for? I'm intersted to see this site on how they migrate. Now I'm hooked on where your story will bring us next!

Atanasio Fernández García said...

Hi Ken, great job! It will be interesting to know where these birds travel through a website!

Stacey Huston said...

Amazing what technology can do.. I have a new goal.. I would love to photograph one of those hens with a backpack on here in the west..?? Like the new fuzzy face looks much more relaxed... But then again My husband has had a beard forever..
;-)

The Birdlady said...

Wow,Ken - that is so cool!