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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Techniques for Studying Nest Success of Ducks in Upland Habitats in the Prairie Pothole Region

Equipment and Supplies

A list of equipment and supplies used for nesting studies conducted by NPWRC follows. Investigators can consider those items that would be useful for their own studies. The quantities listed are for one field crew.

Choice of Vehicles

Vehicles are used to tow nest drags. Where applicable, users should follow Government and Agency regulations concerning types of vehicles permitted and prescribed safety equipment such as seat belts, helmets, protective clothing, roll bars, and signs for slow-moving equipment.

  1. Two four-wheel drive vehicles (4WD), preferably without cabs to ensure visibility. Vehicles of near equal weight and horsepower are important for providing similar pulling power through dense vegetation. They should be equipped with hitches for attaching drags, and tow bars if they are not driven between study areas. Care must be exercised in tall-grass habitats because of the fire hazard associated with catalytic converters on exhaust systems.
  2. Two all-terrain cycles (ATC; three-wheel or four-wheel motorcycles, minimum size 105 cc) with reinforced hitches for towing drags. A special hitch extension is necessary to reduce the chance of the drag entangling in the rear tires.
  3. Tractors have been used to tow nest drags but are unstable on steep terrain, are difficult to move between distant study areas, and cause excessive disturbance to cover.

Nest Drags

  1. One 53-m cable-chain drag (see Higgins et al. 1977 for construction details) or 61-m (9.5-mm diameter) chain drag to be towed by 4WD's.
  2. One 30.4-m (8-mm-diameter) chain drag to be towed by ATC's. (Chain drags can be used in lengths that are suitable for roadsides or other narrow or small areas.)
  3. Supplies needed to use and maintain drags are basic tools, chain hooks, chain repair links, and leather-faced gloves.

Accessories for Data Collection

  1. Three or more candling tubes.
  2. Two pairs of binoculars.
  3. Field forms with instructions in notebooks.
  4. Photos (preferred) or field maps for plotting nest locations.

Nest Marking Supplies

  1. Marking materials such as wire flags, willow sticks, flagging tape, spray paint. Nest markers should be flexible so they will not break when the drag passes over them on subsequent searches.
  2. Large screwdriver or pointed tool to make holes in hard ground for nest markers.
  3. Waterproof ink pens.
  4. Compass (optional).
  5. Canvas bags for carrying supplies and data notebooks.

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