The New Market Area Library program on February 12, 2:00 p.m. will feature the research being conducted in our area by award winning scientists, Lance, and Jill Morrow. Lance & Jill were the recipients of the 2018 Jackson M. Abbott Conservation Award from the Virginia Society of Ornithology for “outstanding work in the scientific study and conservation of Virginia’s birds”. Their research has been published in 23 articles in the Journal of Raptor Research, VSO’s Virginia Birds and Raven, and North American Bird Bander.
The Morrows will present findings from 15 years of research on American Kestrels in Rockingham and Shenandoah Counties. Lance has been banding birds since the 1970s and Jill since 2000. Together, they established the Shenandoah Valley Raptor Study Area in 2008 and began installing kestrel nest boxes. Currently, they monitor 80+ nest boxes each spring, noting kestrel occupancy, number of eggs, number of young hatched, and they place bird bands on all kestrels raised in (or using) the boxes. The Morrows also capture adult kestrels in winter to determine their migratory status and longevity. In addition, they monitor and band Barn Owls, Bluebirds, Screech Owls, and other species within the study area.
Jill Morrow holds a Phd in BioChemistry, and Lance has a BS in Biology. Between them, they have a combined 89 years of experience working with birds of prey. The work that they are doing on the Shenandoah Valley Raptor study is purely volunteer, save for the occasional donation of funds to purchase materials for new kestrel boxes at a cost of about $15 each.
Their area of study for this research project covers approximately 12 miles across the valley from east to west (bounded by forests), and 12 miles north to south, centered on Timberville, so total area in the study is approximately 144 miles. With such a large area included in the study, it takes them about 3 days of driving to visit all 80 kestrel boxes and each box requires about 5 visits on average each season (March-August).
When conducting visits, they record whether each box is occupied by kestrels, hand capture the female, and if possible, count the number of eggs laid, along with number hatched, and place bird bands on all young produced in the boxes. Findings in 2022 showed that from 84 boxes, nearly 300 young kestrels were produced. Of particular interest has been an area south of Broadway which has lots of pastures and hayfields and supports both high numbers of kestrels as well as barn owls.
As motivation for this research, they knew that the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), a small, cavity-nesting falcon that breeds across most of North America, is experiencing an apparent population decline across much of the United States that has yet to be sufficiently explained. With landscape change as a potential factor, the association of landscape composition with kestrel reproduction may assist not only in managing declines but also in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of nest box programs, which can bolster local populations and support monitoring and research efforts. For more information about their research and scientific publications, visit https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lance-Morrow?ev=hdr_xprf.
The lecture, held at the New Market Area Library is free of charge, and no pre-registration is necessary. For more information, contact Bev Butterfield at (540) 335-5396 or by email at email@example.com.