• Breeding Biology of Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) in Stormwater Retention Ponds on the College at Brockport Campus

      Norment, Christopher; Butler, Abigail; The College at Brockport (2018-01-07)
      Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) often breed in stormwater retention ponds. I studied the breeding biology of the species in seven small retention ponds at the College at Brockport, to evaluate their breeding success in a created habitat relative to data from studies in natural habitats. I also determined how habitat characteristics affect the breeding biology of Red-winged Blackbirds. The College at Brockport population had harem sizes with up to four females per male. There was a significant positive relationship between pond area and the number of male territories. I found 47 nests, at least four of which wer second nestings; average clutch size was 3.7 eggs. The nesting season began with the first clutch on 26 April 2017 with peak hatching dates from 27 May until 2 June and peak fledging dates from 7 June until 16 June. The nesting season ended when the last nest fledged, which was around 22 July 2017. Apparent nest success was 78.3%, with predation rates of 10.0%. In studies from similar habitats, apparent nest success was often much lower, ranging from 3.0 to 71.0% with predation rates ranging from 30.0% up to 97.0% in some areas. There was no significant difference between successful and unsuccessful nests in distance from nest to pond edge or open water, water depth, vegetation height, and density between. Based on my results the retention ponds provide good breeding habitat for Red-winged Blackbirds but stormwater ponds should be managed properly for wildlife use. Management practices such as discouraging invasive species, reducing overabundance of emergent vegetation, and occasional dredging would benefit wildlife use of the retention ponds.
    • Examining how the Presence of Invasive Swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum sp.) Affects the Abundance of Earthworms

      Amatangelo, Kathryn; Dube, Samantha; State University of New York College at Brockport (2020-09-10)
      Swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum sp.), an invasive plant in Western New York, outcompetes native species such as common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Swallow-wort may release allelochemicals that change the composition of the soil to benefit its own growth. Earthworms are also an invasive species in our area. In excess, they can till the soil too much, drying it out and making it difficult for any plants to grow. While overturning the soil has its benefits, too many worms can cause the soil horizons to merge, displacing minerals and loosening up the foundation for most plants. Because no one had ever studied the relationship between these organisms, I hypothesized that neither plot type nor season should affect the presence of earthworms. In addition, I had reason to believe that swallow-wort could not only hinder earthworm abundance, but it could also promote it. During the summer and fall, I marked 30 paired forest plots in Mendon Ponds and Oatka Creek Parks where swallow-wort bordered a neighboring patch of non-swallowwort. Within these areas, vegetation was surveyed and worms were collected using the liquid extraction method. The worms were identified, measured and weighed. While non-swallowwort plots tended to have more worms, swallowwort plots had more worm biomass. However, these differences were not statistically significant for either the summer or the fall. The presence of swallow-wort does not appear to affect the presence of earthworms. In addition, the season did not seem to have an effect on the presence of earthworms. These results supported both of my hypotheses.
    • Factors Influencing Apparent Nest Success in Eastern Bluebirds

      Norment, Christopher; Gierlinger, Katelynn; State University of New York College at Brockport (2020-09-15)
      Collection of basic breeding biology data and analysis of factors that can impact the apparent nest success of passerines is critical in tracking population dynamics and making decisions concerning conservation. The Eastern Bluebird (Sialis sialis) is one species of concern whose declines in abundances fueled the common practice of establishing artificial nest boxes. I carried out my study in 2019 on the SUNY Brockport campus using 20 Audubon and 20 Peterson nest boxes to investigate what variables may impact fledgling success, including egg and nestling traits as well as site characteristics. Egg mass and volume tended to be larger in Audubon boxes, which also appeared to have higher success rates, but only egg volume was significant. Peterson style boxes were chosen more often, however. Vegetation variables revealed no statistical significance between successful and unsuccessful nests, but literature supports their strong effect on nest success. Larger sample sizes would have helped reinforce my results. However, they do offer interesting opportunities for conservationists in terms of box type and habitat when considering Eastern Bluebird nesting success.
    • Pollinator Communities on Public Lands: Creating New Opportunities for Management

      Norment, Christopher; Kearney, Jacob; State University of New York College at Brockport (2020-09-15)
      Because butterfly species such as monarchs (Danaus plexippus) are declining, they have received renewed public and scientific interest. Butterflies provide important ecological services, such as pollination. Understanding their ecology is vital for proper conservation and management, with targeted management on public lands increasing in the last few decades. To determine useful management strategies for butterfly populations on public lands, I investigated butterfly use in two “non-traditional” sites utilized by butterflies at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (MNWR): a marsh in full drawdown phase (MP) and a marsh in partial drawdown phase (SF). I also investigated butterfly use at an upland field site planted with native nectar sources (HM). By doing so I hoped to provide MNWR with data on which nectar sources were present and utilized by butterflies, and suggest useful strategies for managing butterfly populations, particularly monarchs. Butterfly populations were present at all my sites and used a variety of nectar sources. At HM, many of the native nectar sources planted by MNWR were present, and a variety of butterfly species used them, with red admiral showing a preference for brown-eyed Susan. Several unplanted native nectar sources and non-native nectar sources were also present at HM, and were used by several butterfly species. Both “non-traditional” habitats supported butterfly populations, including foraging and migrating monarchs, which showed a preference for beggarticks at MP. Combined management of my “non-traditional” sites with other “non-traditional” sites, like dikes, can provide valuable resources for monarch populations throughout much of their life cycle.