Glossary

Table of Contents

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Avian Species

In order to study and document the avian community on the ranch, our team conducts surveys to document the presence of species. Determining presence is more obtainable than determining abundance, while still reaching our overall goal of determining what management practices influence the bird species found in the area.

Our team uses playback protocol and the point-count method to survey and document avian species on the ranch.

Click here to explore the avian species we have documented so far!

benefit native pollinators

Native pollinators benefit from native forb species. We recently planted a mix of Purple Prairie Clover, Sweet Clover (Silver River), Sweet Clover (Yellow Blossom), Maximilian Sunflower, Illinois Bundleflower, Indiangrass (Lometa), Partridge Pea, and Engelmann Daisy. Stay tuned for updates on how these forbs are benefitting native pollinators on the ranch!

Daubenmire Cover Class Method

The Daubenmire cover class method is used to study the grassland areas, both in the upland prairies and the bottomlands on the ranch. This method is conducted by placing a 100-meter transect across the landscape and sampling at every 10 meters. At each 10-meter mark, researchers place a frame flush with the measuring tape line and estimate percent composition of each vegetative species noted.

game cameras

We use Moultrie A-300 game cameras to study the large mammal community on the ranch. We have a total of 10 game cameras that we utilize across the vegetation zones on the ranch. In addition to capturing various mammals, our game cameras also detect various bird species!

growth of the field

The Texas wintergrass field was tilled and planted with a native seed mix April 2020. A local landowner assisted Tarleton State University’s graduate student with the planting of the native seed. The seed mix planted included Plains Bristlegrass Switchgrass (Blackwell), Green Sprangletop (Van Horn), Little Bluestem, Sideoats Grama (Haskell), Purple Prairie Clover, Sweet Clover (Silver River), Sweet Clover (Yellow Blossom), Maximilian Sunflower, Illinois Bundleflower, Indiangrass (Lometa), Partridge Pea, and Engelmann Daisy. Stay tuned for pictures of the field’s progress!

Owl Boxes

The Tarleton Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society built five screech owl boxes that were placed throughout the ranch. After installing our owl boxes, we detected our first Eastern screech owl on the property! We followed the Audubon guidelines to build our owl boxes. Follow this link for the instructions to make your own:  How to Build a Screech-Owl Nest Box

Playback Protocol

We use playback protocol to detect inconspicuous nocturnal avian species on the ranch. These surveys are conducted at 10 different points throughout the property. Researchers spend 15 minutes at each point, beginning with a 30 second period of silence. The period of silence is followed by a focal species call with a 1-minute break between each call. Surveyors listen for avian species to call back and record any species that are detected. Our focal species on the ranch are barred owls, great-horned owls and Eastern screech owls.

Point-count Method

The point-count method is the primary survey method for documenting avian species on the ranch. This method requires researchers to stand at specified points and record all bird species that they see or hear. We selected random points within each vegetation type with 50–100 meter spacing between each point. We have a total of 15 survey points across the ranch. Point-count surveys are conducted in the morning. Our surveys last 2-3 hours, with each beginning approximately 15 minutes before sunrise. We repeat surveys at each point four times per season, and we conduct each season’s survey for a minimum of 8 days.

Point-Quarter Method

The Point-Quarter Method is used to gather data on the study site’s trees. During this survey, a 100-meter transect is placed amidst the trees in the bottomland hardwood vegetation zone. At each 20-meter mark, we divide the area into four quadrants and record the tree species nearest to the transect. In addition, we record the distance that species occurred from the transect. These measurements are then averaged and used to calculate overall tree density. DBH, or diameter at breast height, is also recorded at each of these trees. This provides us with information regarding the carbon storage within the trees.

purple martin activity

Our study site is the proud home to a colony of purple martins. These are migratory songbirds that arrive at the ranch during spring and leave to migrate south in late summer or early fall. Purple martins are cavity nesting birds and can be attracted by providing them with appropriate habitat. These insect-eating birds are a popular species and are well known for their high tolerance of humans. There are multiple housing options for purple martins. Our project site provides both nesting gourds and a compartment condo for the birds. We have also installed predator guards to keep racoons and snakes from predating purple martin eggs and hatchlings. Our martin housing is located in an open field approximately 150 feet away from building structures. House sparrows are problematic to purple martin colonies. House sparrows are an invasive sparrow species that are aggressive and sometimes deadly to native bird species. These birds are notorious for claiming purple martin housing. To prevent these problems, we store our gourds and cover the house entrance after the colony has migrated. We make the housing available when we spot the first purple martin the following spring. We are happy to report that we observed a successful breeding year for our purple martins! Our colony size was approximately 20 individuals at the end of the season. We are looking forward to their return! For more information on purple martins and how to establish a colony of your own, look into these links:

Run, Riffle, Pool, and Backwater Sites

Riffle, run, pool, and backwater are terms related to stream or river ecology. Our project site has a river that runs along the property edge, which makes this terminology important to the management of the riparian area. A riffle is an area of stream or river where the flowing water surface is visibly broken by small rocks, boulders, or gravel. A run is an area with no water turbulence, but the water flows at a rapid pace. Runs are commonly found downstream from riffles and are deeper than riffles. A pool is an area of deeper water and slower currents. Backwater areas are out of the main current flow of the river and are usually stagnant.

Sherman live traps

Our research team uses Sherman live traps to conduct small mammal surveys. Our ultimate goal of small mammal trapping is to determine the presence of small mammal species on the property. We created grid plots in each vegetation zone of the property, for a total of 5 trap sites: Upland, slope, Texas wintergrass, and two Bermudagrass sites. Each grid consists of 36 traps, placed 10-meters apart in a 6x6 design. Traps are set with oatmeal during the evening and checked the following morning. All species trapped are released on the ranch after they are identified, and the data recorded. For more information on Sherman live traps, follow this link:  H.B. Sherman Traps

undergraduate research project

Tarleton State University will be providing an undergraduate student with the opportunity to conduct their own research on the ranch. This student will be studying the most successful methods to eradicate invasive grasses without the use of herbicides. Stay tuned for more information!
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