We talked about the American Kestrel as our focal species. Straight from our manual we learned:
American kestrels are found year-round throughout the U.S. Kestrels use Stages 2 and 3 for feeding, and Stages 4, 5 and 6 for roosting and nesting. Kestrels use both natural and arti¬ficial cavities for nesting. They eat small mam¬mals, other birds and insects.
Diet: primarily insects and small mammals as¬sociated with open areas
Water: obtain necessary water from diet and do not need water for drinking
Cover: nest in tree cavities and other sites in¬cluding holes in cliffs, canyon walls and arti¬ficial nest boxes
Wildlife management practices
Establish Field Buffers: to increase cover for prey around row crop fields
Establish Native Grasses and Forbs: where necessary to provide increased early suc¬cessional habitat for prey; Stages 2 and 3 should be interspersed with Stages 5 and 6
Forest Management Techniques: forest regen¬eration will provide open areas for hunting for a couple of years
Manage disturbance: prescribed fire, chaining and herbicide applications are recommend¬ed to maintain Stage 4 and stimulate Stages 2 and 3; grazing management should leave enough herbaceous canopy to support in¬sects and small rodents; grazing manage¬ment should maintain trees in riparian areas
Nesting Structures: where adequate nesting cavities are lacking; boxes can be placed on fence posts in open areas
Plant Shrubs: in large open areas on idle lands for cover for hunting prey
Plant Trees: for future perching sites and cavi¬ties for nesting
Create Snags: for perches, nest cavities and a food source (insects)
Tillage Management: will facilitate hunting prey when waste grain is available
Then we went outside and talked about vertical structure (understory, midstory , and overstory/canopy), arrangement & interspersion, and edge. I used the 4Hers to show the different levels of the vertical structure. I think they enjoyed the interacting. Hopefully, we will be able to do this more as we go to different parks with more area. We also hope to have the back area of the museum again soon. We were able to discuss the edge of the plant succession (hard edge and soft edge) during this time using the museum property as well.
We ended with the group analyzing the use of the museum grounds for American Kestrel. This was pretty far-fetched but it was a good scenario for them to see the difference between the aerial map features and actual land conditions.
This is the scenario created for the museum grounds:
Wooded park and museum on the outskirts of a small city is looking to encourage the sightings of American Kestrel on their property. There have been sightings of this species on other properties near the museum, but not in the park area.
The director of the property has discussed the future plans to remove sections of the wooded area behind the museum. There is an open field on the adjacent property. There is also a seasonal creek on the outer edge of the property.
There were a lot of great ideas to incorporate the American Kestrel on to this property. I gave the group the homework of placing this information on a map of the property. I am looking forward to seeing what they remember from the lesson.