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Elf Owl Home Range and Habitat Study


Chris Merkord

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Funding Opportunity Number: R14SF30001
Opportunity Category: Discretionary
Funding Instrument Type: Grant
Category of Funding Activity: Natural Resources
CFDA Number: 15.538
Eligible Applicants Others (see text field entitled "Additional Information on Eligibility" for clarification)
Agency Name: DOI-BOR-LC
Closing Date: Oct 18, 2013
Award Ceiling: $675,000
Expected Number of Awards: 10
Creation Date: Sep 25, 2013
Funding Opportunity Description: Task 1.0Habitat Preferences of the elf owl in riparian habitat:The applicant shall design a study to obtain a description of the habitat within the home range, home range size, and activity budget of the elf owl within riparian areas where they are breeding. For this study Reclamation is interested in larger scale habitat parameters such as species of cavity tree or cactus, species of roosting tree or cactus, sheltering substrate, species of trees in riparian habitat, an estimate of canopy height and canopy cover within riparian habitat, an estimate of the mid story layer within riparian habitat, an estimate of abundance of cavities and snags, and other large scale parameters that may be important. The applicant shall use GIS to map locations of elf owl nests and large scale habitat parameters to describe foraging, roosting, nesting, and sheltering habitat. Reclamation is interested in obtaining a good description of the habitat within the home range of the elf owl but not in collecting data in non-use areas or creating habitat selection models.If any on the ground estimates are proposed for the larger scale parameters above the awardee shall work with Reclamation staff to conduct those measurements according to MSCP standards. Reclamation is not interested in collecting data on all the parameters within the standard LCR MSCP vegetation monitoring protocol especially the smaller scale parameters. The end product of this task shall be a detailed map and description of habitat within the elf owls home range with the above large scale parameters, average, median, and range of the elf owl’s home range size, and an activity budget of the owls or the time spent in each habitat type or feature present (e.g. uplands, cliffs, saguaros, riparian) at the study area. Recommendations of any further habitat research shall also be provided.The applicant shall recommend an ideal and feasible sample size. Reclamation is suggesting that the applicant collect data on 15 to 30 elf owl pairs during the three year period. If pairs are present in the same home range in multiple years that location should only count as one pair even if multiple years of data are collected on it. The applicant shall collect data on pairs from multiple study areas that represent the full range of riparian habitat they are using. Reclamation will assist the awardee in locating and scouting potential study areas. There have been no recent populations of elf owls detected along the main stem of the LCR but there is a moderate population that breeds within the Bill Williams NWR (Sabin 2009, 2010 GBBO 2012). The applicant shall select other riparian areas in Arizona or New Mexico (lowland riparian similar to habitat of the LCR) where elf owls are breeding at as study areas. The applicant shall not spend time surveying the main stem of the LCR as there are very few are no owls that still breed there. The majority of the pairs that breed at the Bill Williams NWR seem to select nesting cavities in the saguaros on the edge of the riparian habitat and use the riparian areas as foraging habitat (GBBO 2012). The applicant shall collect data on pairs that have their cavities on the edge of the riparian habitat but are using the riparian areas as part of their home range as well as pairs whose nesting cavity is within the riparian area. If possible at least 50% of the sample size should consist of pairs who have their cavities in riparian trees/snags. However, this may not be possible as it is not known how many pairs that nest in riparian trees/snags currently exist. The applicant shall also give a rough estimate of the percentage of pairs that are using cactuses or other non-riparian trees on the edge of the habitat versus pairs that are using nest cavities in riparian trees. The applicant shall obtain land owner permission if any trails for field personnel need to be created through existing habitat. The applicant shall try to have the least impact as possible by using already existing trails or cutting the minimum amount of vegetation as possible when creating trails. The applicant shall not use any chain saws or any other electronic clearing equipment. The applicant shall give a detailed explanation of their technical approach that includes the design, methods, data collection, data management, data analysis and other information that is needed to show how they intend to complete this study. The applicant shall also include all hard copy draft paper data sheets they will use for their study in the proposal. An expanded study design that includes input from Reclamation personnel will be submitted as a draft 30-days after agreement is awarded and a final study design will be submitted 15-days prior to the start of field work. Task 2.0 Response of elf owl to call playback in obstructed areas at the shorter distances: The applicant shall review the report Elf Owl Detectability Study 2010-2011 found on the LCR-MSCP website at http://www.lcrmscp.gov/reports/2011/c36_elf_owl_final_proj_10-11.pdf (GBBO 2012). The objective of this task is to design a detectability study focusing on distances of 50 m, 100 m, 150 m, and 250 m in obstructed conditions and address any other additional detectability testing that the applicant feels should be done to finalize the preliminary survey protocol. The applicant shall use methods similar enough to the original study so the new data can be used with data from the original study. The applicant will suggest a sufficient sample size to obtain robust detectability estimates and will make the appropriate changes to the existing protocol. The goal is finalize the existing preliminary protocol in the above referenced report; primarily adjusting the distance between the survey points. The applicant can use detectability data collected in the 2010-2011 study regarding distances at 50 m, 100 m, 150 m, and 200 m in obstructed conditions as part of the sample size if they wish.The applicant shall always obtain land owner permission if any trails for field personnel need to be created through existing habitat. The applicant shall try to have the least impact as possible by using already existing trails or cutting the minimum amount of vegetation as possible when creating trails. The applicant shall not use any chain saws or any other electronic clearing equipment. The applicant shall give a detailed explanation of their technical approach that includes the design, methods, data collection, data management, data analysis, and other information that is needed to show how they intend to complete this study. The applicant shall also include all hard copy draft paper data sheets they will use for their study in the proposal. An expanded study design that includes input from Reclamation personnel will be submitted as a draft 30-days after agreement is awarded and a final study design will be submitted 15-days prior to the start of field work. Study AreasStudy areas will be located in riparian areas within the breeding range of the elf owl; primarily in Arizona and New Mexico. The Bill Williams NWR will be one study area. However, to address the objective of the FOA and to adequately describe the habitat within the elf owl’s home range other study areas will have to be selected. Study areas should not be selected along the main stem of the LCR as there are no known populations of elf owls breeding along the river. Riparian habitat with a thick understory can be difficult to penetrate; such is the case at the Bill Williams NWR. Finding owls and/or nest cavities in the riparian interior will take a lot more effort and resources than locating ones with nest cavities on the edge that are only using the riparian habitat to forage. State and land use permits will need to be obtained; this should be taken in to consideration when planning the study. The recipient should be confident that they can obtain the necessary permits for their proposed study design.A moderate population of elf owls exists at the Bill William NWR in which the majority of pairs use the saguaros on the edge of the riparian habitat for nest cavities (GBBO 2012). One component of this study is to locate other areas in Arizona and New Mexico where elf owls are using lowland riparian habitat (similar to habitat that exists or existed along the LCR) as part of or all of their home range. Reclamation will assist in this effort.

 

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