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Sampling Tree Swallow Eggs and Nestlings TVA-KIF-SOP-28

March 2010



This standard operating procedure (SOP) describes methods for the collection and processing of tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) eggs and nestlings to determine exposure to metals from the ash spill at Kingston Fossil Plant (KIF). These procedures have been developed to help ensure that samples are collected, preserved, and prepared for shipping in a systematic manner and that appropriate documentation is maintained.



Potential hazards associated with the planned tasks are thoroughly evaluated prior to conducting field activities. A pre-job safety analysis (JSA) highlighting potential hazards is discussed at each new sampling event. Personnel use appropriate safety equipment to access nest boxes. Sample locations are walked by a member of the sampling crew and a Site safety representative prior to sample collection to identify potential safety hazards. Table 1 presents an example checklist of equipment and materials needed for avian egg collection and processing.

The following devices are generally used to sample tree swallow eggs and nestlings:

  • Waders,

  • Tupperware® or other similar plastic containers,

  • Nitrile gloves,

  • Cooler with ice if only collecting eggs and with dry ice if collecting nestlings, and

  • Handheld or portable Global Positioning System (GPS) to identify sample location.



The following sections describe the procedures for sampling tree swallow eggs and nestlings. If deviations from these procedures are anticipated, the Project Manager and Quality Assurance (QA) Officer are contacted and the deviation is fully documented. Field work cannot progress until deviations are approved or resolved.

Investigators collect tree swallow eggs and nestlings from nest boxes (blue bird boxes) located in or adjacent to various localities near the KIF ash spill. Investigators also collect samples from nearby reference sites.

Nest boxes are placed in arrays that standardize their densities in order to control for the effects of birds competing for resources. When boxes are placed in single rows along the water’s edge, they are spaced 12-15 meters apart. However, when boxes are placed in two or more rows (each row at least 10 meters apart), they are spaced 20-25 meters apart and rows are staggered. Boxes can be placed near tree lines and shrubs in fields (such as a narrow band of trees or shrubs separating the field from the water), but they are placed

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This document, in part or in whole, is the property of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for sole use by TVA employees or TVA contractors or as otherwise consented to in writing by TVA.

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