Sunday, June 19, 2011

Serious birding business

Coming into this year, I already knew that 2011 would be a big birding year for me. It started off with a bang when I participated in my first-ever Christmas Bird Count up in the Hocking Hills on January 2nd. Then I had a number of speaking engagements where I talked about birds and birding. Then, of course, there was the New River Birding and Nature Festival in West Virginia during the first week of May. That event, in and of itself, served to catapult my birding knowledge and confidence into a dimension previously unknown to me.

The confidence I gained led me to finally offer my time and effort to a cause that is in need of my help (and yours, too, if you're an Ohio birder!). A little over a week ago I signed up to take part in Ohio's 2nd Breeding Bird Atlas. The first atlas was completed 20+ years ago, and it is strictly a volunteer effort. It's citizen science at its finest, in my opinion, and every bit of input helps. Here is a brief synopsis of the atlas, as stated on the OBBA II website:
The second breeding bird atlas for Ohio is generating extensive information that will be essential for the effective conservation and management of birds. By engaging Ohio's citizens in this cooperative effort OBBA II will foster interaction among bird enthusiasts of all experience levels and will heighten public awareness of birds in Ohio.
The atlas works somewhat like a Christmas Bird Count in that volunteers are counting birds within a pre-defined area (a "block" that is approximately 10 miles square), but information is tallied from the entire state over a period of 5-6 years. Also, it's not simply a matter of counting birds, but looking for specific cues that breeding is occurring or has occurred. With a little over 4,400 blocks to be surveyed across the entire state, even just a few hours of surveying can help out with this monumental undertaking. Unfortunately (and understandably), there are still a number of blocks throughout the state that have not been surveyed, and have no data. The two blocks that I recently claimed ownership of had some small numbers up until now, but I am working to quickly change that.

By claiming ownership of a block, I have committed myself to spending 25 hours (per block) of time out in the field looking for breeding evidence, as well as documenting 75% of the expected total species for each block (and confirming breeding for as many of those species as possible). Sounds like a lot of work, and I will admit that it's a bit daunting, but I've been very encouraged by each trip afield so far. I feel like I still have a good bit of ground to cover, but each time I've gone out I've either added a handful (or two!) of new species to the block, or upgraded previous observations from a "possible" or "probable" status to "confirmed." Granted, the more time I spend out there, the less new data I will have to report, but for now I'm riding high on all the wonderful new things I'm seeing.

Even if you've never done any surveying for breeding birds like this before, there's still time if you're interested. June and July is prime time, and there's lots of activity out there right now. Any of my Ohio readers, if you're not already involved but would like to be, please go to the OBBA II website by clicking HERE. You'll find all the information you need to get started. Not an Ohio resident? Other neighboring states are doing breeding bird atlases as well, and West Virginia is in the middle of their 2nd atlas project. Click HERE for links to BBA projects in other states (and Canada).

In my next post I'll detail some of the wonderful things I have had the opportunity to observe just within the last 10 days as a result of being part of this effort.


ringBali said...

I have a lot of bird back in my house ..I think they can make any money

Nina @Nature Remains said...

I don't know about making any money (gotta love a spammer's attempt at appropriate conversation) but I sure can attest to the LOADS of fun atlasing has turned out to be for me, as well.
Like you, I got on board late.
The learning curve is steep, though and I think, in the end, I will have been paid handsomely for the time spent in the field!
Miss you, HotH.
See you in Lakeside!