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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Nature Conservancy Bird Survey: May 26, 2010 by Erin Gnass

Because I have been in the process of preparing for my graduate thesis field work this summer, I have not had a chance to perform any additional bird surveys at Point au Sable. I will be heading to the northern hardwood forests of Wisconsin on Saturday to assist in performing over two-hundred bird surveys with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) for my thesis research. For my thesis project, I am developing a probability-based ecological indicator model for over 65,000 acres of forested land that is managed by TNC, the state of Wisconsin, and timber investment management organizations in the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest (WRLF). Based on an environmental gradient (ranging from degraded to pristine forest conditions), this ecological indicator will utilize the presence and absence of assemblages of bird species to indicate the ecological condition and conservation health of the forested lands of the WRLF. This indication of ecological condition will provide timber managers within the WRLF assistance in monitoring and managing these forests in a sustainable manner for both humans and wildlife.

In preparation for the model, TNC surveyed sites in the northern hardwoods of Wisconsin for forest bird species in the summer of 2009. This summer, I will be fortunate enough to join the team of ornithologists and survey the same sites as well as others, starting this Sunday. Additionally, in order to survey sites across the entire environmental gradient, my graduate advisor, Dr. Bob Howe, and I are surveying additional areas of varying forest condition including fragmented, isolated, and/or human-used areas in the Brown County area in order to most appropriately create this ecological indicator model. Therefore, we started these additional surveys yesterday morning in areas including and surrounding Brown County. All of this data will then ultimately contribute towards the conservation, protection, and sustainable use of northern Wisconsin hardwood forests.

Yesterday, we went to the managed forests of the Reforestation Camp in Suamico, Wisconsin and found 31 total bird species, including many species of particular interest:  Mourning Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Pileated Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager, Veery, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We also found American Crow, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown-headed Cowbird, Blue Jay, Canada Goose, Common Yellowthroat Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Gray Catbird, Hairy Woodpecker, House Wren, Indigo Bunting, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Ovenbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo, Red-winged Blackbird, Sandhill Crane, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Wild Turkey.

Although I will be in northern Wisconsin for the next few weeks, I will provide a few reports about my thesis work and  the annual Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey (June 11-13) when I return to Green Bay. Then, once I am back from field work, I will survey Point au Sable again and provide weekly updates. So please stay tuned!