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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ Category

2012/2013 Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count is 113 years old and is the longest running citizen science survey in the world! Groups of birders get together to count birds over a single 24 hour period between mid December and early January.

This year counts will be held on any day from December 14 to January 5 inclusive. You can find a Christmas Bird Count for your area in Wisconsin at the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology in Wisconsin, there are over 100 counts that take place from mid-December through early January. http://wsobirds.org/?page_id=2353

The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity will be joining the Dykesville Count on December 16th as this circle includes the Point au Sable Natural Area.  Contact graduate student Tom Prestby at prestbyt@uwgb.edu for more information. A Green Bay count that includes the UW—Green Bay campus will occur on December 15th. Contact John Jacobs at Jacobs_jp@co.brown.wi.us for more information.

Horned Lark, photo by T. Prestby

Dykesville birders will be on the lookout for Horned Larks, like this one in the farm fields around Dykesville, WI (photo by Tom Prestby)

The Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count arose out of a 19th century tradition of competitive holiday hunts where groups of hunters competed to see who could kill the greatest number of birds and mammals killed in a single day.  The participants of an 1896 side hunt in a small community in Vermont shot more than 550 birds and mammals. Frank M. Chapman, noted ornithologist and American Museum of Natural History curator, proposed an alternative contest. In the December 1900 issue of his new magazine “Bird Lore” he proposed that people go out and count rather than kill birds and then send their lists back to the magazine.  The first year 25 lists were made by 27 people across the country.

Today, people are participating in the Christmas Bird Count all over the world. Last over 64 million birds were counted in over 2200 areas across 20 countries including Antarctica. That number represents one quarter of all known bird species. Everyone follows the same methodology regardless of country. “Count circles” with a diameter of 15 miles or 24 kilometers are established and at least 10 volunteers count in each circle. Birders divide into small groups and follow assigned routes counting every bird they see along the way. In most count circles individuals are assigned to watch feeders instead of following routes.  A supervisor is designated for each circle and supervises, compiles, and submits data after the count.  The circle that tallied the highest number of species last year was Yanuyaca, Equador, whose team reported 492 species. In the United States the highest count was 244 species reported by Matagorda County-Mad Island Marsh, Texas.

More information:

Visit the National Audobon Society’s website for links to Christmas bird counts throughout North America and the Caribbean http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count

Christmas Bird Count data summaries  http://birds.audubon.org/american-birds-annual-summary-christmas-bird-count

Can’t make the Christmas Count this year? Consider participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 15-18, 2013. http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

Origins of the Christmas Bird Count from the North Branch Nature Center, Montpelier VT http://www.northbranchnaturecenter.org/cbc.html

Birder Certification Online

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Ever wonder how sharp your bird identification skills are? Now you can put them to the test using the Birder Certification Online website.  This free web-based program offers a rigorous method for verifying field identification skills of both professional and amateur bird observers. One of the main goals is to ensure that volunteer, as well as professional birders develop the skills they need for bird inventory and monitoring projects. The program allows participants to practice and to test their visual and audio bird identification skills through a series of online tests. This program is also a helpful educational tool for students and recreational birders. Getting certified is a great resume builder and can help birders obtain many exciting outdoor jobs.

There are three levels of certification that a birder can earn for different combinations of bird conservation regions (BCR) and habitat types. A BCR describes a defined North American region that has similar bird communities and habitat types. Currently there are tests for eight BCRs including regions in the Midwest, New England, and parts of the southeastern US and for four habitat types (forests, grasslands, wetlands, and comprehensive) per region.  Therefore, a birder can earn different levels of certification for the many different combinations of BCRs and habitat types. Birders can be tested in both visual and audio bird identification and can earn certification levels accordingly.

audio recorder.

A birder who earns a Certification Level 1 is capable of visually identifying typical backyard birds and at least some of the common species found in natural habitats. A birder who earns a Certification Level 2 is an experienced field observer who can visually identify most/all the birds of this region and habitat type without the help of a field guide and can identify most commonly observed species by song and call. A Level 3 certified birder is capable of conducting complete and accurate bird surveys using point counts, transects, or other standard methods and providing scientifically rigorous data. For more information on certification levels click on the link: http://www.birdercertification.org/Levels.htm.

 Birders can also take a newly added specialty test called BCR 101, also known as the Great Lakes Waterbird Visual Test. A birder can be certified in BCR 101 simply by taking any habitat category in the BCR 101 visual test module. There are  no audio test modules for this category.

The Birder Certification Online program is a project coordinated by the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, with funding and collaboration from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Check out the birder certification website and put your birding skills to the test!

Spotting scope.

A spotting scope makes visual identification of distant birds easier.

Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey

Join us for the 26th Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey!

This year the NNF Bird Survey will be held on June 8-10, 2012 with headquarters at Trees for Tomorrow  in Eagle River, WI. The Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey is the longest running citizen-science based bird monitoring program in a U.S. national forest.

The Bird Survey takes place each year during the second weekend in June. Everyone with an interest in birds and a desire for adventure is invited to participate in the Bird Survey. Dorm style housing for Friday and Saturday are provided free-of-charge for participants and their families. All meals are provided on Saturday. An early continental breakfast is provided on Sunday.

On Friday eveningvolunteers are assigned to small groups that are led by at least one expert in bird song identification. Other members of the team participate as timekeeper, navigator, or data recorder. So don’t be discouraged from volunteering if you are a novice birder.  Each group selects 6 to 12 sites to survey over the weekend. Each year between 60 and 100 volunteers survey about 150 sites.

Over 60 volunteers joined biodiversity center students and staff and US Forest Service personnel at the 2011 Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey.

The Survey Experience

The Bird Survey begins early Saturday morning when participants gather for coffee and a light breakfast of muffins and fruit at 3:30 am and head out to get to their first site by dawn. Sites can be located along roads, while others require a short hike into the target habitat. Road access points are marked in advance, and directions and gps units are provided along with topographic maps. Once at the site the group counts all birds heard and seen every minute for 10 minutes. They then make a 10 minute audio recording of bird songs at the site. Then it is back in the vehicle and on to the next survey point. Most groups complete their assigned sites by approximately 9:00 am. After they return to camp, groups complete the data forms (to facilitate computerized data entry) and check the forms for accuracy. Lunch is provided and the rest of the day is free for exploring the forest, visiting with friends, and of course taking a nap! Depending on the participants’ interests there might be other afternoon activities like a visit to a nearby wetland to view orchids or dragonflies. On Saturday evening there is a dinner and often a presentation and always contests and prizes for the most interesting and unusual observations.

Volunteers record birds.

Volunteers Mike Grimm, Shirley Griffin, and Bob Ryan record bird songs at an upland hardwood survey point in the Nicolet National Forest.

 

The quickest way to register is to send an email message to biodiversity@uwgb.edu. Include the names and ages and sexes of the members in your party and indicate if you will need housing at Trees for Tomorrow and who would like to room together. (Each cabin houses 4 people). You will need to bring your own bedding or sleeping bag and an alarm clock. Also let us know if you will be joining us for lunch and/or dinner on Saturday, so that we can get as accurate a count as possible. Or visit the NNF Bird Survey Website to download an registration form that you can mail in.

Even if you decide to come at the last minute to join us you are welcome. Send us an email or just show up and we will find a place for you!

What to bring besides your personal items.

  • Binoculars!
  • Bird guides
  • Waterproof boots
  • Extra socks
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Field clothes appropriate for the weather
  • Sleeping bag
  • Alarm clock!

Check the website for maps to the camp, schedule, and more information.

History of the Survey

The Nicolet National Forest  encompasses 360,000 hectares of mixed hardwood-conifer forests, lowland swamps, glacial lakes, and wetlands in northeastern Wisconsin. It comprises the eastern portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, with headquarters in Rhinelander and Park Falls, Wisconsin. The Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey began in 1987 in response to the lack of quantitative information about the breeding birds in northern Wisconsin.

Wildlife Biologist Gary Zimmer, who helped to organize the first Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey in 1986, speaks to the volunteers at the 2011 Survey.

Following publication of the 1986 Land and Resource Management Plan for the Nicolet National Forest, members of the Conservation Committee of the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society wanted to provide a better foundation for assessing the impacts of forest management on bird populations. A proposal was submitted to Forest Service Biologist Tony Rinaldi, who worked with the Audubon Society members to organize the first Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey at the Boulder Lake Campground. The survey now alternates, surveying points in the northern or southern sections of the forest each year.

Over  400 volunteers, including many of Wisconsin’s premier birders, including Sam Robbins, Noel Cutright, Bettie Harriman, Tom Schultz, Jim, Jeff, and Scott Baughman, Andy Paulios, Laura Erickson, John Feith, and others, have joined biologists from the US Forest Service and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay over the years to conduct the annual survey. Biologists and volunteers have now compiled more than 40,000 records of birds at 522 points, most of which have been sampled every other year since 1987 or 1988. This data has been used by many researchers and has contributed to several theses and scientific publications.  Most importantly, the effort of our outstanding and dedicated citizen scientists has resulted in improved management of our northern forests and a better understanding of the ecology of forest birds.