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Browsing posts tagged with: Christmas Bird Count

Predicting Hummingbird Arrivals

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016
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Spring is coming and many of our most loved birds will be here any day! Thanks to long running citizen science projects we can pretty accurately predict when certain species are going to arrive. One migrant that a lot of people are already talking about and eagerly awaiting is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Let’s take a look at some resources available to predict their arrival.

 

gorget (1)

Hummingbirds.net
Possibly the best known site for tracking hummingbird migrations is hummingbirds.net. The owner posts little dots on a map based on reports that are submitted. The dots are labelled with a date and color based on the week. You can see the most recent updates at this link but here is a snapshot from 11 April 2016 showing where Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been reported:

hummingbirds.net (1)

eBird.org
Compare the map above to this map from eBird.org (also a snapshot from 11 April 2016). You can also see the most recent map from eBird at this link.

eBird RTHU (1)

Discussion
It is pretty clear that there are some discrepancies with these two maps, most notably that the hummingbirds.net map shows our Ruby-throated Hummingbird significantly further north than eBird.org.

My problem with hummingbirds.net is the lack of credibility; anyone can submit a sighting with very little review. From their site: “The map is artwork produced by hand; the dots are placed by eyeball after looking up each report in Google Maps. Reports are mapped if they illustrate migration progress, and fit without reducing legibility.” So you have reports that are going unreviewed (seriously, I think anyone could submit a report from Maine and it would be plotted because it seems to fit with the “progress”) and there is a whole issue with observer bias from the site owner plotting the location, rather than the person who actually observed the bird.

This is assuming the reported bird was even a hummingbird. Quick glimpses of kinglets hover-feeding or even large insects can easily be mistaken for hummingbirds. I do think that hummingbirds.net provides an interesting illustration of the first wave of migrants but I always struggle with the lack of credability.

On the other hand, all reports to eBird.org (for Maine) that are submitted before May 1st require review from one of four state-reviewers. Here is a great article on the eBird data review process. There are currently about 15 records for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds before May 1st in Maine, for all years. From eBird, here is a frequency chart showing the timing of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s arrival in Maine:

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The first week of May
Though there are a few records in April, it is primarily in the first week of May that we should expect Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to return. So you’ve still got time to get your hummingbird feeder cleaned and hung (or your native plants sown) before these gems return.

-DougDoug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)

Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

 

Students in Search of a Snowy Owl

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
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I recently had the pleasure of going birding with a group of students from Windham Middle School to look for a Snowy Owl. I’ve had the pleasure of working with this group before. Their teacher, Ryan Rumsey, has been working with Maine Audubon and teaching his students to bird for a couple years now. Incorporating birds and birding into a number of activities, the students have been actively participating in Project Feederwatch and using eBird to document the birds that visit the feeders outside their classroom.

You can follow their sightings, including a summary of our Snowy Owl trip, at their blog: http://windhamfeederwatch.blogspot.com

WA-group-shot-web

One way we help students on these trips is by sharing the resources and tools that Maine Audubon has available. With a couple Swarovski spotting scopes, the kids were able to get excellent views of the distant Snowy Owl and even ‘digiscope’ (use a camera aimed through the scope) to take pictures of the owl.

The class has been doing a fundraiser so they can purchase their own scope and are now only about $225 away! Please consider donating here.

Brunswick-web

“Brunswick” the Snowy Owl

Perhaps the coolest part of this trip was that it was a very special Snowy Owl that we went to see. This owl is part of Project Snowstorm and has been fitted with a transmitter so that its movements can be tracked.

It was relocated from the Brunswick Executive Airport (giving it the name “Brunswick”) to the Rachel Carson NWR on January 13, 2016. Since then it has been roaming the coastline from Kennebunkport to Ogunquit, but it is mostly seen around Wells. You can follow her movements (and also consider donating to Project Snowstorm) here:

For the weeks, months and hopefully years to come the students will be able to “follow” this Snowy Owl around thanks to Project Snowstorm. It’s already quite amazing to see the area “Brunswick” has covered!

Below you can a snapshot from Project Snowstorm confirming our bird was “Brunswick.”

 

Brunswick-on-Project-Snowstorm-web

 

I also have to give these students a ton of credit for doing this during their February vacation week! Rather than sleeping in, watching tv or doing whatever teenagers do, these kids were up before dawn exploring nature in below zero temperatures. (It was a balmy 10ºF when we finally found the owl.)  Way to go, Mr. Rumsey’s class!

-DougDoug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)

Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

 

Winter Reading List

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
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bringing natureShort days and cold temperatures often limit our outdoor explorations so it is a good time to hit the books. Below is a list of books I recommend for this winter.

First off, if you haven’t read Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, then stop reading this blog and go read it now. This book does a great job explaining the importance of native plants and their role in our native food webs. Okay, if you’ve finished reading it, here are a few others:

If you want to learn about wild seed propagation, our friends at The Wild Seed Project have a great list of resources here. I’d recommend Attracting Native Pollinators as a personal favorite from that list.

And since you should study your field guides before going out exploring, Butterflies of the East Coast by Rich Cech and Guy Tudor will give you warm feelings during cold nights. Their photos (dorsal and ventral for each species) and descriptions are well presented and the large format makes for a better read inside than companion in the field.

The only thing more important than educating yourself is to teach a youngster. If you have a child in your household go read them Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Read it again yourself if it has been awhile. Another personal favorite is The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. It’s a great lesson with captivating artwork and makes for a child friendly read-a-long.

Additional recommendations:

Field guides:
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide – Lawrence Newcomb
Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Princeton Field Guides) – David Wagner
The Sibley Guide to Trees - David Allen Sibley
Tree Finder – May Theilgaard Watts

More for kids:
Trees, Leaves and Bark – Diane Burns
How a Seed Grows – Helene Jordan

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

 

Christmas Bird Count Update!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015
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The 116th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began on December 15 and the results are starting to come in. With all the warm weather we’ve been experiencing, there was an expectation of high counts boosted by lingering migrants. Unfortunately, the weather has been less than cooperative on count days leading to low counts, cold birders, but enjoyable outings nonetheless.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

In case you missed it, here is a great article from Deirdre Fleming of the Portland Press Herald, who followed me and a group of young birders around during the York County CBC.

Results from around the state are beginning to be posted. Here are a few results so far:

And there is still time to join a count near you! Here is a complete list of CBC’s around the state.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

 

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon to Participate in 115th Annual Christmas Bird Count

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
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Christmas Bird CountMEDIA RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

December 9, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
[email protected]
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

 Maine Audubon to Participate in 115th Annual Christmas Bird Count
Annual bird survey helps to shape national conservation policy

Falmouth – Maine Audubon invites experienced volunteers across the state to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Between December 14, 2014 and January 5, 2015, hundreds of participants in Maine (and thousands across the Western Hemisphere) will brave inclement weather to help scientists assess and guide significant conservation efforts at a scale they could not accomplish alone. Maine Audubon will hold the CBC in the greater Portland area on Sunday, December 14; in the Orono-Old Town area on Saturday, December 20; and in the Bangor-Bucksport area on January 3, 2015.

Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count produces the most comprehensive data set depicting the fluctuation, range and movement of bird populations across the continent. Scientists rely on this trend data to better understand how birds and the environment are faring and what needs to be done to protect them. The Maine bird count contributes to this vast volunteer network and continues a holiday tradition that stretches back over 100 years.

“The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that shapes conservation policy across the country,” noted Maine Audubon’s Doug Hitchcox, staff naturalist and coordinator of the Maine Christmas Bird Count. “Christmas Bird Count data is becoming increasingly important not only in documenting current climate change but in predicting the future effects of climate change on Maine and North American bird populations. If we know what to expect, we can start taking action now to do something about it.”

Volunteer contributions to the CBC is what enabled National Audubon scientists to predict how climate change will alter the geographical ranges of North American bird species in a recent groundbreaking study. Released this past fall, the study found that 314 North American bird species (including 50 in Maine) are at risk because of climate change, which means they could potentially lose more than 50% of their range by 2080.

Because of the CBC, we also know that Maine is seeing more bird species in the winter that were traditionally found further south. Going back nearly forty years, it was exceptional to see a Carolina Wren or Red-bellied Woodpecker in Maine – now we see them regularly as far north as Rockland. Eastern Bluebirds have long been a breeding bird in Maine, but it was only in 1992 that they were first observed here during a Christmas Count. Since then, they have been seen almost annually with each year usually exceeding the prior. One Eastern Bluebird was spotted in 1992; last year, there were 336 bluebirds reported during the Christmas Count in Maine.

“Even if you can’t participate in this year’s count, you can help by filling your backyard feeders,” said Hitchcox. “This will help counters observe more species.” For more information, or to participate in year’s Christmas Bird Count, please contact Doug Hitchcox at [email protected] or call (207) 781-2330 x237.

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
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