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Browsing posts tagged with: citizen science

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

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
Posted on:

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.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out in the Field: Erik Heitmann

erik-heitmann-evaErik Heitmann is a citizen scientist with Maine Audubon’s Brook Trout Pond Survey program.

This past summer, he visited a remote pond in northern Maine with his daughter, Eva, searching for the presence of native brook trout. Survey information collected by anglers will be used to help identify populations of brook trout to be eligible for conservation management practices. To learn how you can get involved in the Brook Trout Pond Survey, visit maineaudubon.org/brooktrout.

What does conservation mean to you?
Conservation was a word I knew while growing up, but didn’t fully realize its importance. Now I think there is a big difference between conservation and preservation. Conservation is about being conscious – to be aware of what you give and take from nature while you enjoy the outdoor. For instance, you see a sandwich bag along the side of the river while you are fishing – you pick it up. Always keep your impact down while you are out there and be sure to teach the young ones the same concepts.

How did you first hear about Maine Audubon?
My recollection is that I was probably younger than 10 years old. A friend’s mother was an avid bird watcher and I heard about it from her.

Why did you choose to become a Maine Audubon volunteer?
I love trout fishing! Any reason to go trout fishing is enough of an excuse for me. I feel so fortunate to have been able to go to some of the remote ponds and that I was able to take my oldest daughter and share the experience with her.

What do you hope your volunteer work will accomplish?
These streams and ponds are as old as the glaciers and wildlife managers need to know about them. Someone could stock them with pickerel and who would know? Maine has one of the best trout fisheries in the country and this project helps us maintain that status. I plan on helping with the survey until all the ponds have been catalogued.

What has been your favorite moment as a volunteer?
Slashing through the thick forest and suddenly coming upon a body of water. This even got Eva excited and distracted as she fought off the mosquitos!

What’s your favorite place in Maine?
That’s sort of a loaded question for me. I grew up in the coastal Blue Hill area of Maine so I’ve got that blood in me. Inland, I love the Rangeley area, especially for fishing, but Baxter holds a lot of memories from days with my grandfather. I really can’t tell you one place that is my favorite and that’s a testament to how great a state we live in.

What’s your favorite Maine wildlife species?
Brook trout!

 

Out in the Field: Carol Gestwicki, Loon Counter for 30 Years

Carol Photo 2Location: Five Kezar Ponds, White Mountains Foothills

Years participating in loon count: 30

Why did you choose to become a Maine Audubon loon counter?

We have always loved our loon family! We have had loons on the lake since the horsepower restriction of motorboats was reduced (10 HP) – that was in 1974.

What do you hope your volunteer work will accomplish?

I hope that our dedication to the loons will add to the statewide knowledge base so that loons will continue to flourish in Maine.

What has been your favorite moment as a loon counter?

I think all the surprises – the loons keep us on our toes! Some years we think their nest has been flooded because of the high water levels, but then one morning we will see a whole family swimming along. Loons are tough.

Carol Photo 1

What’s your favorite place in Maine?

Absolutely the Five Kezar Ponds. It is a very special place where my family and I have been fortunate enough to spend more than 40 summers.

Anything else you want to share?

Let’s all keep up the good work – when we work to protect the loons, we also protect the lakes and ponds, the mountains and our entire state – being aware makes all the difference.

 

Out in the Field: Dale Gardner, Loon Counter

Dale Gardner - Close UpLocation: Bennett Pond, Parkman

Years participating in loon count: 10

How did you first hear about the loon count?

I first learned about the count when I read an article in the Bangor Daily News I thought it sounded interesting – there are not a lot of people on Bennett Pond in the warmer months, so I wanted to step up and provide helpful information as a public service.

Why did you choose to become a Maine Audubon loon counter?

Well, it sounded like lots of fun – and it is! I love being out on the pond in the early morning. I enjoy seeing them on the water and knowing the location of their nests. I keep a special eye on the nests, as the pond is high in the spring and it tends to drop rapidly as the summer wears on, which can affect their nests.

Bennett Pond, Parkman, Maine

Bennett Pond, Parkman, Maine

What has been your favorite moment as a loon counter?

I have been watching loons on various lakes and ponds for the past thirty years, so it’s hard to say – just this year, I saw the loon mating ritual for the first time. The dances they perform are amazing to watch. I also remember a time in the late ‘80s when I was fishing – a loon kept swimming near my canoe and ended up grabbing the end of the rod in its bill. I’m not sure why, but it was on Fort Machias Lake, where the anglers used to toss live bait and he may have thought I was teasing him with lunch!

But I think my favorite experience with the loons is when they serenade us at night with their calls. It is the nicest thing to fall asleep to the call of the loon – it is very peaceful. Camp would be a pretty different place without loons.

Loon - Dale Gardner 2

Photo by: Dale Gardner

Anything else you want to share?

I think it’s important we remember that loons are the original inhabitants of our Maine lakes and ponds – respect for them can go a long way. A few years ago, I encountered some people in a motorboat harassing some loons. People need to be aware that loons, like people, need their space! You can help protect them by enjoying them from a distance. On Bennett Pond, we let the loons approach us, we don’t approach them.

Dale by Water

 

Maine Audubon Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Maine Loon Count

NEWS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

July 9, 2013

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

Maine Audubon Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Maine Loon Count
Recently passed legislation to protect loons from lead poisoning

Loon - Kerry Woodbury

Photo: Kerry Woodbury

StatewideSince 1983, dedicated Maine Audubon volunteers have descended on their local lakes and ponds with a pair of binoculars and a shared passion – protecting the Maine loon and its habitat. The 30th annual loon count takes place at 7 am on Saturday, July 20. Over 900 loon counters will participate in the annual project that gathers valuable data for Maine Audubon and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) about the status of loons in the state. Volunteers interested in participating in this year’s loon count can contact Susan Gallo at [email protected] or call (207) 781-6180 x216.

Background

The Maine Loon Project was launched 30 years ago as a joint effort with the MDIFW to assess the status of loons in Maine. At that time, very little was known about the iconic bird, but repeated reports of fewer and fewer birds on Maine’s lakes and ponds spurred the development of a state-wide protocol to conduct a standard count. Over the past thirty years, that count, along with projects like habitat assessment and loon mortality studies, have given Maine Audubon much needed insight into the loon population and the many challenges the loons face, including habitat degradation and disturbance, motorized boats, predators and lead poisoning from lead-based fishing tackle.

While the population of adult loons in the southern half of the state has slowly and steadily increased, from about 1,800 at the start of the count to just under 3,000 in 2012, chick numbers are worrisome. Susan Gallo, director of the Maine Loon Project at Maine Audubon, noted that the number of chicks in the southern half of Maine has fluctuated slightly up and down from year to year, but has not significantly changed since 1983. “Adult loons can live 25 to 30 years and they don’t usually breed until they are at least seven years old. The lack of growth in the number of chicks is alarming when we look at the long-term sustainability of our adult loon population.”

The 2012 loon count estimated there were 2977 loons in Maine (down from 3300 in 2011). Gallo noted that this is normal. “What is more concerning,” she said, “is the drastic decrease in number of chicks last year.” In 2011, there were 619 chicks, an all-time high in the 30-year history of the project. In 2012, however, there were only 178 chicks. “This is a significant decrease – over 70 percent – and is cause for alarm,” noted Gallo. “Right now, it is unclear why the numbers are so low. This year’s loon count numbers will help us determine if this is the start of a trend, or if 2011 was an off year.” Results from the 2013 loon count will be available this fall.

Dale Gardner - Close Up

Read Dale’s story at maineaudubon.org/loons

The volunteer work performed by loon counters has also helped move forward important legislation that reduces loon mortality caused by lead poisoning from lead-based fishing jigs and sinkers. In 2002, the Maine State Legislature passed a law that banned the sale of lead fishing sinkers one-half ounce or less. The law, along with an extensive outreach campaign and multi-year lead-tackle exchange program, helped increase both the availability of nontoxic alternatives at retailers and also anglers’ willingness to try these new products. This past June, the Legislature passed another law that bans the sale and use of lead sinkers one ounce or less, as well as bare lead-headed jigs 2.5” long or less. The law is phased in, and will not go into effect until 2016.

“This is a great moment for loons and their community of supporters,” noted Gallo. “Our research over the past ten years has found that lead poisoning from lead-headed jigs and lead sinkers is the largest single cause of loon mortality in Maine, accounting for almost one-third of the documented loon deaths.”

“Loons are very special to Mainers,” noted Gallo. “Summer would not be the same without hearing their mysterious call on your local lake or pond. We are fortunate to have such a large group of people looking out for their well-being.”

Volunteers interested in participating in this year’s loon count can contact Susan Gallo at [email protected] or call (207) 781-6180 x216.

Maine Audubon will be celebrating loons throughout the month of July. Please visit www.maineaudubon.org/loons to learn more about the Maine Loon Project, read profiles of loon volunteers and learn about our loon necklace partnership with Portland-based jewelry company, Turtle Love Company. All proceeds from the sale of loon necklaces will benefit Maine Audubon’s wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation work in the state.

Tips for Protecting Loons 

  • Obey no-wake law within 200 feet of shore
  • Use lead-free tackle; alternatives are made of steel, tin and bismuth
  • Dispose of fishing line so it does not get tangled in a loons’ feet or bill
  • If you live on a lake, use phosphorus-free fertilizer and plant shrubs as a buffer along the shoreline to reduce run-off
  • If you see a loon on a nest, keep your distance and watch with binoculars
  • Keep garbage out of reach of loon egg predators like skunks and raccoons.

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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 in the state, 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.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

 

Western Maine Wildlife Road Watch Training Video Available

Monday, June 24th, 2013
Posted on:

In April our team held training sessions for Western Maine Road Watch volunteers via webinar. The training provides an overview of the Road Watch program, along with detailed information on how to identify, record, and submit signs of wildlife road crossing in western Maine.

You can view the recorded webinar below.

 

Desperately Seeking Birders

Well, maybe not quite desperately, but we would love to have your help! Maine Audubon is looking for birders willing to travel to bird habitat “hotspots” throughout the state, and report back their findings via eBird, the on-line checklist program from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The goal of this effort is to expand Maine’s Important Bird Area program to include some of the many places we believe are important for species of high conservation concern, but for which we lack quantitative data.

With every new checklist added by birders, we’ll be able to build the case for the more than 20 sites that have been identified by the Important Bird Area Technical Committee as needing more information before they can be approved as Maine IBAs. See the map below for the sites we are focusing on this spring. If you have additional sites you’d like considered as IBAs, or if you have questions about the locations or using e-Bird to report your sitings, e-mail Susan Gallo at [email protected].

Visit the IBA home page for more information about the Maine IBA program or to see a list of current, approved IBAs established in Maine.

Thank you for your help, happy birding!

 

Listen: Susan Gallo, Wildlife Biologist on MPBN Maine Calling about Citizen Science

Monday, February 4th, 2013
Posted on:

Tuesday, Feb 5, 12:15-1pm

Susan Gallo, Maine Audubon Wildlife Biologist, will participate in this episode of Maine Calling,  the topic will be citizen science. Learn why we rely on citizen scientists in the field, across the state, to complete annual observations of amphibian, bat, loon, and trout populations, as well as road-side and road-killed wildlife.

MPBN archives their shows! Listen to the show here »

Tune in, or call-in to learn more about how volunteers make our work possible! Email [email protected], tweet @mainecalling, post a message on Facebook www.Facebook.com/MaineCalling or call when the show is live: 1-800-399-3566

We spoke about the importance and value citizen scientists bring to our conservation work in an earlier post.

Stay informed with monthly eNews »

 

The Demonstrated Value of Citizen Scientists

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
Posted on:

Winter is near and our citizen science project activity is in the reporting phase, and once again we thank the many, many volunteers, partners, interns, and patrons who make our science based conservation efforts possible throughout the seasons. We found a story worth highlighting which further illustrates the importance and power of citizen science.

Have you heard of oldWeather.org? This is an online citizen science project to transcribe the log books from about 280 Royal Navy ships from around WWI. The captains of these ships logged weather observations six times a day by hand in their ship’s log book. From the efforts of thousands of people there are now 1.6 million verified transcriptions of six daily weather observations recorded into a database. You can learn more about the sheer volume and value of the numbers from this oldweather.org post.

Sandy with float tube and fly rodAt Maine Audubon we rely on citizen scientists in the field, across the state, to complete annual observations of amphibian, bat, loon, and trout populations, as well as road-side and road-killed wildlife to help us conserve the wildlife and wildlife habitat of Maine. The value of this is simple: we couldn’t do our work without the help of many, many volunteers. Building data sets from this participatory ecology is key to informing and supporting our science based conservation. To learn more about the range of wildlife and habitat conservation visit our site. Each conservation page has recent news posts and calls to action, and, you can check our volunteering and internships page for participation opportunities as they arise (also available from our Facebook page).

Although during late fall and winter we are busy analyzing and building reports from the data and preparing for the next season of data collection, we look forward to working with returning volunteers and welcoming new volunteers who are interested in helping us with our efforts!

In the meantime if you want to assist the oldWeather cause, they have a new project: “Help scientists recover Arctic and worldwide weather observations made by United States’ ships since the mid-19th century. These transcriptions contribute to climate model projections and will improve our knowledge of past environmental conditions. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board.” This is a great effort to help out with during your down time from data collection for Maine Audubon! http://www.oldweather.org

 

2011 Loon Count Results Are Out!

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Posted on:

As the 2012 loon count approaches (on July 21st), it’s a good time to reflect back on what the count has shown us so far, over so many years, and to celebrate last year’s record-high results.  If you remember back to a year ago, we had a very similar start to our spring and summer.  Lots of rain, high water levels, and not-so-warm temperatures made us think the summer would not be good for loons.  In fact, I was prepared, as I sat down with the 2011 count results last fall, to face a major drop in numbers, especially for chicks.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the estimate of the adult population had jumped to an all-time high of 3,302 adults in the southern half of the state, an increase of about 2% from 2010. And imagine my even greater surprise when the chick estimate came out to 661, beating the previous high record from 2007 by almost 30%! I was so surprised at the results that I spent hours re-proofing the data, double checking that the lake size classifications were correct, and looking for errors on the spreadsheet.  There were none to be found.  It appears that the loons, and their chicks, dealt with the rain and changing water levels much better than we expected or that casual observations of loons would have lead us to believe. And that’s great news!

There are a couple of important lessons from this past year that I am trying to keep in mind as I look forward to more years of loon counting in the future.  One is to remember the value of a long-term, science-based assessment, that uses the same methods to sample a population from year to year.  We know that we miss loons each year, and we might even see loons that aren’t there.  And some years we have more counters covering more lakes than others. But our sampling methods assure that even if the estimate is not exact, it is comparable over time and gives us an accurate long-term picture of how many loons there are on our lakes from year to year.  Anecdotal or causal observations of a particular year, no matter how many you collect, cannot be counted on to give you an accurate picture of how the population is faring overall.  The work of almost 1,000 loon counters on the morning of the third Saturday in July is incredibly valuable because it gives us a credible, unbiased assessment from year to year.

The other thing to remember, and to celebrate, is that loons in Maine are doing well.  The population has grown steadily since the early 1980s, and it’s exciting to think that even with the rain pouring down all week, they’ll survive and thrive on Maine’s lakes and ponds this summer.  It’s also exciting to think that our conservation efforts are working.  I’m hopeful that everyone who encounters the work of the Maine Loon Project – our members reading Habitat or our loon counters browsing our webpage or the general public viewing a “State of Maine’s Loons” slideshow –  that everyone walks away with a message about what loons need in Maine and what they can do to help.  And I hope the growing numbers of Maine’s loons, and those actions, are part of the Maine Audubon’s Loon Project legacy.