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Updated Sunday, April 17, 2016
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Censuses, Christmas Counts, etc. in the Delaware Valley Region

On this page:

Philadelphia Mid-Winter Census
2010 Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey
2009-10 Christmas Bird Counts
Fall Hawk Migration
Saw-whet Owl Banding (updated 11/13/08)
Big Sits

Delaware Shorebird Monitoring

 

Philadelphia Mid-Winter Census

PHILADELPHIA MID-WINTER CENSUS
By Keith Russell, Census Coordinator

Click Here for the 2016 Report
Click Here for the 2015 Report
Click Here for the 2014 Report
Click Here for the 2013 Report
Click Here for the 2012 Report
Click Here for the 2011 Report
Click Here for the 2010 Report
Click Here for the 2009 Report
Click Here for the 2008 Report

 

When the Philadelphia Mid Winter Bird Census (PMWBC) was inaugurated on January 11, 1987 it was unclear how many birds a census conducted entirely within the confines of the nation’s 5th largest city would find, especially during early January. The 83 species recorded that year by only 18 observers demonstrated however, that the idea of a mid-winter bird census in Philadelphia was not that far fetched.

Since that inaugural year the PMWBC census has not only continued to demonstrate that an impressive variety of bird species can be found in Philadelphia during the winter, but that Philadelphia actually has one of the most diverse wintering bird populations of any county in Pennsylvania. A total of 142 species have been recorded on the census since 1987 and while the annual total has ranged from as few as 79 to as many as 108, an average of 92 species have been recorded each year (average of 96 since 1997). Highlights over the years have included Painted Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Ovenbird, Pine Warbler, Long-Eared Owl and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Lowlights are the continued decline in Philadelphia of Ring-Necked Pheasant, Northern Harrier, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Swamp Sparrow and Field Sparrow, all due largely to habitat loss.

Perhaps more importantly, the census has helped to make some of Philadelphia’s fine birding locations like Roosevelt Park and Benjamin Rush State Park better known, and information from the census hars been instrumental in preserving at least one of Philadelphia’s threatened bird locations (the East Park Reservoir’s West Basin) and it may prove helpful in preserving others in the future.

The census could not have succeeded without the interest and dedication of those who participate, and it is with the utmost appreciation that I would like express my thanks to all those who have participated over the past 20+ years. I am always looking for new volunteers to help count species and individual birds; please email me at if you’d like to participate in the PMWBC count.


2011 Report
2010 Report
2009 Report
2008 Report
2007 Report
2006 Report
2005 Report
2004 Report
2003 Report

 

 


2010 Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey
December 30, 2009 to January 13, 2010, with target dates January 8-9, 2010.

Volunteers are needed for the annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey, especially in areas that have not previously been covered, many of which are here in the Delaware Valley. As Bald Eagles broaden their range in Pennsyvlania, it is important to expand the traditional coverage areas. Read below and contact Doug Gross directly if interested.

Doug Gross, PA Game Commission Wildlife Biologist, provides the following information:
For returning volunteer surveyors, please plan your Midwinter Bald Eagle survey accordingly and let me know if you plan to conduct a survey this winter. I would appreciate it if everyone conducts the same survey that they have done in the past for the sake of consistency and thoroughness. I discussed the survey with a few of you and had announced this survey through other venues including the PSO Pileated Newsletter. I am trying to expand coverage of the eagle survey so please see the list of targeted areas at the end of this e-mail. I am open to additional areas. We also would like to survey our winter eagle roosts, so if you know of any please help with that.

As in past years, counts should be conducted on one of the two target dates along non-overlapping, clearly defined, standard survey routes that have been surveyed consistently in previous years. Routes that have been surveyed consistently for at least 4-years and where at least 4 eagles have been seen in at least 1 year should be a priority in the 2010 survey. USGS analyses have shown that trend estimates are biased when observers switch methods of transportation (air, vehicle, boat), even when they survey the same area. So please try to have your observers use a consistent transportation method on each route. Please ensure that observers note on the survey form whether the survey covered the same area as in past years.

Much of the information (instructions, coordinator contact information, blank form, etc.) you will need for the survey can be found on the USGS website: http://srfs.wr.usgs.gov/research/indivproj.asp?SRFSProj_ID=2, and Corps website: http://corpslakes.usace.army.mil/employees/bird/midwinter.html. You can download pre-printed forms for existing standard survey routes from the Corps website. USGS updated these forms to reflect recent additions and changes they made in their latest review (1986-2005). Please use these pre-printed forms, as they make data entry and interpretation more efficient, and please let me know if you have any problems accessing the files on this site. I will be updating the pre-printed forms from 2009 to distribute to anyone who needs them.

Separately, I will provide some of you the form that USFWS has given me in MSWord format for your particular route. Please make sure that you note on the survey form whether the survey covered the same area as in past years. If you need more information or a form in a different format, please let me know.

The winter survey is an excellent way to scout for new or rebuilding eagle nests. And, with the increasing eagle population there is a greater chance for eagles to roost together in cold weather. These roosts could be important to protect for the benefit of the eagles. So, we get a lot of out of the winter surveys besides winter eagle surveys.

I also would like to recruit observers for locations that have not been covered by the mid-winter eagle survey. Eagles are broadening their range in PA and it is appropriate to add more locations to the general survey effort. The mid-winter surveys are a good way to scout for new nests. We have found a few this way! Also, eagles seem to respond to water and ice conditions so we may miss eagles if we keep a narrow scope to our overall state survey (keeping the traditional routes for comparison and trend analysis). So, let's keep counting eagles in the traditional locations / routes & add a few more routes to the total effort. I'd appreciate any assistance with recruiting more eagle watchers. We benefitted from recruiting new observers for a number of locations in the last years including Conodoguinet Creek, Penn’s Creek, the West Branch Susq River upstream of Lewisburg, Pickering Creek Reservoir, Brandywine Creek, Long Arm and Shepperd Myers Reservoirs, French Creek / Union Dam, Lake Marburg, Springton Reservoir, and a few others.

A few locations that we did not get surveyed in winter of 2009 that I’d love to see surveyed in 2010 survey:
- Lower Delaware River – Philadelphia
- Lower Delaware River, Bucks County, and Van Skiver Lake area
- Roderick Reserve, SGL 314, Erie Co.
- Presque Isle State Park / Presque Isle Bay, Erie Co.
- Lake Erie Shore points including Elk Creek access and Erie Bluffs State Park
- Tamarack Lake, Crawford Co.
- Edinboro Lake, Erie Co.
- Cheat River Lake, Fayette Co.
- Youghiogheny River and Reservoir, Fayette / Somerset Counties
- Lake Williams / Lake Redmond, York Co.
- Schuylkill River, Chester Co.
- Lake Ontelaunee, Berks Co.
- Blue Marsh Lake, Berks Co.
- Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery Co.
- Lake Nockamixon, Bucks Co.
- Lake Galena, Bucks Co.
- Memorial and Marquette Lakes, Lebanon County
- Harvey’s Lake, Luzerne Co.
- Huntsville Reservoir, Luzerne Co.
Pike’s Creek Reservoir, Luzerne Co.
Lake Scranton, Lackawanna Co.
Pocono Lake, Monroe Co.
Lake Naomi, Monroe Co.
Tioga River, Tioga Co.
John Heinz NWR (Tinicum) / Darby Creek – Philadelphia, Delaware Co.
Lower Schuylkill River, Montgomery, Philadelphia
Tullytown / Van Skiver Lake, Lake Luxembourg, Bucks Co.
Core Creek State Park, Bucks Co.
Nockamixon State Park, Bucks Co.
Peace Valley Lake, Bucks Co.
Lake Redmond / Lake Williams, York Co.
Lake Ontelaunee, Berks Co.
Marsh Creek Lake / Marsh Creek, Chester Co.
Perkiomen Creek, Montgomery Co.
Pequea Creek, Lancaster Co.
Cherry Creek, Monroe Co.
Beaver Creek, Beaver Co.
Raccoon Creek, Beaver Co.
Beaver Run Reservoir, Westmoreland Co.

If you plan to adopt any of the new locations, please let me know ASAP. Recruit friends!

Please send me the completed form(s) by the end of January 2010. And, please consider entering your observation data also into eBird because these locations are often good for a variety of birds of conservation interest. See: http://ebird.org/content/pa

Good Eagle Counting!

Douglas A. Gross
PA Game Commission Wildlife Biologist
Endangered Bird Specialist & PA eBird Coordinator
106 Winters Road, Orangeville, PA 17859
570-458-4109; dogross@state.pa.us

2009-10 Christmas Bird Counts

(by Debbie Beer, DVOC Conservation Chairperson, October 18, 2009)

The tradition lives on, as birders prepare for the 110th CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT, taking place December 14, 2009 through January 5, 2010. From Philadelphia to Phoenix, Alaska to Antarctica, tens of thousands of volunteers will dedicate their time, skills and enthusiasm to conduct a winter bird survey, gathering data for the longest-running citizen scientist project in history. Families, students, bird clubs and friends look forward to a day of birding their favorite locations, armed with binoculars, checklists and hot coffee. If you’re with me, there are plenty of snacks too!

The project’s roots began in 1900, when Frank Chapman suggested counting birds, instead of the traditional holiday “shoot-off” of wildlife and game birds. His visionary proposal has become a critical conservation tool, documenting long-term population shifts, increases and declines in avian species. Managed by National Audubon Society (NAS), the data gathered from the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) helps scientists and policy-makers identify threats to birds and habitat, and promote broad awareness of the need to address key issues.

The Christmas Bird Count covers over 2,000 CBC “circles” across North, Central and South America. Each circle is managed by a volunteer CBC Compiler, whose responsibilities include designating the count day (within the 3-week window), notifying and organizing participants, gathering and compiling count data, submitting information to NAS on-line, and following-up on rare bird reports. A post-count party is a highlight for many CBC’s, where volunteers gather to share sightings and toast a long-standing holiday event!

Many DVOC members are active in Christmas Bird Counts - as Compilers, section leaders and volunteer participants. COMPILERS NEED YOUR HELP! If you’ve never participated in a CBC, now is a great time to sign-up with your local count, and spend a rewarding day of birding, while making new friends, and contributing to an important conservation effort. Contact any of the Compilers or section leaders ASAP, to join one or more local counts.

Click Here for a list of the Delaware Valley CBC dates for 2009-10. (updated 12/13)
Any questions, contact Debbie Beer at 610-955-4098.

Click here for link to National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count website:

Previous year archives

2009-10 information, 2009-2010 Summary
2008-09 information, 2008-2009 Summary
2007-08 information
2006-07 information
2005-06 information
2004-05 information
2003-04 information

Fall Hawk Migration Begins

(by Debbie Beer, DVOC Conservation Chairperson, August 27, 2009)

As hot summer days grow shorter, I’m looking ahead to the chilly mornings of Autumn, and the crunch of falling leaves underfoot. The spectacle of raptor migration brings my eyes up to the skies, scanning for birds of prey.

The Delaware Valley and surrounding area hosts many impressive hawk watching sites, each of which records and compiles important data about the species and numbers of migrating raptors along the eastern United States. Below are just a few of these remarkable places:

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, located on Pennsylvania’s picturesque Kittatiny mountain ridge, began their official Autumn hawkwatch earlier this month. Counts have been conducted continuously since the Sanctuary was founded in 1934. Historically, between August 15 and December 15, an average 20,000 hawks, eagles and falcons pass the Sanctuary's North Lookout and are identified and counted. Hawk Mountain’s cumulative 7-decade count represents the world's longest record of raptor populations, providing valuable information to scientists and policy-makers who need to understand the patterns of migrating raptors.

Another celebrated hawk watch, the Cape May Bird Observatory, officially runs from September 1 through November 30, with counters stationed each day on the hawkwatch platform at Cape May Point State Park near the lighthouse. Interns and volunteers are on hand most of the season, to help visitors with identification and answer questions. The famed platform also serves as the social hub for beginners and experts alike, all sharing appreciation for one of the world’s best birding hotspots.

In Fort Washington, Montgomery County PA, the Militia Hill Hawkwatch also starts counting raptors on September 1. They celebrate 22 years of counting in 2009, staffed mostly by volunteers from the Wyncote Audubon Society. Like most hawkwatches, all the data they collect is sent to the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), to be included in a wide-reaching database of raptor migration information.

The Rose Tree Park Hawk Watch marks 10 years of counting, starting the end of August, 2009. Begun by Nick Pulcinella in 1999, this Delaware County PA location with expansive vistas has joined the ranks of significant, active hawk watching sites, contributing valuable data to the cause.

In the early 1990’s, regional birders galvanized the launch of a hawk watch at Cape Henlopen, on coastal Delaware. Since 2002 both a spring and a fall watch have been operated by an all-volunteer crew, with occasional assistance from a grant-subsidized researcher, reporting data to HMANA. Also in Delaware, the Ashland Nature Center Hawk Watch officially launched in 2007, with funding and support by the Delmarva Ornithological Society and the Delaware Nature Society.

Thanks to data collected by dedicated hawk-watchers, we know that Broad-winged Hawks, American Kestrels, Bald Eagles and Ospreys are among the most numerous late Summer/early Autumn migrants. October brings the greatest variety, with migrating Golden Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Coopers Hawks, Northern Harriers, Merlin, Peregrine and more. Gradually the passage of birds slows in mid-December – the time that many counts officially end – although migrating eagles, goshawks and Rough-legged Hawks have been sighted in January.

There are many more hawk watching sites located in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and further afield. To find a local site – or volunteer for one – visit The Hawk Migration Association of North America website www.hmana.org. This membership-based organization remains committed to the conservation of raptors through the scientific study, enjoyment, and appreciation of raptor migration, collecting data from myriad organizations.

SAW-WHET OWL BANDING ON THE KITTATINY MOUNTAINS

A VOLUNTEER BANDER’S EXPERIENCE
(by Club Member Phil Witmer, Guest Columnist, printed 11/13/08 in the Daily Times newspaper, Delaware County)

It was dark and cool night in October 2007. I stood there with my hands in my pockets trying to catch my breath. I had just hiked up the rocky side of the mountain with nothing but the light from my small headlamp to guide my steps. No one else in my group seemed to be bothered by the fast pace set by the leader. I kept quiet for fear others would notice that the new guy was panting badly.

“OK, Phil,” the experienced volunteer said, “You take this one.”

I took a deep breath and tried to relax. I was excited and nervous at the prospect of extracting my first northern saw-whet owl from the mist net just in front of me.

“Take your time and let me show you how not to injure the bird,” I was told.

“The bird,” I thought to myself. “What about me? How am I going to keep this vicious owl from ripping me to shreds?”

Saw-whet owls, though not much bigger than a man’s fist, are fierce hunters of the night, feared by small rodents everywhere in their range. Excellent eyesight and asymmetrical ears have evolved to provide acute depth perception even on the darkest nights; good for the owls, very bad for the mice. The long sharp talons for grasping its prey and hooked bill for tearing flesh, both characteristics of raptors, warned me to proceed carefully.

“Use your first two fingers and thumb to hold and support the legs. Then you can safely untangle the talons,” I was instructed.

“Safe for who?” I muttered to myself.

I carefully worked to untangle the bird from the net. The owl, now held firmly in my grip, suddenly became docile. It sat on my hand looking more through me than at me and I wondered if she even knew I was there.

Now I saw this diminutive killer as a small fluffy ball of feathers with huge placid eyes. Saw-whets are small. Females are larger than males and could weigh 90 grams. That’s just over 3 ounces, about the weight of a half cup of flour. I could understand why many describe these soft, feathery creatures as ‘cute.’ I preferred to keep a firm grip on those talons.

My trip down the trail to the banding station was much slower than my ascent, taking great care not to fall with the bird I was carrying. Each crew has a federally licensed bander, men and women who have been working with owls for years, assigned for that night. Our bander began the process of securing a numbered metal band around the leg of each owl; the band will not hurt the bird or interfere with its hunting, but it allows the bird to be identified if it’s ever captured or encountered again.

After the band is put on the owl, information is meticulously recorded for each bird such as the weight, length of the wing, age, etc. This is the stuff of research. Lots of information is gathered, sometimes without knowing how it will be important later.

After the birds were banded and the information recorded, they were moved to a dark room. Research has shown that the owls need about five minutes in the dark for their eyes to adjust before being released. Just as thrilling as removing an owl from the nets is setting one free. After sufficient time for the owls to be accustomed to the dark, we took the birds out and away from the lights of the banding station and released them. It is amazing how silently they flew into the darkness. The cycle was complete; it would be repeated many times during the banding season.

Scott Weidensaul, noted author and nature writer, coordinates the banding project run by the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Millersburg, Pa. The fall of 2007 was an irruption year for saw-whet owls. Their numbers vary from year to year in a cycle tuned to the population increases and decreases of mice, their major source of food, in eastern Canada and New England. The abundance of food in 2006 and the lack of food in the fall of 2007 set the stage for major migrations.

Scott’s project is part of a larger network of banding stations across the continent all sharing information on the migration of saw-whets. It is important work to protect the birds. Recent declines in bird populations portend a critical time for our planet. Some estimate that global warming, if unchecked, could result in extinction of 25 percent of the world’s species by 2050.

I am back again this fall to assist with the banding project. It is still thrilling to climb up to the nets and discover an owl there. It also gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction that I am helping the environment. Hiking up and down a mountain in the middle of the night to band owls may not be your idea of fun, but there are many other ways you can make a contribution:

1. Make your home as energy efficient as possible (buildings are responsible for one-third of our greenhouse gases.) This will also save you money on utilities.

2. Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.

3. Buy locally grown produce.

4. Grow native plants in your garden. These will provide food and cover for a host of birds.

5. Get involved. Let your legislators know how important it is to address global warming. Go to http://audubonwecan.org for more ways to be part of the solution.

Philip Witmer is an avid birder, amateur conservationist and Haverford Township resident. He is available for talks to groups on birds and global warming free of charge. He can be reached at: philip.witmer@verizon.net.


SAW-WHETS BY THE NUMBERS: 5 RADIO-TAGGED, 142 BANDED, INFINITE HOPES FOR NOVEMBER
by Debbie Beer
(Posted 11/2/2008)

The 12th season of Saw-whet Owl banding is well underway, with high hopes for early November, when numbers historically peak. Project coordinator Scott Weidensaul provides fascinating, detailed updates on his website (below), which are excerpted here. DVOC’s own field trip to the Hidden Valley banding station is scheduled for next Saturday, November 8. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather and many owls.

Since 2001 the center’s owl research crew has used tiny transmitters to learn more about Saw-whet Owl ecology. The tiny radios, smaller than pencil erasers and weighing less than 2 grams, attach to the bird via a nylon harness which falls off after a couple of months. Since the transmission range is limited, the goal is to study the birds’ behavior during migration stopover, which can last days or weeks in places like the Kittatiny Mountain range. Research technician Anna Fasoli, intern Drew Weber, Scott Weidensaul and their support teams spend hours trekking through rocky, trail-less mountainsides, to follow the owls in the hours and days after they are first released with radio transmitters firmly in place.

DIZZY, a second year female, was the first owl this season to be radio-tagged, on October 5, 2008. Many evenings were spent tracking her down through remote, rocky areas. Her radio beeps might confirm she was within yards, but it sometimes took hours to actually see her, as she was often well-hidden deep in pine trees.

By October 17th, Dizzy seems to have moved on – last recorded on October 15th – which was just as well, as two new owls were radio-tagged. AUTUMN and FAIRFIELD, named for the group of school children who visited the banding site, could now provide new information about saw-whet roosting habits and movements.

While teams tracked the radio-tagged birds, Scott’s banding stations continued to capture steady, if not huge numbers of Saw-whets. To date, this season is slow compared to previous irruption years, but there are enough highlights to keep it interesting. Several of their own newly-banded birds were already re-captured by other stations south and west, giving a good picture of migration movement. Scott’s stations have also captured birds that were banded by other stations, bringing the excitement of researching the details of where they came from and when. For example, a bird caught at Hidden Valley on October 19 was previously banded on January 16, 2008 near Richmond, Virginia.

AUTUMN was relocated on October 26, though FAIRFIELD could not be found. She might have pushed on in advance of the heavy rainstorm and falling temperatures that weekend. That night a fourth owl was radio-tagged, QUASI, so-named because she sat hunched in the hand when captured. QUASI provided the first opportunity to track by car, as Drew and Scott were able to hone in on her position and take readings while she sat in one location, and they sat in their cars. Gusty winds caused the radio signal to bounce around, but the movements were so slight they were attributed to tree branches moving and throwing the signal, rather than actual motion from the owl. In other words, she was most likely hunkered down eating a mouse.

Surprisingly, FAIRFIELD was relocated on October 27, so now there were 3 beeping owls to keep track of in the area. They were all still around on October 29, the night before MORTICIA, a second-year female, was banded and named in the spirit of the season.

By Halloween night, 106 Saw-whets were banded, less than half of the 10-year average of 229 by this date. At least there are a few birds caught each night to keep crews motivated and thrill the steady stream of nightly visitors from various groups and organizations. Just in the past two nights, there was a pleasant jump in the owl numbers, bringing the total to 142 banded by the evening of November 1.

MORTICIA and QUASI, the two most recently tagged Saw-whets are still in the area, while the others seem to have moved on. Only time will tell how long these birds will stopover before moving out of range. Perhaps new birds will be radio-tagged on the night that DVOC visits the Hidden Valley banding station, so we can follow their progress with a personal interest.

Check out the details of the Ned Smith Center Saw-whet Owl banding project on website: http://www.nedsmithcenter.org/00sawwhet_research.html. The “Owl Blog” is a fascinating, nearly-daily report of the activities.


OPENING NIGHT IN THE FIELD (posted 10/3/2008)

(The DVOC supports this project with a major grant from the 2008 Conservation Funds. A field trip to the banding station will be held on Saturday November 8.)

“It was twilight as I opened the line of four 40-foot-long mist nets that are the heart of our operation, each one about eight feet high and almost invisible. I was just unfurling the last one when a coyote began to howl, just upslope on the mountain a few hundred yards -- a wonderfully weird song that is thrilling and hair-raisingly eerie at the same time. Then another joined it, before they both moved off down the ridge.” – Scott Weidensaul, October 3, 2008

Few people can convey the spirit of owl banding as eloquently as Scott Weidensaul. Fortunately, his talent with words is mirrored by his skills in birding and his passion for conservation.

The Ned Smith Center's owl research program launched its 12th season of field work on October 1, 2008. As the project coordinator, Scott was on-hand with several volunteers, opening the earliest banding stations at Hidden Valley and Small Valley. While Coyotes provided the perfect salute to the opening night, the Owls apparently didn’t get the invitation. Not quite unexpected, the nets remained empty.

Every autumn the Ned Smith Center operates three fulltime banding stations (in Schuylkill, Dauphin and Cumberland counties), which are open seven nights a week from the beginning of October through late November or early December. As many as 900 owls a season are netted, banded, weighed and measured before being released. The stations are operated by a team of 18 federally licensed banders, with help from more than 85 trained volunteers. Each site is open from dusk until about midnight, weather permitting, and as many as 40 owls a night may be netted in one location.

Scott reported the following night – Thursday, October 2, 2008, was near-perfect (at least weather-wise). The strong northerly winds of the blustery day died off at dusk, bringing ideal migration conditions. But again, there were no birds, except for the call of an eastern screech-owl at Small Valley.

The banding project starts early enough each season to catch the very beginning of the migration, but the first week is usually slow, even in major irruption years (like 2007). Eastern Canadian stations are just getting their peak flights now, and the Kittatiny Mountain area peaks the end of October. Scott awaits with eager anticipation for the 2008 season to unfold with the inevitable surprises and delights.

The Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, located in Millersburg, PA, has sponsored the Saw-Whet Owl banding research since 1997. This year, the research is supported in part by the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC), which gave $3200 to the project. They also received a major grant from the RJM Foundation, which among other things is underwriting their greatly expanded radio-telemetry program.

Details about the Saw-whet Owl banding project can be found on the Ned Smith Center website: http://www.nedsmithcenter.org/00sawwhet_research.html. Check out the new “Owl Blog” featuring frequent updates penned by Scott Weidensaul – always a riveting read. Highlights and excerpts will be posted here too.


The BIG SIT! is big fun for Birders

While most birders stand still only long enough to identify and admire a favorite species – maybe five minutes max, this birding event requires being stationery for 24 hours! Well, not quite exactly in one spot, but observing from within a 17-foot diameter circle.

This is the “Big Sit!” and the 14th annual one takes place Sunday, October 12, 2008. The event is timed for fall migration – a good time to see a variety of species, with good chances for unexpected rarities and “vagrants.” It also coincides with National Wildlife Refuge Week – October 12-18, 2008 – providing a good chance to highlight the important role of national wildlife refuges for resident and migrating birds.

Tony Croasdale is pleased to be leading a Big Sit! group at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. He welcomes anyone to join him at the Observation Platform, where he’ll be staked out starting at dawn. It’s a pleasant walk along the dike road, about .75 miles from the Parking Lot and Visitors Center. Hopefully the weather and winds will cooperate to bring a variety of species – expected and unexpected.

This bird-watching event is open to every person and bird club in the world. The rules are simple and non-competitive – count all the birds you see or hear from within one 17-foot diameter circle, real or imaginery (species, not individuals). For competitive birders, it’s a chance to showcase identification skills. For casual bird-watchers, the Big Sit! can be a wonderful opportunity to learn new species while meeting new people or old friends.

Like other national birding event days, the Big Sit! has become an important activity for raising awareness about birds, their habitats, and the need for conservation. Many clubs and organizations use the Big Sit! as a fundraiser to raise money for conservation, collecting pledges for each species observed. The Big Sit! provides an opportunity to engage young people about birds and wildlife. Teams enjoy the aspect of gathering participants, naming a team, identifying the observation area, and scouting the area in preparation for finding as many species as possible. Important data is gathered across the globe on this one day, and cumulative years of data can give a good picture of species distribution.

The Big Sit! is hosted by BirdWatcher’s Digest and sponsored by Swarovski Optik, Alpen Optics, and Wild Bird Centers. The Bird Watcher’s Digest website posts the event guidelines, organizes team registration and gathers the species lists submitted by teams. Though the event is ostensibly not competitive, there are prizes for Best Overall Count (Most species seen by a single circle - you win Big Sit "braggin' rights"), Best State Count (Highest combined total from circles within a state - you win State "braggin' rights"), and the Golden Bird prize (one species is randomly selected from all the counts submitted, than every team who reported that species is automatically entered in the “lottery” to win $500 from Swarovski Optik. Hopefully the species is a European Starling or other very common bird, to increase your chances of getting in the lottery!).

The Big Sit! is free and open to birders of all skill levels and interests. Join Tony Croasdale at Tinicum on Sunday, or grab some like-minded friends, find a Big Sit! location, and register on-line today at www.birdwatchersdigest.com.


 

 

Delaware Shorebird Monitoring (Posted 3/19/08)

From:

Kevin S. Kalasz, Wildlife Biologist
Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, DNREC
4876 Hay Point Landing Road
Smyrna, DE 19977
office (302) 653-2883 cell (302) 222-8759 fax (302) 653-3431
kevin.kalasz@state.de.us
http://www.fw.delaware.gov/shorebirds/

Get ready for another exciting shorebird field season! Field conditions were great last year and I am hopeful 2008 will bring the same. Over the winter we have been receiving sightings of our flagged birds from the Southern US as well as South America so, as you can see, what we are doing here is beginning to catch on elsewhere.

All of the work conducted and data collected by the volunteers of the DELAWARE SHOREBIRD PROJECT is critical to furthering our understanding of Red Knots and other shorebirds that migrate through the Bay in the spring.

I am hopeful you will be interested in helping out by volunteering with the DELAWARE SHOREBIRD PROJECT this year. The success of this project and shorebird conservation in Delaware depends heavily on support from volunteers. We need people to help on processing teams, to help re-sight individually marked birds, and to help with other daily aspects of the project. If this sounds like a good time and something you would like to do, please get involved!

As in the past, we will be hosting two volunteer training sessions. If you are interested in volunteering to help monitor shorebird migration in Delaware Bay, please sign up for one of these training sessions by April 1.

VOLUNTEER TRAINING DATES: Saturday April 5, 2008 and Saturday April 19, 2008 from 8:30 to 4:00.
VOLUNTEER TRAINING LOCATION: St. Jones Reserve in Dover, DE

This is a great opportunity to learn more about shorebirds, why and how we monitor their populations, and, for past volunteers, to become reacquainted with methods and to learn more advanced skills. Lunch will be provided.

We have again secured a house in Slaughter Beach as a base of operations during the field season and will be there from May 5 through June 6. Limited space is available so please let me know if you would like to stay overnight so we can accommodate you.

We work 7 days a week so there is always something to do at a time that will fit with your schedule. So please join the team! I think you will find it to be a rewarding and fun experience.

Thanks for your interest in the Delaware Shorebird Project and willingness to volunteer! There will be more updates as the approaches but please call or email me if you have any questions. I hope to hear from you and look forward to seeing you in April!