Finding feathered fun
In collaboration with Friends of Alta, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, with Tracy Aviary leading the way, we are conducting a three-year bird monitoring study to determine a baseline of bird species for Alta. This study will aid in a larger collaborative effort to support third-party environmental research, and to give conservation managers and the Alta community greater insight into the dynamics of our feathered friends.
Birds are indicators of management and ecosystem health. Thus bird monitoring is a strategic activity used to determine conservation status of a particular species or a community of birds. Ultimately, surveying can help predict immediate or cumulative effects of habitat change and subsequently provide insights to management practices and conservation priorities (U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative Monitoring Subcommittee 2007). Additionally, this strategy is cost-effective since birds can be detected both by sight and ear. With the support of the partners and volunteers, the Bird Monitoring Project seeks to meet the following objectives:
- Create a baseline of bird species present in Alta
- Identify species unanimous to specific habitat types
- Identify priority species, their habitat types and breeding grounds
- Share results with the community of Alta
- Engage and train Alta residents to conduct future surveys
Methodology for this project was completed by Tracy Aviary and the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies (BCR), utilizing the preexisting Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions Program, which provides a model that can be scaled from a local to regional level. The study at Alta includes ten grids, each 1 square kilometer with 7 to 16 points evenly spaced every 250 meters. The sampling used ensures that all sites of interest are equally represented (spatially balanced by habitat type and elevation). This grid system can also be used as a base to develop research in groups such as plants, insects and other wildlife.
Surveys are conducted by Tracy Aviary and trained Citizen Science volunteers. All the data is entered into an online system created by BCR and is made available for local and regional analysis.
We envision the bird monitoring as a long-term effort, thus involving a phased schedule. Phase I: Summer of 2014 Bryant Olsen from Tracy Aviary with volunteers marked points and created a preliminary bird list based on incidental observations. Phase II: From 2015 to 2017 develop a formal baseline from annual bird and vegetation surveys with Tracy Aviary and trained Citizen Science volunteers. Phase III: Continue long-term data collection for greater environmental analysis, which may include interpreting trends for the Alta avian community and determining relations between birds and specific habitats. Initial data analysis upon the completion of Phase II, we expect to produce the following statistics:
- Number of individuals (relative bird abundance)
- Number of different bird species (relative richness)
- Number of individuals per hectare (density of selected species)
- General point survey vegetation characteristics (dominant plant species)
As this project develops, we look forward to expanding the use of the collected data through partnerships and learning more about the characteristics and functions of the Alta ecosystem from our avian friends.