The Audubon Bird Research Email Newsletter provides you with monthly updates outlining the work we are doing as part of the scientific research initiative at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. You will also receive emails when we are in need of volunteers for projects. Suggestions and questions regarding the newsletter can be sent to Dr. Charles Clarkson, Audubon Director of Avian Research, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Baseline Data Collection
We love birds. We love their beauty, their mystery, and their amazing ability to lift our spirits. It is our love of these feathered metabolic hotrods that compels us to do everything in our power to reverse the significant decline we have witnessed over the past 50 years in our bird populations. At Audubon, we are initiating a long-term monitoring program across our refuge complex in the hopes that we will be better positioned to protect our birds over the coming decades.
The first step in creating a monitoring plan across our refuges is to understand what we already protect. This is not just the creation of a comprehensive list of the birds that breed, winter and migrate through our parcels. As we know, birds and habitats are inextricably linked. As part of its mission statement, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island is dedicated to the protection of birds and the habitats that they rely on. Without a full accounting of the types of habitats Audubon conserves on its properties, there is no way to predict which birds we can and do attract and plan for the future conservation needs of these species. Like all states, Rhode Island is facing a growing threat from climate change, the rapid transformation of our habitats and intensification of our weather patterns. These looming threats all point to the need for adaptive, forward-thinking conservation. From the recently completed bird atlas, we know a great deal about which species use our small state at some point in their annual cycle and we know the habitats they rely on. For many species, we know how many individuals there are in the state and where hotpots of density occur. We know how important our western forests are to migrating birds and we know which species are increasing in abundance and distribution and which are declining and in need of additional management if we are to help their failing populations.
The Rhode Island Bird Atlas was truly a comprehensive look at our state’s bird populations. Many of our surveys and point counts occurred on Audubon properties and as we develop plans for long-term monitoring across our land holdings, we are first combing through all of the atlas data to determine what we already know about our birds…which species are utilizing our refuges and where rare and declining species can be found. We are also pulling in records from every eBird checklist reported for our state. Over 350 eBird observers have submitted over 2,000 checklists from our properties and this represents a wealth of additional information that can be used to supplement what we collected during our state bird atlas.
Bird Research Blog
A crucial part of the success of our monitoring program will be effective communication with you, the public. Conservation is only truly successful when there is commitment on the part of local residents who hold power with every ballot they cast and with their stewardship of the land. A true and effective land ethic should include not just the conservation of our natural resources, but also the stewards of those resources. In addition to protecting land, we should be focusing on recruiting as many impassioned and dedicated conservationists in our communities as we can…there is power in numbers.
I will be maintaining a blog, which will be regularly updated with information about the bird research being done at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. I will also use the blog to post new and informative work being done elsewhere that will keep you updated with the most pertinent conservation issues facing our planet. I will make every attempt to bridge the gap between scientific study and the general public. You can’t help if you don’t know.
You can read the blog and the first entries here:
The Audubon Bird Research Blog
The Power of One
In addition to performing scientific research across Audubon’s refuge complex, a number of presentations will be given throughout the state on topics related to the conservation of our bird populations. The first talk will be given on November 21, 2021 from 1 - 2:30 pm at the Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium located in Bristol.
The presentation will arm you with the tools you need to be a more conscious consumer. From purchasing certified "Bird Friendly" coffee to sourcing sustainable seafood and more, you will be empowered to wield your purchasing power with an eye toward conservation.
Virtual Town Hall: Science and Advocacy at Audubon
On November 30, a virtual town hall will be held in which I will join Audubon’s new Senior Director of Government Affairs, Priscilla De La Cruz to field questions on advocacy and conservation here in Rhode Island. Please join us for this informative and important discussion.
Upcoming Research Opportunities
Once all the baseline datasets are compiled and reviewed, we will be moving forward with a comprehensive monitoring program across our refuges. This is where you come in! This newsletter will serve as the primary vehicle for volunteer recruitment when upcoming monitoring projects are announced. As with the bird atlas, trainings will be offered throughout the year to volunteers interested in assisting with data collection. As is the new norm, most of these trainings will be held remotely which will hopefully make it easier to attend. Details on trainings and how to sign-up to participate are forthcoming.
- Breeding season surveys: During the primary months of breeding activity (May, June and July), we will perform point counts and general surveys (similar to atlasing) across our properties. We are currently working with eBird to create a series of permanent point count stations throughout our refuge properties where volunteers can collect and submit data using the eBird app.
Migration surveys: Line transect surveys and point counts will largely be used to collect data during periods of spring and fall migration. Volunteers unfamiliar with this type of data collection will be provided with thorough training.
Winter surveys: We are still working on the most effective way to collect data on our wintering birds. Surveys will likely occur in large “events” similar to blockbusting events held during the atlas, in which a single refuge will be surveyed in its entirety during a single day.
Responsibility Birds: Modeled after VT Audubon’s initiative to conserve species with significant portions of their breeding populations in New England, we are creating a list of “Responsibility Birds” that will receive additional monitoring efforts across our properties. These are species (mainly migratory) that utilize our state’s habitats for breeding, wintering and during periods of migratory stopover and are in decline within the state or regionally or rely on habitats that are in decline. It may also be the case that these species rely on elements of habitats that are a limited resource (such as cavities for nesting) and for which work can be done to expand these resources.
Recent Providence Journal Article
From bald eagles to salt marsh sparrows: RI's Bird Atlas tells us about important changes
Last week, the Providence Journal published a story about the completion of the state's second bird atlas and the use of the atlas data by Audubon as part of its new scientific research initiative. The story highlights what we know about some of the species in decline and others that are colonizing our state.
Stay tuned for more information to come on our exciting new path towards bird conservation at Audubon!