NOTES FROM THE FIELD - 12/2022
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
We cannot say it enough. Thank you for your gifts of time and talent in support of our projects. We are grateful that many of you have also given generously to make sure we have the tools and fundamentals needed to successfully monitor birds across local landscapes.
Read about our successes below and please consider an end of year, tax deductible donation to Puget Sound Bird Observatory (PSBO) by selecting the Join/Support tab or by mail to: PSBO, PO Box 25072, Seattle, WA 98165.
Notes from the Field - Celebrating Success
Puget Sound Seabird Survey
We are thrilled to be working with Seattle Audubon to transition the Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) program to PSBO. The PSSS is a long-term community science effort created by Seattle Audubon in 2007 that uses trained, volunteer field observers to gather data on wintering seabird populations in Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and waters surrounding the San Juan Islands. Data collected annually between October and April have provided an evolving snapshot of seabird density on more than 5,400 acres of sheltered and open water and shoreline habitat. It is the only land-based, multi-month seabird survey in the Southern Salish Sea, and is providing valuable data for researchers and policy-makers, including essential and dynamic population data such as trends and species distribution for seabirds and waterfowl throughout these waters. With this transition we have welcomed to our team Toby Ross who previously served as the project administrator of the PSSS for Seattle Audubon and who will now take on the responsibilities of managing the project and building onto its strong foundation for PSBO. Though the program does not come with committed funding, we feel strongly that continuing this effort will benefit bird conservation and management in our region, and so we are committed to developing long-term programmatic support.
Regional Wetland Secretive Bird Monitoring
Puget Sound Bird Observatory has been studying birds across our regional wetlands for the past 6 years and is assessing abundance and population trends of four (4) under-detected wetland obligate species, American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), Sora (Porzana carolina), Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola), and Green Heron (Butorides virescens) and three (3) wetland associated species for which there are population concerns, Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) and Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii). Data from our monitoring, including the 2022 effort, provide information on where wetland species are thriving across the region and contributed important new considerations for detection and monitoring of these elusive species.
Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS)
As a contributor to a continent-wide bird monitoring program overseen by the Institute for Bird Populations, during spring and early summer. Puget Sound Bird Observatory operates a MAPS bird banding station at Morse Wildlife Preserve near Graham in Pierce County. The Morse station was started in 1996 and has been run continuously for 27 years. PSBO also supports an additional MAPS banding station run by collaborators at the Glacial Heritage Preserve in Thurston County. Birds are captured using mist nets, which are special nylon mesh nets 12 m long x 2 m high. The birds are identified to species, banded, aged, have breeding characteristics assessed, and released. This monitoring program complements the National Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) program, providing productivity and survival data to inform how well a population is doing. These demographic data can only be obtained from banding, and compliment abundance estimates derived from the BBS and other surveys. MAPS depends upon dedicated, highly-trained volunteers for extraction and banding and to collect data on species, sex, age, health, and breeding condition.
In 2022 at our Morse banding station there were 230 captures of 27 species including two Sharp-shinned Hawks and one Cooper’s Hawk. Areas of specific interest include, on-going molt studies on Song Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, Brown Creeper and Spotted Towhee, along with decreasing numbers of migrant flycatchers.
Among the more challenging tasks for bird banders is aging and sexing birds with speed and precision in the field. Through our micro-aging study, we are discovering there is a lot more to understand about aging Song Sparrows, Bewick’s Wrens, Brown Creepers, Spotted Towhees, and other species that we see regularly across our region. Using mist nets across the south Puget Trough to capture, mark, and recapture birds of known age, and using a special photographic process to quantify the color shift that happens as feathers age and wear, we are documenting new information so we can develop more detailed and accurate criteria for aging and sexing these challenging birds in the hand.
Supporting Partners with Avian Monitoring
PSBO is contracting with regional partners to better understand site specific avian responses to changing conditions.
Puget Sound Bird Observatory is providing design and implementation support an avian monitoring plan for Eastside Audubon at the site of the King County Willowmoor Floodplain Project. Located in Marymoor Park near the outlet of Lake Sammamish, this project proposes to reconfigure the Sammamish River Transition Zone and adjacent (undeveloped King County County) property to address several flood control and habitat issues. By systematically monitoring birds prior to construction and post construction PSBO and partners will have the data needed to assess project impacts to birds.
In the fall of 2021 Puget Sound Bird Observatory volunteers began surveying avian presence within the restored marsh at Port Susan Bay on property owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Data from this long-term monitoring are contributing to an effort to standardize shorebird/waterfowl monitoring across the region as well as provide project partners with consistent and periodic data collection on bird use of the Port Susan Bay Preserve which may help inform future land management decisions.
Beginning Bander Training
Our skilled trainers provided intensive instruction to nine students to continue growing our community of bird banders. Bird research and banding is challenging, requires precise and meticulous field work, attention to detail, and constant review of data and prior research. Our bander training helps new and aspiring scientists and researchers acquire the skills that will help them conduct studies that inform how birds are faring across our landscapes, and to contribute to conservation initiatives that are helping birds thrive.
Motus Wildlife Tracking System
The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is an international collaborative network of researchers that use automated radio telemetry to simultaneously track individual birds, bats, and insects. The system enables a community of researchers, land managers, educators, organizations, and citizens to undertake impactful research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. PSBO participates in the PNW Motus Partnership in support of this effort and is currently seeking funding to host two Motus stations in our region.