Tag Archives: Audubon Connecticut

Calling All Birdwatchers: For the Birds, and for Us

Imagine knowing the abundance, distribution, habitat preferences, breeding ecology, migration pattern, and wintering habitat for 100+ bird species in the State of Connecticut. This is no simple task, but it is one that the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, along with many other partner organizations, citizen scientists, and bird lovers alike are willing to take on. The Connecticut Bird Atlas, starting in Spring 2018, will be the second such atlas conducted in the state, with the first Atlas of Breeding Birds in Connecticut published in 1994.

The scarlet tanager, a neotropical migratory species, was identified as a “Forest Health Indicator Species” by the Connecticut Forestlands Council Forest Ecosystem Health Committee for deciduous woodlands.

Unlike the first Connecticut Breeding Bird Atlas which aimed only to identify breeding distributions of Connecticut’s birds, the new study will survey distribution and abundance patterns throughout year, during both the breeding and non-breeding seasons. “The assessment will give us more detailed ecological information in terms of breeding dates, timing of migration, when wintering species arrive to overwintering areas, and how long they stay in overwintering areas,” says Randy Dettmers, senior migratory bird biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service division of Migratory Birds, and contributor to the Connecticut State of the Birds.

Almost three decades since the first Atlas, the habitat for birds in Connecticut has changed significantly. Development and expanding infrastructure have fragmented habitats, a benefit to birds who are habitat generalists but a detrimental change for species that require large areas of undisturbed forest; reforestation of previously developed land has benefited birds that use both mixed hardwood and coniferous forest, but presents challenges for birds that rely on early successional habitats (young forests); loss or conversion of agricultural lands has negatively impacted birds that prefer the old agricultural fields or grasslands but benefit birds who prefer forested habitat; and more variable climate conditions have resulted in birds with a historically “southern” range to now reside in Connecticut year-round. The new Atlas will capture the changes in abundance, distribution, and species composition as a result of these habitat changes, and the data will have implications for creating sound conservation plans, including the Connecticut State Wildlife Action Plan, that will benefit birds and other wildlife.

Zone land cover change in Connecticut from 1985-2010.

Birds are an indicator species for the health of our environment, meaning the presence, abundance, or absence of birds is indicative of a change in the biological health of an ecosystem.

Birds make an excellent proxy for diagnosing the health of an ecosystem which includes birds, other wildlife, and people. They serve as an indicator for how we are adapting or not adapting to the changing landscape and changing climate, making the new Atlas an essential decision-making tool for land managers, municipal planners, developers, state and federal agencies, and conservationists alike.

The cerulean warbler was identified as a “Forest Health Indicator Species” by the Connecticut Forestlands Council Forest Ecosystem Health Committee for deciduous woodlands. Among the rarest Neotropical migrant songbirds, their populations continue to decline due to loss of breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat.

As often stated, birds do not recognize boundaries, and can be thought of as having dual citizenship. Therefore, the new Atlas will not only provide important implications for the state of Connecticut, but will be used to develop and implement comprehensive, region-wide conservation management strategies. “The updated information from the new Atlas will help us understand how different bird species are shifting their distributions and abundance in southern New England,” says Randy Dettmers. “When comparing the data to information from surrounding states, we will gain a better understanding of how birds are responding to larger environmental changes, including changes in land use, levels of contaminants in the environment, and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns.”

The golden-winged warbler was identified as a “Forest Health Indicator Species” by the Connecticut Forestlands Council Forest Ecosystem Health Committee for shrubland and young forest habitats. Populations are declining due to loss of breeding and wintering habitat.

Without citizen science, scientists would not be able to collect the necessary data to accomplish the task at hand.

The CT Bird Atlas project will be accomplished through the collaborative work of professionals and citizen scientists. Interested in taking advantage of this opportunity to learn about birds and their habitats, gain science skills, and connect with nature while giving back? Check out the CT Bird Atlas website here to see how you can get involved!

 

How was it creating your schoolyard habitat?

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The urban partnership in New Haven builds on existing work by partners to improve and create wildlife habitat in urban areas, foster environmental education and hands-on conservation with youth, and encourage community-based land stewardship. Learn more

Last year, the Service designated a collaborative project in the New Haven Harbor Watershed as an urban wildlife refuge partnership. The project has been taking place in New Haven between the Service, Audubon Connecticut, along with other partners, and aims use schoolyards, vacant lots, city parks and front yards on public and private lands to create a network of wildlife-friendly habitat oases and improvements throughout the city. The partnership is in full swing with a few sites already designated. We asked New Haven third graders what their experience was creating their schoolyard habitat. Find out what they had to say below.

“The steps to making the habitat what it is now were hard. Our third grade class had to work really hard to get it done. First, we went outside to explore the space. As we were doing this, a wave of excitement went through our bodies. We felt this way because we were making our own outdoor classroom where we could learn about nature and about all different kinds of animals. We took pictures. I thought of the design in my head. We sat together in pairs and developed a plan for our vision of our schoolyard habitat.”

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Third graders drew plans for their schoolyard habitat (lower crayon drawings). The adult leadership team used these drawings to build a master plan (top digitized drawing).

“The next day we started making our dreams come true! We started digging and planting all the flowers. I especially enjoyed digging holes. I liked feeling that I was a part of something important that was going on and I felt happy doing it.”

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The third grade class works with high school students on New Haven’s Green Job Corp to make their Schoolyard habitat plan a reality.

“I am excited about seeing the different kinds of plants grow and start changing every day! I am also excited to look at the different insects that will be coming in soon. What we are most looking forward to is being able to have a peaceful place where we can write, read or just relax and forget all of your worries. We hope to see butterflies, hummingbirds, dragonflies, bees and so much more!”

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Students work together to build the initial phase of their schoolyard habitat.

“I think that outdoor learning is important because people need to relax and let off stress.  Then people can learn more about nature.  We would have fresh air outside instead of sitting in our seats in our sweaty classroom. A schoolyard habitat is one of the best ideas I have heard of for a school. I knew that this was going to be a great idea from the start.”

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Service staff work with students and teachers to replace turf grass with a native habitat. The bucket crew moved over 1,000 buckets of organic compost and mulch to serve as a base for this habitat.