Tag Archives: new england

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!

 

A River Runs Free in Rhode Island

Not so long ago, mills were the lifeblood of their communities, harnessing the currents of the Northeast’s rivers to produce lumber, flour, and cotton and woolen goods. Rhode Island was home to many of the early textile mills that brought the Industrial Revolution to New England, with dozens of dams built in the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed alone.

Only a few generations have passed since the mills were in use. But today many of these dams are no longer gateways to prosperity; they have aged into perilous barriers, blocking migratory fish runs and presenting potential liabilities to the communities they once served.

Suzanne Paton at WR copy

“We’re really trying to step back and look at a landscape scale,” says Service biologist Suzanne Paton. “Everything is connected.”

Supported in part by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and other partners are removing these dams to restore a natural flow to the Pawcatuck River. Opening and connecting the river helps improve fish habitat and reduces the risk of flooding in towns along the river’s banks. It also helps enhance recreational opportunities like fishing and kayaking and supports local economies.

Follow the story of the river’s restoration as conservation leaders like Service biologist Suzanne Paton work to bring the Pawcatuck back to life.

 

Meet #ScienceWoman Molly Sperduto!

Molly SperdutoBranded Our #ScienceWoman campaign kicked off during Women’s History Month, and we’re going to keep on rolling! We’re looking forward by honoring women across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and female conservationists who are making history in our agency and in conservation. With each #ScienceWoman, we’ll share a photo and a couple questions and answers about her work. Stay tuned for more posts!

Meet #ScienceWoman Molly Sperduto, biologist in our New England Field Office in Concord, New Hampshire.

Molly and her son Nick monitor nest boxes made and installed by the Canterbury Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Molly.

Molly and her son Nick monitor nest boxes made and installed by the Canterbury Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Molly.

Molly studied biology and natural resource conservation at Duke University (I — Meagan — went to Duke’s rival, University of North Carolina. We’ve worked out our differences. 😉 ) and University of New Hampshire. Her conservation mentor is Lisa Williams from our East Lansing Field Office in Michigan.

Molly has been recognized for her pivotal role in planning and implementing restoration for more than 15 individual settlements in four New England states—resulting in many miles of restored streams and thousands of acres of habitat restored, enhanced or protected.

A birding field trip with the Belmont Middle School in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Molly.

A birding field trip with the Belmont Middle School in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Molly.

Q. How did you get interested in conservation? A. My mom got me interested in conservation. When I was very young, we used to spend hours looking for spring wildflowers together. And as I grew older, she encouraged me to spend time backcountry canoeing in an incredible wilderness area in northern Ontario. Since then, protecting natural landscapes is something that I’ve always wanted to do!

Feeding Baird's tapir at the Belize Zoo. Photo courtesy of Molly.

Feeding Baird’s tapir at the Belize Zoo. Photo courtesy of Molly.

Q. What’s your favorite species and why? A. This is so difficult, but one of my current favorites is the Baird’s tapir – their closest relatives are horses and rhinos and they are kind of funky looking, with a long nose. I’d like to see one in the wild someday!

See more #ScienceWoman profiles!