Bird survey organizers seek help in areas of need

posted March 26, 2018 8:24 a.m. (CDT)
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    Volunteers for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas survey report birds engaged in nesting behaviors. An unusually high number of red crossbills moved into Wisconsin last fall, and early breeders can now be found building nests and sitting on eggs.

With just two of five breeding seasons left to go, organizers of a comprehensive survey of birds that nest in Wisconsin have identified more than 300 locations where volunteers are needed to help gather information for the survey, known as the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.

“This is a perfect time to choose a location where you can help look for breeding birds and report them,” said Nick Anich, atlas coordinator and a conservation biologist with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “The bulk of bird species will nest in June and July but some resident birds are getting started already, and it’s a good time to head out to a location near you and poke around, explore some habitats and see what’s out there.”

Participating volunteers are already submitting observations from around the state of early breeding bird species like great horned owl, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, common raven, red crossbill, and pine siskin sprucing up their nests or sitting on eggs.

The goal of the Atlas is to help document the distribution and abundance of all birds breeding across the state. This information will help scientists, land managers, and birders get a better understanding of the population size, preferred habitat, and range of each species and how those have changed since the last Atlas survey 20 years ago.

The survey splits Wisconsin into nearly 7,000 blocks of land, equally distributed throughout the state, with about 1 in 6 of these blocks of highest priority. These blocks must be fully surveyed by the time fieldwork is completed in 2019 to allow for good comparisons with data collected in the same locations 20 years earlier, Anich said. Organizers are urging birders to visit​projects/​WBBA/​WBBAmap.cfm to register to become the principal atlaser for one of the remaining open blocks.

Even with more than 1,500 volunteers having participated to date, there are many easy-to-reach blocks still available, especially in the northern two-thirds of the state, according to Ryan Brady, a DNR conservation biologist and science lead for the survey.

“Open blocks in Wisconsin’s northern and west-central counties commonly host more than 85 breeding species, and can offer special opportunities for volunteers looking for warblers, boreal specialties, or just quality time outdoors,” Brady said.

Volunteers interested in rural counties of central Wisconsin have plenty of exciting open-country species to look for as well, Brady said. Whooping crane, greater prairie-chicken and Henslow’s sparrow are among them.

Atlas Regional Kickoff Workshops

Interested volunteers are encouraged to attend a regional workshop to learn more about the Atlas survey:

• Western Region, April 14, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: National Eagle Center, Wabasha, Minn.

• Eastern Region, April 21, noon to 4:30 p.m., Sturgeon Bay Library, Sturgeon Bay.

Workshops are free, but registration is required. For details and registration, visit http://​ atlas-2018-regional-kickoff-workshops.

The Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II also has a number of field trips and smaller training events planned for spring and early summer months, all skill levels are welcome. Visit​atlas-events for details.

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