Monday, May 08, 2006

NJ Audubon Grassland Surveys

Grasslands in NJ are in pretty bad shape. Even though we're dubbed "The Garden State*", less than 8% of land in New Jersey is in cropland pastureland of 100 acres or more. Most of that land occurs in far northern and far southern Jersey. Grassland bird declines have been documented in Breeding Bird Surveys over the last 20 years. Birds like Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, American Kestrel, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Savannah Sparrow are greatly affected by the lack of sufficient breeding habitat. The worst declines are in Upland Sandpiper, Vesper Sparrow, and Horned Lark. There are only a tiny number of breeding locations left for these birds.

As part of a "citizen science" project for NJ Audubon Society, I am volunteering to conduct grassland bird breeding surveys. Between May and August, I will be conducting two habitat surveys and two breeding bird surveys. I have 8 survey locations throughout a small area of central Jersey. The survey uses a traditional point count system where, in a nutshell, I spend 5 minutes at each spot and count the birds heard and seen within a 100m radius.

Today, I did my first habitat survey and found most of my survey points to be made of abandoned fields and tilled farm fields. Although I didn't need to look for birds during this survey, the only bird I heard all day was one Meadowlark. It was pretty late in the day so activity may have been low. In a few weeks, I will conduct my first bird survey. Let's hope for better results!

As George Carlin would say, "Yeah... if you're growing smokestacks."

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