Efforts Align for a Coast-Wide Colonial Waterbird Survey from Nova Scotia to Virginia in 2013
A unique opportunity for advancing colonial waterbird conservation and management has presented itself this field season; the schedules of colonial waterbird survey efforts in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Maritimes—two provinces and ten states—have been aligned to make a comprehensive regional picture of waterbird populations possible. Having such a regional "snapshot" of populations will be valuable for making conservation and management decisions. For example, site- and state-level conservation priorities are more ecologically meaningful if based on regional information; likewise, regional information is required to make appropriate decisions about local and state population management (e.g., gull control). NYC Audubon has been conducting nesting surveys of wading bird populations on our harbor heron islands since 1982, and we are pleased to be able to take part in this larger survey of waterbird populations.
The 1975–1976 waterbird survey conducted out of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of colonial wading bird nesting sites along the East Coast was the first estimate of wading bird populations over a large section of the U.S. In subsequent years, area surveys were conducted by federal, state, and private organizations such as NYC Audubon; that is the good news. The bad news is that each surveying organization developed their own schedules and methods, and now, surveys are generally not coordinated in such a way that it is possible to confidently describe regional abundances or trends.
Fortunately, survey leaders have expressed increasing willingness to to consider methodological adjustments and share information, and there has been successful coordination in some sub-areas of the region (e.g., Long Island Sound, the states of southern New England, the Gulf of Maine, and the DelMarVa region). At a workshop held in Plymouth in the fall of 2012, NYC Audubon helped organize a planning group for coordinated regional surveys. At this meeting, it was decided that 2013 held the promise of generating a highly valuable regional data set, given that the majority of coastal states and provinces were planning to survey colonial waterbirds. Where gaps in coverage were identified, fund-raising was undertaken to fill them. The planning group has identified the common data fields desired from each survey and is discussing the mechanics of compiling the information into a useful regional data set. As we prepare for this May's nesting surveys of our harbor heron islands, it is gratifying to know that our data will contribute to a larger-scale picture of wading bird population health and ecology.
*Banner photos courtesy of Francois Portmann and Kati Solomon
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