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VTBIRD  March 2006

VTBIRD March 2006

Subject:

Red-winged consistency

From:

Kent McFarland <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 15 Mar 2006 12:29:45 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (105 lines)

Ian's note about red-winged blackbird arrival dates is a good chance 
for me to plug (yes, once again) the use of eBird. Arrival dates over 
many years and a broad geographic range can be great for us to track 
potential climatic effects on migration.

For example, from 1960 to 2002 Kathleen Anderson (one of the founders 
of Manomet Bird Observatory) recorded the first date each spring that 
migrating birds were seen on her property.  Researchers at Boston 
University wanted to find out if a naturalist's diary could be 
valuable for detecting potential changes in phonological events like 
spring migration.  Their work was recently published in the Wilson 
Bulletin, a professional ornithological journal (see below for citation).

For over 50 years Anderson has lived on a 100 acre farm just south of 
Boston and not far from the ocean.  Everyday she was on her farm she 
recorded the birds, flowing plants, butterflies and amphibian 
choruses she encountered.  Her observations were not systematic, but 
gathered as she enjoyed a walk or simply from the back porch.  She 
was also occasionally away from her farm for several days at a time.

The four BU biologists were able to extract her sightings from her 
journals, put them into a computer database and statistically analyze 
them.  A nearby weather station showed that mean annual temperatures 
in the region raised 3.6F.  Could her records show species responding 
to the warming with earlier spring phenology?

There was enough data to look at 16 bird species, 3 plants, 3 
amphibians and 2 butterflies. Five bird species showed significantly 
earlier arrival dates including, Wood Duck, Ruby-throated 
Hummingbird, House Wren, Ovenbird, and Chipping Sparrow.  The 
strongest trend was for Wood Ducks which arrived on average 32 days 
earlier than they did when Anderson first began recording her 
sightings and Hummingbirds arrived 18 days earlier.  Overall, 22 of 
the 24 species they examined showed trends toward earlier spring 
activity, an overall average of 8 days earlier.

Kathleen Anderson had no idea that her records might be a piece in 
the climate change puzzle when she started to record her observations 
over 30 years ago.  Just as we now have no way of knowing what all 
the records we put on Vermont eBird might shed light on 
someday.  Right now over a dozen volunteers are slowly entering 
nearly 30 years of Records of Vermont Birds data from boxes in the 
closet into Vermont eBird.  Will these historic records shed any 
light on the past or are they too scattered in effort and 
geography?  We won't know until they are all entered.

Recently, John Simpson stopped by VINS and dropped off nearly 40 
years of daily bird records that his late mother, Nancy Simpson, 
dutifully kept each day at her house in southern Vermont.  Slowly we 
will enter these records into Vermont eBird and examine them for any 
clues they may offer.  Thanks to Vermont eBird, in 40 more years 
someone, maybe one of us, will have thousands of records in which to 
look back upon for clues to the ever changing bird world.

I took a look at the Red-winged Blackbird arrival dates from 1966 to 
2004 for this data set. From 1966 to 1990 there is a trend toward 
earlier arrival dates at her house. From 1990 - 2004 the trend 
changes to a later arrival time. Anderson's data for Redwings showed 
a trend toward an earlier date of arrival, but it was not 
statistically significant.

Hundreds of bird watchers are contributing their bird sightings to 
the Vermont eBird database, providing a valuable inventory of 
Vermont's birds.  As we have learned from Kathleen Anderson's 
naturalist notes, one of the most significant contributions that you 
can provide to further the understanding of the timing and 
distribution of birds is to repeatedly record bird sightings at a 
single location.  To take Vermont eBird to the next level the Cornell 
Lab of Ornithology and VINS have created the 
<http://www.ebird.org/content//resources_sitesurvey.html>eBird Site 
Survey , a standardized way you can contribute your sightings to Vermont eBird.

To read the original article in the Wilson Bulletin, visit your local 
college or university library to find:

Ledneva, A., A.J. Miller-Rushing, R.B. Primack and C. Imbres. 2004. 
Climate change as reflected in a naturalist's diary, Middleborough, 
Massachusetts.  Wilson Bulletin 116(3): 224-231.

Thanks for reading this long email!

Kent McFarland
Conservation Biology Department
Vermont Institute of Natural Science
27023 Church Hill Rd.
Woodstock, VT  05091
802-457-1053 x124
http://www.vinsweb.org/cbd

Visit the CBD Blog: http://www.vinsweb.org/cbd/news.html

>>Subject: Red-winged consistency
>>From: "Ian A. Worley" <Ian.Worley AT UVM.EDU>
>>Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2006 07:03:50 -0500
>>
>>At daybreak this morning, being the 15th of March, I was delighted, but not
>>surprised to have our first Red-winged Blackbirds of the spring in a mass
>>flock singing away from the tops of a cluster of pines by the house.  Over
>>the last 30 years at our house on the southern end of Snake Mtn. in
>>Cornwall, most every year (about every 4 out of 5 years) a flock of 30-50
>>Red-winged Blackbird males makes its first appearance on the 15th.  They
>>were, of course, greeted with appreciation ..... and a blanket of new snow!
>>
>>Ian

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