July is an excellent time to look for breeding birds at higher elevations, like Mountain Bluebirds, Sandhill Cranes, Lazuli Buntings, various Warblers, and even… possibly… Great Gray Owls. On July 6th from 9am to 2pm, Harry Fuller will lead a small bird watching trip in and around the Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake area. For more information about Harry, our world renowned trip leader, see below. Please join us for this safety-first outing; we will spend the morning seeking connection and rejuvenation from the wonder and beauty of our shared birds.
For health and safety reasons we will practice personal distancing and other COVID-19 precautions during this trip. The trip will be limited to six cars and we ask that drivers only transport passengers from within their immediate families and/or “social bubbles.” Please bring hand sanitizer and a mask to wear when social distancing is not possible. We will not bring scopes for sharing during this trip. Thank you for keeping these and other best practices for avoiding the spread of COVID-19 in mind during this trip. To learn more about KBO’s safety-first response to the Coronavisus Pandemic please click here.
Logistics: Each birder is asked to bring their own supplies — a vehicle with a full gas tank, binoculars, a camera, and plenty of water and lunch/snacks. The rendezvous site will be announced soon. This trip is a fundraiser for Klamath Bird Observatory with a suggested donation of $30 per person (checks made payable to Klamath Bird Observatory). To sign up, contact Shannon Rio at email@example.com or 541-840-4655.
Harry Fuller has lived in Oregon since 2007. Before retirement he managed TV and Internet newsrooms in San Francisco and London. Harry has written three natural history books, including Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon and Washington, and San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars. In 2019, Oregon State University Press published Edge of Awe, an anthology of essays about the Malheur-Steens country. Fuller contributed the chapter on Common Nighthawks at Malheur.
He has been leading bird trips and teaching birding classes since the 1990s. Currently he leads trips for the Malheur Field Station and the Klamath Bird Observatory and provides private guiding service. He is consulting with KS Wild to protect BLM-managed Great Gray Owl breeding habitat in Jackson County. You can find his birding journal online at atowhee.blog.
Anthropogenic habitat disturbance and alteration pose serious threats to the persistence and diversity of bird communities throughout the world. Current ecological research and conservation planning efforts largely focus on understanding the relative influence of habitat composition (e.g. how much) and habitat configuration (e.g. the spatial arrangement) on species occurrence across a landscape. Despite this intensive focus, there is little consensus regarding to what degree fragmentation affects biodiversity, either positively or negatively. Research methods used to assess the impacts of habitat fragmentation on species richness (the number of species in a given area) often rely on generalized, vegetation categories that are based on human-classified land-cover data. However, using such coarsely classified vegetation data as a proxy for actual habitat may be a problematic oversimplification leading to inconsistent results, especially when studying multiple species.
In a new publication selected as “editor’s choice” in the journal Landscape Ecology, researchers from Oregon State University’s Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society and Klamath Bird Observatory tested a novel species-centered technique for quantifying the influence of habitat amount and fragmentation on a community of 48 common bird species in Oregon’s Rogue Basin, including 25 oak-woodland specialists. Rather than using human-classified land-cover data, the species-centered technique uses stacked species-distribution models to quantify habitat amount and configuration. The results suggest that using this species-centered approach to define habitat for entire bird communities reveals relationships between fragmentation and bird diversity that would otherwise be obscured by the use of classified land-cover.
First, the researchers combined unclassified satellite-based land-cover images with bird survey data from over 2,700 locations across the Rogue Basin of southern Oregon to create species distribution models that predict where each bird is likely to occur across the landscape. They used these models to create predicted habitat maps for each of the 48 bird species. These maps were then stacked to provide a community-level habitat prediction for all 48 species. Finally, metrics that quantify habitat amount and fragmentation were calculated using the stacked maps. These metrics were compared to habitat amount and fragmentation metrics developed using classified land-cover to see which best explained bird species richness.
In their paper, the researchers demonstrate that the novel species-centered habitat metrics provided a more statistically robust approach to describe the effects of habitat amount and fragmentation on species richness than were derived using traditional land-cover classifications. Their results support the “landscape fragmentation hypothesis” which posits that species richness declines linearly with increased fragmentation. Lead author Kate Halstead suggests that, “while complex, our species-centered methodology may provide a more accurate picture of the relationship between habitat composition and configuration and species richness. The power of our methods lies in their embrace of the complexity inherent in natural systems, providing insight into theoretical and applied questions alike in a way that is not possible using the generic land-cover based approach. From investigating the drivers of biodiversity, to exploring how edge specialists might respond to landscape change predicted under changing climate scenarios, this approach has broad potential utility across systems and taxa.”
This research was completed in collaboration with the American Bird Conservancy and the Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network. This work was funded in part by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act as part of the Quercus and Aves Program, and by the National Science Foundation.
The Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State is world renowned for its education, outreach, and research in the areas of forest science, natural resources, and tourism, recreation and adventure leadership. Students and faculty study and work in Corvallis, at OSU-Cascades in Bend and around the state, nation and world. The Department’s research impacts policy and land management decisions worldwide and outreach programs benefit communities throughout Oregon.
The Forest Biodiversity Research Network is rooted at Oregon State University and conducts collaborative research throughout the world’s forest ecosystems to foster a global awareness of biodiversity, facilitate science-based solutions to ecological crises and support a sustainable future for both nature and society.
The Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) is a non-profit organization that advance bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. Working in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the ranges of migratory birds KBO emphasizes high-caliber science and the role of birds as indicators to inform and improve natural resource management. KBO also nurtures an environmental ethic through community outreach and education.
Hummingbirds in the West find nectar after some burns, but not all
WESTERN HUMMINGBIRD PARTNERSHIP, BOULDER, CO [June 11, 2020] – From a hummingbird’s point of view, wildfire can be good or bad. Seven hummingbird species are widespread in the western United States and beyond, including the Calliope Hummingbird, the smallest North American species, and the Rufous Hummingbird, which holds the long-distance flight record.
Along their travels to breeding sites in spring and their return trips to wintering sites in fall, hummingbirds are likely to encounter the effects of fire. Fire has always been an important part of the West’s history and has many benefits, including providing habitat for animals that depend on open areas. For a hummingbird, open areas can signal the presence of flowers.
“Wildfires are an important environmental disturbance,” stated Dr. John Alexander, Director of the Klamath Bird Observatory. “The flowering plants that regenerate after fire are a much-needed source of food for both resident and migratory hummingbirds.”
Rufous Hummingbird (c) Jim Livaudais
Some hummingbird species are on the decline, including Rufous Hummingbird, whose populations have declined by over 60% since the 1960s. To help protect these small but mighty travelers, the USDA Forest Service formed the Western Hummingbird Partnership (WHP) to bring together researchers and conservationists. A focus of the partnership includes learning how changes in wildfire patterns and restoration of burned habitats could influence hummingbird populations. According to Dr. Greg Butcher, the USDA Forest Service Migratory Species Coordinator, national forests can “play a big role in protecting hummingbirds when restoration efforts after logging and fire include the flowering plants that hummingbirds need.”
With support from the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and WHP, Dr. Deborah M. Finch from the Research Station collaborated with Dr. Alexander and his research team at Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon and with Dr. Sarahy Contreras from the University of Guadalajara – CUCSUR to complete a literature review about the effects of wildfire on hummingbird habitat, how restoration actions including prescribed fire affect those habitats, and how hummingbirds respond. Dr. Finch initiated this review because, “there was a necessity to highlight hummingbirds as pollinators whose food source and habitat could be affected positively or negatively by fire and restoration on Forest Service and other lands.” The results detail habitats in nine distinct bird conservation regions from central Mexico to south-central Alaska in a publication titled Effects of Fire and Restoration on Habitats and Populations of Western Hummingbirds.
In many forested and chaparral habitats in the western United States, hummingbirds respond well to both wild and prescribed fire. For example, in Alexander’s home state of Oregon, fire creates openings among the large conifers, allowing for more sunlight and the growth of the nectar producing flowers hummingbirds need. During migration, Rufous Hummingbirds feed on purple larkspur, paintbrush, scarlet gilia, and other flowers in areas that have been burned, helping them to refuel for the continued journey.
While fire can offer new sources of nectar for many species in some habitats, elsewhere it may be a disadvantage. The Sonoran and Mojave Deserts seem unlikely places for hummingbirds, but flowering plants such as Ocotillo and Yucca provide a source of nectar that supports species such as the brilliantly feathered Costa’s Hummingbird. Unlike in the Pacific Northwest, fires were not a frequent natural disturbance in these habitats, and hummingbirds may be faced with both loss of nesting sites and food sources after fire. Researchers found that bird diversity, including hummingbirds, declined after fire for as many as four years in these desert habitats, because of the loss of native vegetation that birds need.
WHP is promoting habitat restoration to increase the diversity and abundance of native flowers throughout the West to support populations of hummingbirds and other pollinators. Research on hummingbirds and fire, as detailed here, helps inform this vital conservation work.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW, PLEASE CONTACT:
John Alexander, Executive Director, Klamath Bird Observatory, PO Box 758, Ashland, Oregon; Tel- 541-890-7067; eMail- jda@KlamathBird.org
Greg Butcher, Migratory Species Coordinator, US Forest Service, International Programs, 1 Thomas Circle NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005; Tel- 202-617-8259; eMail- Gregory.Butcher@usda.gov
Deborah Finch, Program Manager, Grassland, Shrubland and Deserts, Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, 333 Broadway SE, Suite 115 m Albuquerque, NM 87102; Tel- 505-401-0580; eMail- firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) is a non-profit organization that advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. Working in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the ranges of migratory birds KBO emphasizes high-caliber science and the role of birds as indicators to inform and improve natural resource management. KBO also nurtures an environmental ethic through community outreach and education.
The University of Guadalajara is a public educational institution, the second largest in Mexico. The CUCSUR campus and the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources administer Las Joyas Scientific Station located in a core area of the Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve, where the Long-Term Hummingbird Monitoring Station is located in western Mexico Since 1990.
Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of five regional research stations that make up USDA Forest Service Research and Development. Our scientists collaborate with a range of partners to develop and deliver science and innovative technologies focused on informing policy and land-management decisions to improve lives and landscapes. RMRS serves the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, Tribes, academia, non-profit groups and the public.
The Western Hummingbird Partnership (WHP) was created to address concerns about hummingbird populations, including the Rufous Hummingbird. The partnership is a coalition of researchers, educators, organizations, and agencies in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Learn more about its work at westernhummingbird.org
Join us Wednesday, June 3rd from 6:30-8:00pm for KBO’s first virtual community education program, presented by Shannon Rio via Zoom.
Birds, Beauty, Art, and Nature (What’s in a Name…)
This visual and auditory presentation teaches about local birds while exploring how they got their common and Latin names. For example, why is a Killdeer called a Killdeer and what does its scientific name tell us? Using stories, scientific facts, photography, bird sounds and poetry, this is a fun opportunity to learn about the birds that live all around us. No birding knowledge is necessary, however curiosity and humor are welcome prerequisites for joining this virtual class.
This class is free! To sign up, email Shannon Rio – email@example.com.
You will receive a link and password to the Zoom meeting, along with helpful tips for making the most of your Zoom experience.
We recommend installing Zoom on your computer or mobile device prior to the event. You will also have the option of joining the Zoom meeting through your web browser. Participants are encouraged to use a camera and microphone, but they are not required to participate.
While we miss being in the field with all of our partners, this year KBO is honoring our long-standing WMBD connections in this new virtual way. Here, our staff share highlights from our work to meet Partners in Flight and North American Bird Conservation Initiative conservation priorities. Please, have a safe and healthy World Migratory Bird Day.
World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. WMBD is global in reach and serves as an effective way to help raise awareness about the threats faced by migratory birds, their ecological importance, and the need for international cooperation to conserve them. This year’s WMBD theme is “birds connect our world” and Klamath Bird Observatory proudly embodies this concept of connection.
While we will miss being in the field with all of these partners, this year KBO will honor these long-standing connections and our commitment to WMBD in a new way. On Friday afternoon, May 8, 2019, we will release a virtual presentation about how KBO is maintaining our momentum, undeterred by COVID-19. Our staff will share highlights from their work to meet the national and international bird conservation priorities of Partners in Flight and North American Bird Conservation Initiative.
We hope you will join us to celebrate WMBD, and experience a few of the many ways that “birds connect our world” through ongoing conservation-science efforts. Our virtual WMBD event will be made available on the Klamath Call Note Blog and on our Face Book Page starting at 5:00 pm this Friday. Also, please see what our other partners are doing to safely and creatively celebrate World Migratory Bird Day and the birds that connect us all.
We hope that this message finds you, our community, in good health and in safe places during this unprecedented time of Covid-19. We are happy to report that we remain safe and healthy, and will continue to operate in the midst of this pandemic. We have been working diligently with our staff, Board of Directors, and partners to:
Maintain staff, partner, supporter, and community safety;
Meet KBO and partner conservation science priorities; and
Remain innovative and adaptive in our science-driven approach to bird and habitat conservation.
Safety is at the heart of our operations, and the safety of our crew members, staff, partners, local community, and the rural communities where we work drives our decision making. With safety in mind, and in support of the larger scientific community and science-based recommendations for “flattening the curve,” we have made the very hard decision to cancel the vast majority of KBO’s field studies in 2020.
Our field work requires travel; field crew members come to us from around the U.S. and beyond, and normal field operations require that crews travel throughout Oregon and northern California. Continuing the field season would be at odds with current “Stay at Home” guidelines that are in place in Oregon and California (and many other regions). In addition, it is our responsibility to avoid endangering rural communities where we conduct our field work. Specifically, to not increase use of limited resources in small communities (such as gas stations and general stores), risk transporting the virus to areas where it is not yet prevalent, or risk needing to call on limited emergency services to assist us if an injury or other emergency were to occur.
Based on the current scientific projections for the pandemic and the needs of all citizens, we do not anticipate returning to “business as usual” this month. This limits the time available to ensure our field crews are well trained and well prepared to keep birds and themselves safe, and to do the excellent field biology that makes KBO stand out. While disappointing, we are confident that scaling back our field projects is the right decision. We look forward to returning to our ongoing field studies in spring of 2021, invigorated and eager to complete a productive season.
Field work comprises a large part of our spring and summer operations at KBO; however, our full time staff is taking advantage of this time out of the field to drive conservation planning and action by coordinating long-term monitoring, theoretical research, and applied ecology. Our current projects include:
Maintaining core field studies that are both time dependent and possible to implement while following state recommendations for social distancing and limiting travel,
Publishing results from our science,
Revising conservation plans to keep them up to date and usable by partners,
Advancing Motus technology that enhances our ability to track bird migrations,
Informing land management locally and throughout the Pacific Northwest,
Standing at the forefront of making bird data available to scientists and land managers,
We sincerely appreciate, and still need your support! You, our KBO community, have been on our mind. As we have been focused on ensuring KBO’s sustainability in this uncertain time, we have also been thinking about and working on new and innovative strategies for staying connected with and inspiring our audience.
May 9th is World Migratory Bird Day, and this year the theme of this global celebration is “Birds Connect Our World.” Given this time of uncertainty and isolation the underlying meaning of this core message seems incredibly profound. We are therefore actively planning creative new ways to connect us all through our love of birds. We will start next Saturday with an online celebration of World Migratory Bird Day and our future in bird conservation. So please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay tuned!
Thursday, January 23, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m Grape Street Bar and Grill, 31 South Grape Street, Medford
Come discover a glimpse of the natural history of our region. The focus will be Wings—critters that fly, pollinate, and twirl in the air. Topics include Bats with Wildlife Biologist Tony Kerwin; Dragonflies with local Naturalist and Dragonfly Expert Norm Barrett; Vesper Sparrows with Klamath Bird Observatory’s Research Biologist, Dr. Sarah Rockwell; and Bumble Bees with Naturalist and Southern Oregon Land Conservancy’s Stewardship Director, Kristi Mergenthaler.
Arrive early to secure a seat and to order food or drinks. This is an all-ages free community event.
Attention Oregon birders, I am pleased to announce a great community science opportunity in Oregon! Klamath Bird Observatory is partnering with Intermountain Bird Observatory to carry out the Western Asio Flammeus Landscape Study (WAfLS). This community science project, now spanning eight western states, is designed to gather information to better evaluate the population status of the Short-eared Owl. Traditional survey data have indicated that Short-eared Owl populations have declined by more than 60% in the last 40 years. The Oregon Conservation Strategy has identified the Short-eared Owl as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need and the National Audubon Society Climate Initiative has identified the species as Climate Endangered. This survey is a critical step to filling information gaps for this species in Oregon. Results will directly influence high-value conservation actions by state and federal agencies. We are looking to recruit a set of dedicated volunteers to help complete this state-wide survey.
Volunteers will enjoy rural Oregon at twilight while completing two road-based surveys during late winter and early spring. The surveys consist of driving on secondary roads, stopping at 8 to 11 points to complete a five-minute survey. At each point volunteers will record detections of Short-eared Owl as well as some brief habitat information. The entire survey is completed within 90 minutes. Training material will be provided and no experience is necessary to volunteer. Participants will need to follow field and data entry protocols, have use of a vehicle, smartphone or GPS device, and be able to identify a Short-eared Owl.
Named after the abundance of camas
lilies dotting the meadow blue through the long days of June, Lily Glen offers
a fine sight that comes alive in the summer. This May-July, my field partner
and I spent our days here with the purpose of locating and monitoring the nests
of a local population of Oregon Vesper Sparrows. Our goal was to collect data
on nest success for a range-wide study attempting to determine causes of
declines in this at-risk subspecies unique to the Pacific Northwest. Tracking
these birds took more patience than I had ever imagined, and we made slow
progress finding the nests one by one. And I swear, the Vesper Sparrow is a particularly
fickle little bird who is unsurpassed in misleading humans in the whereabouts
of their nests!
Each day would start before dawn with
a quick breakfast and lots of coffee to keep us attentive during the cold, slow
mornings. The meadow was broken up into four general sections that Jen (the
other field technician), sometimes Sarah (KBO staff biologist), and I would
rotate through, following leads from previous attempts. Male Vesper Sparrows
were quite consistent in their behavior, singing in their territory all morning
and foraging on the ground with their female companion. Females were also
fairly consistent in their behavior, which mostly consisted of foraging with or
without their male companions, and hiding from us, nowhere to be found. We
would crouch, sit, lay down, stand, roll, and crawl to try to keep the birds
visible in the dense grass while remaining far enough away for them to go about
Most nests this year were found by
food carries to the nestlings. Both the male and female assist with this duty
once the eggs have hatched, and the nestlings grow rapidly until they leave the
nest around ten days later. A handful of nests were found by following a female
who was observed carrying nesting material repeatedly to a general location.
This method, although common with other birds when locating nests, was
particularly difficult with our Vespers as they like to land on the ground some
meters away from the nest and then walk or run the remaining distance
undetected through thick grass. Additionally, we had a few “luck” finds, in
which a nest was found by unintentionally flushing a female off the nest while
walking through the meadow.
The most rewarding part of this job
was after weeks of following the progress of a nest from creation to egg laying
to hatching to fledging, seeing a little family of Vesper Sparrows exploring
new lengths of the meadow together, learning the ropes of being a bird in the
free world. Really, when it comes down to it, being a nest searcher means
simply not giving up. There were many days when I, the least experienced of the
field crew, after a half hour or so of attentively watching a female would give
up and think “she’s not doing anything but eating.” Yet as Sarah would always
remind me, you just need to be patient and wait for the birds to give you a
Our Vesper Sparrows have now all migrated south
to spend the winter across pasture lands full of seeds and ground spared by
snow. I know that we are all excited to see their return to Lily Glen next
spring – and with the identifying color bands applied to dozens of individuals
over the past two seasons, it will be a pleasure to see which birds return for
another spring in the mountain meadows outside of Ashland.
Editor’s note: The Oregon Vesper Sparrow population is estimated to be <3,000 individuals. Along with researchers in the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys, OR, and the Puget Lowlands, WA, we are studying their nest success, survival rates, and habitat associations. Our goal is to find out how to target conservation actions to halt and reverse their population decline. The 2019 field season was supported by the Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Charlotte Martin, and the Management Studies Support Program for National Conservation Lands.