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.
Data show that since 1970, the U.S. and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion birds, a massive reduction in abundance involving hundreds of species, from beloved backyard songbirds to long-distance migrants.
Today our colleagues published a study in the journal Science revealing that since 1970, bird populations in the United States and Canada have declined by 29 percent, or almost 3 billion birds, signaling a widespread ecological crisis. The results show tremendous losses across diverse groups of birds and habitats — from iconic songsters such as meadowlarks to long-distance migrants such as swallows and backyard birds including sparrows. The study notes that birds are indicators of environmental health, signaling that natural systems across the U.S. and Canada are now being so severely impacted by human activities that they no longer support the same robust wildlife populations.
The authors emphasize that “The story is not over. There are so many ways to help save birds!” Their study documents promising rebounds resulting from galvanized human efforts including the recovery of waterfowl over the past 50 years and the spectacular comebacks that raptors, such as the Bald Eagle, have also made since the 1970s. Birds are telling us we must act now to ensure our planet can sustain wildlife and people and there are things we can all do to help make a bird-friendly planet.
To learn more about this paper see the complete press release at eBird Northwest.
Golden-crowned, White-crowned, and Fox Sparrows arriving en mass from the north! Hermit Warblers and many other local nesting birds departing for their Tropical winter homes! And Sharp-shinned Hawks chasing them all through the forests! What a sensational dramatic story unfolding at our bird banding stations in these early days of the great annual bird fall migration! And you are invited to bear witness from a catbird seat with KBO’s biologists.
Klamath Bird Observatory continues to offer public visits to bird banding at our Upper Klamath Field Station near Fort Klamath in the Upper Klamath Lake area—but there are just a few more opportunities this fall. The banding station is scheduled on most Thursday mornings through mid-October. Individual, family, and group visits can be arranged by emailing KBO’s Banding Program Coordinator Bob Frey (see below).
This banding station, along Sevenmile Creek on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, is one of the longest running bird monitoring sites in the region. In the fall, many songbird species migrate through the Klamath Basin and can be encountered here, especially large numbers of warblers and sparrows. The location is also a birding hotspot on the Klamath Basin Birding Trail.
And a reminder … Crater Lake National Park and KBO continue our bird ecology program series into the fall. These Park Ranger-led programs begin at the Park’s Steel Visitor Center and feature a visit to KBO’s banding station in nearby Munson Valley. These programs are scheduled on Friday mornings—please check the Crater Lake National Park series flyer below for upcoming dates and more details.
Don’t miss these opportunities to experience the grand drama and visit KBO’s biologists and the birds they are studying up close!
Jaime Stephens, Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) Science Director, will be presenting at the September 10th Klamath Basin Audubon Society meeting. The presentation will include an overview of KBO’s long-term monitoring and applied ecology research. It will focus on current projects occurring in the Klamath Basin within the context of broader bird conservation. An overview of long-term monitoring will include KBO’s bird banding program, monitoring in the National Parks, and a new long-term monitoring program initiated this spring in shrub-steppe habitats. The presentation will also highlight species-specific studies examining Vesper Sparrow, Black-backed Woodpecker, Common Nighthawk, and Hermit Warbler. The Hermit Warbler research is a partnership with Oregon State University which aims to better understand migratory connectivity for this species, to elucidate potential causal factors in population trends and inform conservation actions. The Klamath Basin was one of nine study sites where Hermit Warblers were tagged with geolocators in spring of 2019. This project aligns closely with the KBO-led Western Warblers Initiative, which seeks to apply the latest technology (Motus) in expanding our knowledge of migratory movements and connectivity for warblers; research will begin on Hermit, Wilson’s, and Black-throated Gray warblers in spring of 2020. The presentation will include time for questions and discussion about these projects and broader bird conservation initiatives.
NEWS RELEASE: March 23, 2019 CONTACT: John Alexander, Executive Director, Klamath Bird Observatory, 541‐890‐7067, jda@KlamathBird.org
Managers charged with stewarding public and private lands strive to protect, maintain, and restore healthy forest conditions that are resilient to drought, flood, and severe wildfire. Managers often rely on the presence of indicator species and species richness (i.e., the number of species present) to assess the value of different forest conditions to wildlife; however, relying on an indicator species or estimates of richness does not directly measure in what way focal habitats support the life history needs of individual species. For example, a bird provisioning food to nestlings is a more meaningful metric than a bird of the same species simply dispersing through a focal habitat. Unfortunately, classical measures of richness often treat these two hypothetical birds as similar when assessing the value of forests to wildlife. While past conservation planning has largely focused on wildlife presence, new research suggests assessing habitat value throughout the entire avian life cycle will provide a more holistic approach to management.
Recognizing the need for a better assessment of forest value to wildlife, a team of researchers from Klamath Bird Observatory, the Forest Service, and Michigan Technological University developed the “informed indices” concept. This new and impactful method scales diversity estimates by meaningful phases of each species lifecycle, such as breeding and feather replacement (i.e., molt). For proof-of-concept, the collaborative team used 18 years of bird capture data from across multiple forest types in California and Oregon to determine how measures of diversity change for bird communities across the breeding and molting seasons.
“We were surprised to find that forests with diverse breeding bird communities sometimes hosted relatively depauperate molting communities, demonstrating that a single location’s value is dynamic, changing from high to low depending on what part of the avian lifecycle a manager is considering” said Dr. Jared Wolfe, Klamath Bird Observatory Research Associate and lead author of the study.
“Instead of relying on simple measures of presence and absence, our informed indices concept assesses wildlife across biologically-meaningful seasons. This is an important improvement because it identifies essential variation in the value of forest to wildlife, thereby allowing managers to properly conserve wildlife throughout North America and beyond” said Dr. John Alexander, Klamath Bird Observatory Executive Director and co-author of the study.
About Klamath Bird Observatory: Klamath Bird Observatory advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. We work in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the migratory ranges of the birds of our region. We developed our award-winning conservation model in the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. Emphasizing high caliber science and the role of birds as indicators of the health of the land, we specialize in cost-effective bird monitoring and research projects that improve natural resource management. Also, recognizing that conservation occurs across many fronts, we nurture a conservation ethic in our communities through our outreach and educational programs. Visit Klamath Bird Observatory at www.KlamathBird.org.
Klamath Bird Observatory is offering two unique opportunities to participate in our long-term landbird monitoring program. A Bird Banding Workshop at KBO’s Upper Klamath Field Station in southern Oregon on August 5-9 2019 and a Bird Banding Field Course, a 10-30 day opportunity to immerse yourself in the life of a field ornithologist and obtain a comprehensive introduction to bird banding and other field methodologies.
CLICK HERE to read more about these exciting bird banding opportunities.
The study of natural areas can improve our understanding of plants and animals that occupy different habitats. Land managers need this kind of information for making decisions about how best to manage, restore, or protect their lands. However, it is not possible to measure each aspect of biodiversity. Studying one or several species to better understand the natural area as a whole is a common, but relatively understudied, practice. In the Pacific Northwest, Partners in Flight – a broad partnership aimed at conserving bird populations – has been using birds as focal species for nearly 20 years. The premise is that a suite of songbird species that are closely tied to key habitat features will represent many other bird species and other elements of biodiversity.
New research examines the focal species approach
Scientists from Klamath Bird Observatory and the Klamath Inventory and Monitoring Network of the National Park Service teamed up to think about how the focal species approach is being applied to six national parks in southern Oregon and northern California. Specifically, we examined whether the Partners in Flight focal species, which are derived from expert opinions and knowledge of birds and their habitats, did a good job at representing three additional management concerns: 1) vegetation, 2) other songbirds, and 3) more specifically, songbirds in decline. We then tested whether we could develop a focal species list from existing park-specific bird surveys that would do a better job at representing the other groups. The results were recently published in the scientific journal Ecological Applications in an article titled Established and Empirically Derived Landbird Focal Species Lists Correlate with Vegetation and Avian Metrics(CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PUBLICATION).
Why does this matter?
If focal species do a good job at representing other groups of birds or vegetation, then the list can help land managers make better decisions about natural areas. Deciding which correlations are most important will depend on the management question at hand. For example, with vegetation management, if focal species are highly correlated with other songbirds and vegetation, managers can confidently apply their knowledge about the focal species to planning needs, such as developing a restoration strategy.
What have we learned?
Partners in Flight focal species represented three other components of biodiversity (all songbirds combined, songbirds in decline, and vegetation) in some, but not all, instances. We found that the Partners in Flight focal species did a good job of representing other songbirds at four of the six national parks. For all parks combined, the focal species developed from park-specific bird surveys improved correlation, showing the most notable improvement at Crater Lake National Park, where the existing focal species did not correlate strongly with the other groups. In contrast to the close association with songbirds generally, the Partners in Flight focal species lists represented songbirds in decline at only two of the parks. It is likely that species in decline have different habitat needs or experience different threats than the focal species.
Partners in Flight focal species lists are based on breeding season habitat needs, but food and habitat outside of the breeding season are also critically important for birds. For example, understanding how seasonal habitat and food needs relate to songbird health and ability to produce young, and how climate interacts with those, may inform conservation of declining species. Adding focal species that can represent limitations or threats outside of the breeding season may expand the use of this approach in the context of widespread bird population declines. Further, continued long-term monitoring in the parks is critical to understanding both whether local bird populations show similar dynamics as the same species at regional and national scales, and if so, the reasons why.