The Breeding Bird Survey

April 29th, 8:00 am

For the last 4 years the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, or MCRCD, has been conducting a breeding bird survey on the Little Lake Valley mitigation lands specifically around the riparian and wetland areas. It is mostly a listening experience though we use our eyes too.  Every bird seen or heard is counted from 59 point, or GPS locations, that were randomly chosen. This week I have been getting ready by doing a few pre-surveys,and  getting the paperwork together for the participants. Last week I finished putting in the data from last years survey. Hopefully as each years data is entered we can begin to see a picture of how our nesting birds are doing. Some of the questions that we are trying to answer may be: Has protecting and restoring the riparian areas on this land had an effect on the numbers of bird species that nest here?  The grazing areas? Has it impacted the diversity of species? There are outside factors that can affect these questions too, such as the weather, especially rainfall, and fires. It is always exciting to be a part of this inquiry project. It is my third time helping and the second year directing the whole survey.

Breeding bird counts or surveys are performed all over the country and the world These differ from the christmas bird counts that are done in the winter time. The wintertime bird counts as we call them, give us information that is very important to science. It gives us the number and diversity of birds we have all across the United States, during the non migration time whereas the breeding bird counts helps us count the number and diversity of the nesting birds in our areas. This includes the birds we call the neotropicals, or the birds that migrate from tropical areas to nest here, like the Western Kingbird, and our out of area migrants, such as Grasshopper Sparrow or Swainson’s Thrush, and our resident birds, such as Spotted Towhee that also nest here.The spring bird counts are not as consistantly done or as geographically widespread as the Christmas bird counts so we are fortunate to have this happening in our valley with such regularity. 

As I travel the mitigation lands I pay attention each day to any new songs or calls that are happening. At the same time I am equally aware of the birds that have left our area such as the Northern Harriers, Rough-legged hawks, and Says phoebes. Some of the valley areas are still quite wet so I will continue to wear my muck boots for a while! Along the creeks there are Common merganzers, and in the still wet areas many species of ducks are finding refuge and food.

It is with anticipation and excitement that I look forward to participating in this years Willits Mitigation lands Breeding Bird Survey.