Birding Update

The past month of field work has been crazy busy! Most days started at 5:20 in the morning, when I’d set out with the team to conduct birding point counts at local parks. Some days were exhausting, and required wading through swamps and climbing through walls of laurel in order to reach a randomly-selected point on the GPS. Other days included more welcome discoveries, like a field of blackberry bushes or a den of playful fox cubs. Now that we’ve finished up the birding surveys, I have been helping out the veg-crew with their work, and will soon start cleaning up and analyzing the bird data.

I’m really looking forward to analysis in order to see if there were any trends in bird diversity along an urban gradient. The day we went out to Dragon River State Park (our most rural surveying location) I immediately noticed a huge difference in bird diversity. I spent each 10-minute interval of my point counts frantically scribbling down bird species, and jotting down notes to describe all the calls I didn’t recognize. There were species I’d never heard before, like the Yellow-breasted chat and Prairie warbler, as well as other species which seemed much scarcer in other locations, such as the Hooded warbler, American Redstart, White-eyed vireo, and Kentucky warbler. The correlation between rural land and high diversity certainly seemed to be pretty strong. However, it is hard to say whether it is the proximity to urban areas which determines this increase in diversity, or the habitat type, especially since the incredibly dense understory in the park would likely attract more birds. We’re currently going back over all the points to study vegetation, which will be helpful in determining which differences are due to habitat and which are due to an urbanization gradient.