The spring of 2013 was an amazing field season on the Lower Colorado River. This past season we had our largest crew on record, with 17 people! We were very lucky to have a group of highly qualified ornithologists. The first month of the season, as always, was spent sharpening our bird skills, learning our survey methods, as well as clearing trails to our survey plots. Driving routes and trails need to be established to all our bird plots that were randomly selected for the season. This is no easy task considering this past year we surveyed approximately 250 plots. Trail clearing can be rough work, but it definitely helps the crew to bond as we spend the entire month working together. Once the first month is finished up, the crew splits off to their respective field sites and surveys begin. This year we had four field houses spanning the length of our study area from southern Nevada to the international boundary with Mexico.
|Photo by Alicia Arcidiacono|
To survey for birds, we use an area search or spot-mapping survey approach. For this method, our surveyors are given an aerial image of their survey plot superimposed with a UTM grid. The surveyor walks systematically passing within 50m of all points on their survey plot. During this time the surveyor records all birds seen and heard on their maps and any evidence of breeding. Surveys begin at, or a half hour before, sunrise and usually last several hours.
The crew had a fantastic season recording approximately 200 different species of birds. Additionally over 21,000 individual locations of birds were mapped and entered into GIS. Our crew also documented a large number of rarities, including the first breeding record of a Nutting’s flycatcher in the US. We also recorded Rufuous-backed Robin, Palm Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole; all of which are rare birds within our study area.
In addition to birds, other wildlife species were plentiful in our study area. We observed bobcats, mountain lions, several species of rattlesnake, javelina, badgers, skunks, bighorn sheep, and much more. Throughout this past season we had many great adventures and made some lasting friendships. With another season wrapped on the LCR, I am left in disbelief how quickly the time passed. Thanks crew of 2013 for making it one of our best seasons on record! Looking forward to 2014!