Thursday, February 25, 2016

Preparing for Another Spring along the Lower Colorado River

Kayak surveys at the Bill Williams NWR. Photo source: Dawn Fletcher

Great Basin Bird Observatory is gearing up for the 2016 field season, set to start in early April.  Typically our season begins a bit earlier in March, however, this year the entire crew is returning and these old pros will need significantly less training on our field protocols and bird identification.   We are lucky to have such a great crew returning, with many of the members on their fourth and fifth seasons with us, and one member returning for his seventh season. 

What keeps crew members coming back season after season?  One major draw to the project is our survey method, the area search and spot mapping method, which allows surveyors to spend time thoroughly scouring a survey area recorded all birds they see and/or hear and any evidence of breeding.  This method in particular gives surveyors an opportunity to intimately learn about the resident bird species on their survey plots. From these types of surveys a wealth of natural history information can be gained, such as onset of the breeding cycle, initiation of migration, and timing of the fledgling period, to name a few. 

Hammond’s flycatcher caught during mist netting birds volunteering on a BOR project. Photo source: L. Harter

Leopard lizard observed during surveys. Photo source: D. Fletcher
Throughout our surveys we have also documented many rare species of birds using the lower Colorado River and some even nesting, such as confirmed breeding of a Nutting’s flycatcher, the first breeding record for this species in the United States.  Each our surveyors record several rarities to our study area including nesting Tropical Kingbirds and Rufous-backed Robin.  In addition to observing lots of interesting species of birds, crew members have also seen a myriad of wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, skunks, javelinas, beavers, coyotes, and several species of snakes and lizards. 

California Leaf-nosed Bat caught during mist netting bats volunteering on a Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) project. Photo source: Lauren Harter
Lastly, in addition to GBBO's monitoring project, there are several remarkable research projects occurring along the river, which our crew members have been able to volunteer on during their free time. These include mist netting and banding birds and bats, lowland leopard frog and Mexican garter snake surveys, and Elf owl, Cuckoo, Southwestern willow flycatcher and Marsh bird surveys.  We are so excited for the upcoming field season and grateful to have an awesome field crew that comes back year after year. 

Were you on the LCR field crew?  If so, tell us about your experience!  


Many days and nights spend birding together as a field crew. Field crew 2015 birding together at Lake Havasu.  Photo source: D. Fletcher

Water crossings are common during surveys. Photo source L. Harter