Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Surveying birds in Arizona grasslands

Central Arizona grassland.
Last year, we began working with our partners at the Arizona Game and Fish Department on grassland bird surveys in spring, summer, and fall. The state of Arizona has several programs aimed at restoring historical grasslands across the state, with the goal of improving habitat for wildlife such as pronghorn as well as improving rangeland. The main purpose of our surveys was to understand how these ongoing grassland treatment activities are affecting breeding birds. For bird surveys, the AZGFD also partnered with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies to use their Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program. We started the season in central and northern Arizona, covering both public and private land across Yavapai and Coconino counties. In July and August, once the monsoon rains began to fall, we moved to southeastern Arizona. There, we surveyed ranches in Graham, Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Pima counties.  

Pronghorn kept us company on some surveys.
In central and northern Arizona, surveyed habitats ranged from high desert grasslands sprinkled with acacia and prickly pear, to rolling hills of pinyon-juniper, to prairie dog-dotted flats. Thrashers were particularly interesting in this region. Crissal Thrashers were common throughout, and we found quite a few Bendire's Thrashers (one of our focal species on our thrasher project) in open juniper-barberry woodland east of Flagstaff. We even turned up a very rare Brown Thrasher near camp in the same area! In southeastern Arizona, most of our surveys were in semidesert grassland, in both the Sonoran and the Chihuahuan deserts. Here we were serenaded by the cascading songs of Cassin's Sparrows on nearly every survey, as well as the bouncing-ball song of Botteri's Sparrows and of course the ubiquitous Black-throated Sparrow. In a few pure grassland sites, we recorded the very local breeding Grasshopper Sparrow. In July, we enjoyed watching the monsoons build over the mountains almost every day, but were only caught in a few downpours!

We're looking forward to continuing and even expanding this monitoring effort to increase our understanding of grassland birds in Arizona this year!

We kicked off our southeastern Arizona grassland surveys in mid July with some beautiful scenery

No comments:

Post a Comment