The best way to know if your land is being used for grassland bird habitat (nesting, foraging, roosting, etc.) is to conduct simple bird monitoring or observations on your land at various times during the year. You don’t need to be an expert birder to gather useful information about birds on your land. If you commit to keeping track of seasonal and annual observations on a regular basis, you may begin to notice important trends. This information is not only useful in directing and adjusting your management practices on your own property, the information is also helpful to the Greene Land Trust, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and others who are interested in the conservation success of grassland birds in Greene County.
To learn more about how to identify grassland birds in the field, click on the links below from Cornell's Lab of Ornithology "All About Birds" website to see images and hear the calls and songs of the following grassland birds:
Grassland Bird Monitoring with the Greene Land Trust:
The Greene Land Trust is interested in receiving information from volunteer Grassland Habitat Stewards and grassland landowners about grassland birds they observe on their property including sightings and general bird behaviors. If you decide to begin monitoring grassland birds on your property, please give the Greene Land Trust a call so we can keep an eye out for your data sheets!
Audubon Christmas Bird Count:
eBird is a real-time online checklist program operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. Through these recorded observations, eBird is amassing a large data resource about bird abundance and distribution to be used by scientists, land managers, ornithologists and conservation biologists. A participating birder enters when, where and how they went birding, then fills out a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing. Submissions are reviewed by regional bird experts. Visit eBird at: http://ebird.org/content/ebird or the New York eBird at: http://ebird.org/content/ny/
Follow and Comment on Rich Guthrie’s Birding Blog:
Rich Guthrie is a local birding expert with years of detailed knowledge about birds in our area. As he provides his observations and insights through this Times Union blog, you can learn and provide your own comments and observations. http://blog.timesunion.com/birding/
This is a continent-wide citizen-science project and nest-monitoring database of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, funded by the National Science Foundation and developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. If you find a nest that you would like to monitor, first read the “Nest Monitor’s Code of Conduct”, which will provide you with the proper monitoring protocol so that you cause no harm to the nest, the parent birds, or the nesting process. You will be asked to check the nest every 4-5 days and enter data electronically for their database. http://watch.birds.cornell.edu/nest/home/index
Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club’s Birdline of Eastern New York
The HMBC also hosts a Yahoo discussion group for reporting and discussing bird sightings in the eleven counties surrounding Albany NY (including Greene County). http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hmbirds/
This is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers count the birds they see at their feeders from November through early April and send their counts to Project FeederWatch where the data helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornitology and Bird Studies, Canada. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/index.html
Some tips for Monitoring Grassland Birds...
Summer and winter grassland bird residents:
It is important to consider that different birds use New York State grasslands during different seasons. Some birds, such as the Eastern Meadowlark and the Savannah Sparrow, use grasslands exclusively in the summer for feeding and breeding, then migrate to southern states for the winter. Some birds, such as the Northern Harrier, use grasslands in both the winter and summer. And some birds, such as the Short-eared Owl, use NY grasslands primarily in the winter months. Monitoring for these birds during both seasons is important and can provide useful information to scientists about suitable grassland habitat in Greene County.
Identifying raptors by sight:
The two grassland birds that are the focus of this conservation effort – the Northern Harrier and the Short-eared Owl – are both raptors, or birds of prey, and are usually identifiable in the field by noting their distinct markings and flight characteristics. Although the Northern Harrier may be breeding in our area in the summer, the Short-eared Owl only visits us in the winter months and thus, the best time to see these raptors is the winter when they are out hunting for prey. If you look closely, you may spot Northern Harriers during the summer breeding months, especially around wetlands, as they make their home in Greene County grasslands all year round.
Identifying summer grassland songbirds by sound:
Because migratory grassland songbirds, that visit Greene County in the summer months, are characterized by their reclusive nature, and because they tend to be small with less distinct markings, even an experienced birder may have difficulty identifying them by sight. However, listening for the distinctive songs of these birds, especially when walking quietly during the morning hours of spring and summer, will help you identify whether or not grassland birds are using your property. To hear examples of grassland bird songs, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” pages (see links at the top of this page) that include photographs, habitat requirements and other information as well as helpful recordings of bird songs - search for any bird. www.allaboutbirds.org