Bird Atlas Tips April 2010
Hi Loudoun County Atlasers,
Springtime is officially here and I hope you are as excited as I am to begin our second year of the atlas! As a final reminder, all paper field cards and Special Survey forms from the first atlas year should be mailed to me at your earliest convenience. We need this information to validate particular records or obtain missing data. Thanks to all of you who have already submitted your cards.
One of our atlasers, Kurt Gaskill, posted several great summaries of his atlasing trips on the VABird listserve last year. Attached is one of his summaries – you feel like you are right there with him in the field! Reading his summary is a great way to get you motivated to go out and atlas.
Tips (taken from 2002-2006 MD/DC Breeding Bird Atlas)
1. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (safe dates 5/15-7/31) is one of many birds that start nesting long before safe-dates. Nests can be found toward the middle and end of this month. The nest appears to be a knot on top of a horizontal branch. Tent caterpillar silk is a component, used to cement the nest to the branch and blend one into the other. Pairs are noisy as they build and can sometimes lead you to the nest.
2. The Horned Lark (safe dates 4/1-9/5) may have already started nesting in your block. Look for activity in last year’s crop fields or on sod farms with lots of barren soil and a few sprigs of vegetation. You may need a scope to sit back and watch the birds from a distance as they carry food to the nest. Fledglings may be seen running on plowed fields after parents.
3. Look for courtship and territory defense displays in Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures. Watch for birds soaring around or sitting on abandoned farm buildings. Eggs (usually 2) may be on a bare floor.
1. The next atlas training session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 7th from 7-8:30 at the Purcellville Library. If you haven’t already, please let me know if you plan to attend.
2. The “Block Results Detail” tab on the main menu of the atlas database allows you to view which species have already been documented for a block along with their breeding status. Consider printing this list and taking it with you while atlasing so you can focus on adding new species to the block list or upgrading current breeding codes.
1. New Evidence Recorded Check Box – On the first part of entering a new field card, where you enter dates/times/etc. you must now select an option before you can continue on to enter sightings. Please note the new line asking for “Evidence Recorded.” You MUST click on a circle for either “all species” or “new or upgraded species only.” Most atlasers will choose the “all species” circle, indicating they documented every species observed/heard on an atlas trip. In a few cases (you atlas the same area on a daily basis or you atlas with the intention of upgrading or adding new species to a particular block’s list), you may want to choose the “new or upgraded species only” circle. This circle indicates that you only documented species which haven’t previously been reported for the block and/or documented a higher breeding code for a particular species (for example, a probable breeding code for a possible breeder). If you go back to edit your effort on already submitted field cards, you will also have to choose one of these options (you’ll receive an error message otherwise).
2. New Warning Flag – A warning flag will now appear if you enter the O code in the Observed Category for a bird not thought to breed in Loudoun (no asterick behind the name on the field card). The O code can only been used when a species is within safe dates and safe dates don’t apply to non-breeding birds. When you observe/hear a species not thought to breed in Loudoun please use the E code in the Observed Category. The only exception is if you document Probable or Confirmed breeding evidence for such a species, in which case you should submit an Atlas Verification Form.
42 enthusiastic atlasers have spent over 1,298 hours in the field documenting 14,157 sightings. You have recorded 201 species, with 91 of these species having a confirmed nesting status. Field cards have been reported for 30 blocks. Keep up the great work!
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator