Saturday, February 7, 2015

Wisconsin launches largest statewide bird survey in history

MADISON - Birders are grabbing their binoculars and getting ready to count birds for a good cause as Wisconsin launches its most comprehensive bird survey ever. The effort, known as Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, will last five years, enlist thousands of citizen scientists and help shape bird conservation efforts for the next generation, according to organizers.
"This project represents a unique opportunity for citizens to be a part of conservation efforts in our state," said Nick Anich, breeding bird atlas coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Anyone can participate in the survey. Whether they're an expert birder or just starting out, we'll provide them the tools they need to successfully document the birds across the state."
The project, which runs through the end of 2019, is a cooperative effort between DNR and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. The survey will aim to document breeding bird numbers and diversity throughout the state.
"The Breeding Bird Atlas is crucial to helping us understand changes and trends in bird populations statewide," said Bill Mueller, director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. "This project and the information collected by our partners will be used for numerous conservation programs at work now and into the future."
The first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas was initiated by WSO in 1995 and represented the largest coordinated field effort in the history of Wisconsin ornithology. During the six-year survey period, field observers documented 237 bird species, with 226 of those listed as confirmed breeders in the state.
"With the help of three new lead organizations, we'll be able to further build on the strengths of the first atlas as well as capitalize on advancing technology to increase participation and collect even more information for the second atlas," said Kim Kreitinger, WSO president.
Not only will the second atlas be the largest avian citizen science project ever in the state of Wisconsin, but it will also be the first in the country to utilize eBird, a popular bird reporting and analysis website. Results of the atlas will help guide future bird conservation efforts and land management planning.
"The efforts of volunteers who will donate their time and energy over the next five years will allow us to achieve much more than we ever could alone. The support is truly invaluable," said Erin Crain, director of the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation bureau. "The data collected by volunteers will play an integral role in the management of Wisconsin birds, which speaks to the importance of our dedicated partners."

Breeding Bird Atlas Survey seeking volunteers

The success of the atlas will rely on the help of countless volunteers. Whatever your skill level and wherever you bird, everyone is welcome to participate. You can make an impact by carefully observing birds and documenting their breeding activities starting this spring. To sign up to volunteer and help conserve Wisconsin birds, visit wsobirds.org/atlas-email-signup (exit DNR).

Attend the spring kickoff meeting on Feb. 27

Join bird enthusiasts from around the state at the atlas kickoff meeting at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in Rothschild, Wis. The meeting will run from Feb. 27- March 1 and features a full agenda including field trips, training workshops and presentations. For a complete list of events and speakers, visitwsobirds.org/atlas-kickoff-meeting (exit DNR).
To learn more about how you can support or participate in the survey, visitwsobirds.org/atlas (exit DNR]. For a more detailed look into the survey, check out the February issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.