Waterbird survey and breeding bird survey

I experienced my first in depth bird survey on the BRMBR with the resident Wildlife Biologist, Howard Bowers. I didn't know what to really expect, as we needed to count every bird we could see on the entire 80,000 acre refuge. I have taken Ornithology classes in college, but they were mostly on birds found in the eastern United States. And, as I am sure all of you know, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is home to many different types of shore birds who migrate through and rest here, few of which are seen in South Eastern Ohio. To say the least, I started off slow. However, after the first couple hours of seeing the same birds over and over again with Howard's expert advice on what to look for, I become competent enough to help him sight birds myself on each unit with binoculars and scope.

While one of us were looking and spotting for birds on either side of the vehicle, the other was writing the data down in the most clever way. Say we spotted 42 White Faced Ibis, and a mile down the road spotted just 2, and then another half mile saw 13 more, meanwhile seeing a plethora of other species in between. Thats too much information to write in digit forum on the charts we are keeping and within the time frame of finishing the entire refuge in one day. So, using a symbol system helped out immensely, and a box with a cross through in represented 10 individuals: each 4 corners are one, each line connecting two dots are another, and the two lines through the center are two more. Of course, when 350 American White Pelicans are spotted on an island, the digit format is brought back.

For an entire 8 hours Howard and I rode the dykes between units, stopping ever 5-20 feet or so to peer back through our binoculars. By the end of the day, I was an expert at identifying every shore bird we saw, to say the least, and could even tell apart a female Mallard from a Gadwall at a distance. The day flew by incredibly fast for 8 straight hours of riding around in a truck at 10 miles an hour, mostly due to the serine beauty of the refuge and Howard's priceless knowledge I was being taught.

Some very notable sightings while we were out are the rare Goldeneye (duck) and a two pairs of Grebes that were doing their mating display dance. The Grebes were interesting not only for their beautiful dancing, but the fact that one pair were Clarke's Grebes and the other Western Grebes, and the pairs were trading off partners with one another.

The following morning, before the crack of dawn, Howard and I went out again to conduct another survey, however this one being a point count survey of breeding birds on the refuge. Howard would drive every half mile and stop, then we'd get out and he'd watch in all directions for three minutes for signs of birds- either sight or song. I am very impressed with his skill and competency in identifying birds- every single sound he heard he recognized, and he could spot the smallest dot in the distance and identify it. He set a very high standard and goal for me to shoot for, and I am hoping one day to be as experienced as he is.

 The massive 80,000 acre refuge complex

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