Many people visiting the region for spring migration may think that once The Biggest Week In American Birding is over that the birding winds down and the BSBO team finally gets to take a well-deserved break. This, however, is only somewhat true. While it is true that the festival is planned to coincide with peak spring songbird migration, the research team and its volunteers are still out in the marsh daily, collecting data until the first week of June.
This year in particular, along with operating one of the nation’s largest banding stations, the research team also accomplished some great feats during spring migration.
Throughout spring, the BSBO research team has been affixing radio-transmitters to particular bird species to monitor their movements after release utilizing the Motus wildlife tracking system (motus.org). These deployments are in collaboration with Powdermill Avian Research Center in Pennsylvania (powdermillarc.org), who are investigating the effects rehabilitated migratory birds may incur after window and building collisions. Acting as a control site for uninjured migrant birds, the BSBO research station was able to deploy 11 transmitters on five species of migrants that are commonly found and rehabbed after collisions along the Lake Erie shoreline (American Woodcock, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, White-throated Sparrow, and Magnolia Warbler).
Once deployed, these transmitters send out a specific radio signature that is picked up by Motus receiver towers positioned throughout North America. When a tagged bird flies within range of these towers, its signature is recorded and uploaded to Motus, allowing researches to see when and where these birds are traveling.
Through this collaborative effort the BSBO research team has been able to contribute data to an issue that millions of birds face every year as they traverse the landscape. The information gathered from the movements of these birds will hopefully paint a clearer picture on any immediate or long-lasting effects from collisions and – as an additional benefit – give us a better idea of how migrants are traveling across the lakeshore and Lake Erie.
Along with supplying data, this has been an excellent opportunity for the BSBO research team to strengthen its knowledgebase by now including radio telemetry. This is an incredible skillset for us to acquire as BSBO's research and conservation departments begin to explore the Motus system and its application for monitoring birds using the airspace above Lake Erie.
While simultaneously operating one of the nation’s largest banding stations, the BSBO research team also hosted a North American Banding Council (NABC) (nabanding.net) certification session, evaluating nine candidates at the levels of Trainer, Bander, and Assistant. The mission of the NABC is to promote sound and ethical bird-banding practices and techniques. To accomplish this, the NABC has developed educational and training materials, including manuals on general banding and an accompanying three-level certification process. While becoming NABC certified is not a requirement to handle or band birds, it is a great accomplishment to achieve and promotes a high standard among bird banders.
Two years ago, Ashli Gorbet and Ryan Jacob of BSBO’s research department, achieved the NABC level of Bander. Following that certification, they traveled to Powdermill in 2018 to be evaluated at the Trainer level and attained this status as well. This ranking put Ashli and Ryan among a select group of bird banders recognized as having the skills and knowledge to effectively train and evaluate those in the bird banding community.
Coming full circle, Ashli and Ryan (along with established trainers and NABC council members, Mark Shieldcastle and Annie Lindsay, and recently certified trainer, Deven Kammerichs-Berke) were able to take part in hosting a BSBO-led NABC certification session at the end of this past May. Of the nine candidates evaluated, four have exclusively trained with Ashli and Ryan in BSBO’s research station, and were ready for the evaluation process. It was great to have BSBO’s training methods put to the test through this NABC certification session, finding out what we (BSBO’s research team) do well as trainers and what we can still improve on.
This has been a significant step forward in achieving one of BSBO’s research goals of training and sending out qualified individuals to the bird banding community. And, with one session now under our belts, the BSBO research team is prepared to continue improving our training methods and hosting certification sessions, hoisting BSBO up among the other great organizations promoting the NABC and bettering the bird banding community.
BSBO's Research department continues to make strides in the scientific and banding community for the betterment of habitats and all wildlife. With the support of our partners, volunteers, members, and advocates, the BSBO research team looks forward to a bright future of continued learning, training, and outreach.
Ryan Jacob, Ashli Gorbet, Mark Shieldcastle