Project Prairie Birds
A Citizen Science Project for Wintering Grassland Birds
- Surveys need to be conducted anytime from half an hour after sunrise until 1400 hours on days when there are wind speeds less than 5 on the Beaufort Scale (see bird data sheet for definition), skies are clear to overcast, and daytime temperatures are > 40°F (no drizzle or rain).
- To avoid flushing birds onto the transect, crews should walk single file with poles up to the transect start point.
- Survey crews of three will include two outside individuals each using bamboo cane poles to beat the vegetation to flush skulking birds (Figure 2). The center person, starting at the transect start point and between the pole operators, will aim for the end marker and commence walking while maintaining pole operators’ rhythm and position. The center person will monitor the entire transect for birds as they flush in front of the survey line (Figure 3). All three individuals will spot birds and maintain a straight survey line approximately 20 m wide while walking the length of the 100 m transect.
- For maneuvering poles easier, add a simple device (The Brandonizer) explained below.
- Strive to complete each transect in 90-120 seconds with minimal stops. Take a mental note of the location of any unidentified bird. After transect has been completed, try to relocate and identify any unknown birds (above and beyond the 90-120 second time period).
- Members of the survey crew will identify and record the number of birds that they flush during each transect run. After flushing, the crew should monitor birds until they land to insure that they are not counted more than once.
- Only birds detected by observer crews of three should be recorded on the data sheet. We encourage additional participants (i.e., substitutes or alternates), but they cannot assist in spotting or identifying birds during the survey of a transect when a crew of three is already in place. This insures uniformity in data collection (i.e., all teams have only three sets of eyes locating and identifying birds).
- Please note that finding “no birds” is extremely important. Don’t feel that a zero is reflective of your efforts. A zero could reflect detrimental habitat conditions that need to be reported. A general rule of thumb is “zero data” is better than “no data.” Don’t leave anything blank on a data sheet.
- Don’t expect a lot of birds; a survey of five or more individuals of all species combined is a fairly high count.
- The field season for avian surveys will extend from December through February and will be divided into 3 categories by month: (I) December (II) January (III) February.
- Survey crews should conduct a total of three surveys per transect with one survey per field season category above (I, II and III). At least two weeks should pass between surveys.
- Blank data sheets are available on this web site. Please make plenty of photocopies for your team throughout the field season. There are also sample data sheets that may be useful. Keep photocopies of all your completed data sheets, but send originals to the PPB Coordinator at the end of each field day.
- PPB staff will enter all data electronically and run statistical analyses.
- Watch for online data entry on the GCBO website: http://www.gcbo.org
A survey crew of three ready to walk a transect attempting to flush skulking grassland birds. Both outside poles shown above continue outside of the figure box. The outside poles are equal length to the inner "poles" seen here.
A successful flush: The bird is never harmed, the observer (middle person) detects and identifies the species and meaningful information is then collected. Pole operators are encouraged to help spot and identify birds, but additional people cannot assist.
NOTE: To reduce variability in the results, please maintain consistency in data collected. Please do not make any changes or adjustments to the field methodology.
This simple device was developed by Brandon Crawford, a Student Conservation Association (SCA) Conservation Associate at Attwater Prairie-Chicken NWR, who assisted with the initial surveys at that site. This will work in pure grassland situations that lack trees. Slip each pole (left and right) about 14 inches into a 4’ piece of 3/4” PVC. The bamboo should fit snugly, possibly with the aid of some tape, but not permanently so they can be taken apart to make transporting easier. Grip the PVC piece by holding it at waist-level. With an up and down motion, alternating left then right arm, it is much easier to beat the grass for skulking birds. This device reduces stress to the back, shoulders and arms.
Project Prairie Birds Program
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
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