The Audubon Observer, September 2022
MIGRATION TRACKING TECHNOLOGIES
Fall migration is upon us! September and October are peak migration months for many bird species that pass through Northeast Florida on their way to points south to spend the winter. Songbirds like American Redstarts, Black-throated Blue Warblers, and Yellow Warblers are already starting to make their way through our area. Other species that winter with us, like Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Palm Warblers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, should be arriving soon.
Northeast Florida lies within the Atlantic Flyway, the second-largest migration path for birds in the U.S. Which makes our area ideal for spotting bird species that may only visit us one or twice a year. The trick is to figure out when and where you have a better chance of seeing them, and recent developments in bird tracking technology are making it easier than ever for bird watchers to find out where to look for their target species.
Of course, an obvious technology that many of us are already familiar with is eBird, one of the world's largest citizen science projects. eBird is hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and it’s not only a way for you to report your own bird sightings and keep track of your life list, but it also allows you to find out what other birders are seeing. You can use the Explore feature to see recent observations within a specific area (like your home county), at a specific “hotspot,” or sightings of an individual species. (Some functions are limited on the phone app – visit the website to see eBird’s full capabilities.) The bar charts feature can give you a good idea of what species to expect in a particular area at different times of the year, and you can also sign up for rare bird alerts to get notified when a rarity is spotted in your selected county (or counties). These are only a few examples of eBird’s incredible capabilities.
A newer project hosted by the Cornell Lab is BirdCast, which uses weather radar to track bird movements in flight. Advancements in computing power within the last several years have enabled the data from weather radar to be analyzed in minute detail, to the point where it is now possible to distinguish groups of birds in flight from weather phenomena like thunderstorms as well as other flying creatures. The result is live migration maps that show actual concentrations of migrating birds in flight over the US as well as migration forecast maps showing nocturnal migration predictions. A more recent tool is their Migration Dashboard, which provides not only an estimate of the actual number of birds that passed over your state or county last night, but it also shows which species are most likely in the selected area today. Since most songbirds migrate at night and rest and feed during the daylight hours, these nighttime maps and forecast tools can give you a good idea of whether it might be a good day to go out birding.
Another fascinating migration tracking project is the MOTUS Wildlife Tracking System hosted by Birds Canada. MOTUS is “an international collaborative research network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to facilitate research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals.” (Quote is from the MOTUS website.) The MOTUS system detects migrating birds (and other wildlife like bats and insects) that have been fitted with tiny radio transmitters as they fly over receiving stations installed around the globe. Most of the more than 1,500 receiving stations are located in the US and Canada, but the system continues to expand as more and more stations come online. As the MOTUS system’s primary purpose is to facilitate landscape-scale research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals, the tracking data may not be especially “user-friendly” to most of us non-scientists, but the whole concept of being able to track the exact movements of individual birds is almost mind-boggling. You can look at a map of all the MOTUS receivers around the world and drill down to see records of detections of tagged individuals by a specific receiver. You can learn more about this fascinating system in this great video posted on the MOTUS website.
Birders have a wide range of tools that can help us get out and find cool birds, but even more important is the research value of these collaborative projects to scientists who are using the data to identify conservation priorities that inform and direct efforts to protect the birds we love.
NORTHEAST FLORIDA CONSERVATION NEWS
Conservation is one of the basic tenets of our chapter’s mission, “Connecting people with nature, conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife,” and your chapter leaders are engaged with several conservation-related initiatives in our Northeast Florida area:
LIGHTS OUT NORTHEAST FLORIDA: Our Lights Out Northeast Florida partnership with St. Johns County Audubon Society and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens kicks back into high gear on September 15th as we resume our weekly data collection surveys in downtown Jacksonville during peak fall migration season. Bright artificial lighting at night draws birds away from their natural migration paths, often causing them to aimlessly circle a brightly lit building until they collide with it or collapse from sheer exhaustion. Each year, literally millions of birds die due to bright lighting at night, and our Lights Out initiative aims to encourage building managers and homeowners to reduce or eliminate artificial lighting at night to ensure birds safe passage during their migration. Learn more about this critical project here.
BALLOON/SKY LANTERN RELEASE BAN: At a recent Jacksonville City Council meeting, Council Member Rory Diamond introduced an ordinance to prohibit the release of balloons and sky lanterns in Jacksonville. We worked with Never Endanger Sea Turtles (NEST) over the last several months to encourage Jacksonville City leaders to pass a balloon/sky lantern release ban ordinance, and it looks like our efforts may be coming to fruition. Once released, balloons and sky lanterns pose a deadly threat to birds, sea turtles and other wildlife, so if the ordinance passes, this will be a HUGE conservation win for Northeast Florida! If you are a Jacksonville resident, please consider contacting your City Council representative to express your support for Ordinance 2022-0573. Find your Jacksonville City Council member here.
RENEWJAX: The Northeast Florida Sierra Club Group is mounting a campaign to persuade the Jacksonville Electric Authority and the City of Jacksonville to commit to converting all operations to run on renewable energy sources before 2050. Several Florida cities have already committed to power all their municipal operations, businesses, and homes with renewable energy on or before 2050. Our chapter has signed on as a supporter of this important campaign to reduce air pollution in Northeast Florida, which would be a significant element in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Learn more here.
FERNGULLY ADDITION: Great news! North Florida Land Trust’s “Ferngully Addition” campaign to raise funds to help the City of Jacksonville purchase a 4.85-acre parcel in the Mandarin area that is adjacent to the City’s Ferngully Preserve has reached its goal! Our chapter contributed significantly to success of the campaign, so we are thrilled to report that this property will be saved from development and will become part of the preserve once the acquisition is complete. You can learn more about the history of the Ferngully Preserve here. Congratulations to North Florida Land Trust on this successful conservation campaign!
FAMILIAR FEATHERED FRIENDS: FALL MEMBERSHIP CAMPAIGN
Fall in our Northeast Florida area is a great time to enjoy cooler weather (finally!) and delight in the birds migrating through or just arriving in our area for the winter. It's also the perfect time to join our chapter if you are not already a member. Our fall membership campaign is going on right now, and you may be the lucky winner of our membership campaign drawing!
When you join Duval Audubon Society, you also become a member of the National Audubon Society as well as Audubon Florida, and your membership supports the efforts of all three organizations. Audubon is one of the most respected conservation organizations in the world, and our local chapter is an all-volunteer non-profit group that works hard to protect important habitat in our area and the bird species and wildlife that rely on them.
Why join Audubon? So many reasons:
Learn more about the benefits of membership on our website.
All new members who join Audubon during the month of September will be entered into a drawing for our customized Duval Audubon water bottle insulator and an autographed copy of the Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl, so don’t delay, join today!
If you are unsure of your membership status, please reach out to Membership Director Christine Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's what's happening this month:
We look forward to seeing you soon!
All content by Carol Bailey-White unless otherwise noted.
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.