There is a Killdeer in this photograph. Can you find her?
There are many things I enjoy about my participation in New Jersey Audubon’s (NJA) Citizen Science program, including the opportunity to bird new and interesting areas. I took this photo after a morning of conducting point count bird surveys in Hovnanian Sanctuary and Double Trouble State Park with my good friend and fellow citizen scientist, Bill Margaretta.
So what are point count bird surveys? This web site by USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center gives a pretty good overview of the scientific protocols associated with point count bird surveys. All citizen scientist who participate in NJA’s program receive training every year on the point count protocols used for their surveys.
Bill and I were asked to conduct surveys for several points in Hovnanian Sanctuary and Double Trouble State Park to identify the bird species using Pine Barren habitats for breeding and nesting. Breeding bird surveys are typically completed in early summer, after migrating bird species have moved through the area and only nesting species remain.
We had completed our surveys and were hiking back to our cars on a trail that followed a power line cut. Walking along, we heard a Killdeer sound off from nearly under our feet. We froze and started looking around, finally locating a well-hidden Killdeer nesting in a tangle of debris and old branches lying on the ground. There are several species of ground nesting birds which rely on camouflage to successfully raise their chicks.
After snapping a couple quick photos, we moved away from the Killdeer’s nesting area. She was already stressed enough by having two humans walk near her nest and we didn’t want to cause her any more discomfort.
The breeding bird data collected by Bill and me that morning provides valuable information about the success of long-term techniques used by NJA for their management of the Hovnanian Sanctuary. This was the second time we had surveyed the area (the first was a few years ago), and I am sure we’ll be asked to complete future surveys as NJA monitors their progress.
This is only one example of the important research completed every year by New Jersey Audubon Citizen Scientist volunteers who, like Bill and me, donate numerous hours every year to complete bird surveys all around the state. Won’t you consider making a pledge today to show your support?
My New Jersey Big Year starts one week from today! In addition to this blog, Facebook members can follow my progress on My New Jersey Big Year page.