The Vesper Sparrow is sometimes affectionately referred to as a “little brown job.” This is what birdwatchers call those streaky brown sparrows and dull-colored females that we all struggle with identifying. But if no one knows about this subtle songbird, how can it ever be protected? In 2018, we began engaging local Rogue Valley community members to learn about this declining subspecies and assist with our research. Volunteers help survey several meadows in and around the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, searching for any Oregon Vesper Sparrows banded at our main Howard Prairie study site that may have relocated to nearby suitable habitat.
In 2019, we also began partnering with Vesper Meadow Education Program to expand the study to nearby Vesper Meadow, a former agricultural pasture that is being reclaimed by a community-powered restoration effort (visit www.vespermeadow.org for more information). Community scientists at this location also help KBO researchers look for and record color-banded birds – or document their absence. We’ve had over 25 community scientists assist with these efforts so far!
What’s next? In fall 2020, the Vesper Meadow Education Program will be creating several educational YouTube videos regarding Oregon Vesper Sparrow research and conservation for local students in virtual classrooms.
Community science and education efforts were supported by Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Carpenter Foundation, and BLM National Conservation Lands Management Studies Support Program.