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End of Point Count Season Update

By Tom McLaren, Biologist Point Count Program

Each spring, KBO conducts a large-scale point count surveying effort to collect data on abundance, habitat use, and bird communities. Many species can only be surveyed during their breeding season when they establish territories and are easily detected by their unique songs. To take advantage of this, our point count surveys take place within a narrow window during the spring breeding season. With the help of a fantastic team of seasonal point count technicians, KBO completed another successful season of surveys this year.

This spring, our surveyors conducted a total of 2101 point counts over 214 survey days. Much of this work was related to long-term monitoring of avian populations and ecological restoration projects. These projects align with KBO’s goals to understand changes to bird communities and to provide conservation relevant science to resource managers.

Meadow Lark by Frank Lospalluto

Our long-term monitoring projects include partnerships with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Park Service (NPS). Our partnership with the BLM includes ongoing surveys within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon and large-scale monitoring of bird populations in eastern Oregon as a part of the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program. With over 1,000 detections, Western Meadowlarks continue to be one of our most frequently observed species on our IMBCR surveys. Other notable species include Horned Lark, Sagebrush Sparrow, and Gray Flycatcher, each of which was detected several hundred times on our surveys.

Pinyon Jay by Eric Gropp

In partnership with the NPS, we also completed our 15th year of point count surveys in national parks of the Klamath-Siskiyou region. Our surveyors visited the Lava Beds National Monument and Redwoods National and State Parks in northern California. At Redwoods National and State Parks, our most commonly detected species were the Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Western Flycatcher) and the Pacific Wren. Notably, in Lava Beds National Monument, our surveyors had several Pinyon Jay detections. These birds, which are under federal review for listing under the Endangered Species Act, are known for foraging on the seeds of the eponymous pinyon pine and are currently suffering a dramatic population decline. The Pinyon jay’s decline is thought to be the result of a loss of suitable pinyon-juniper habitat.

Veery by Frank Lospalluto

This year, our restoration surveying work took our technicians across Oregon and into Northern California. One of our largest restoration projects in the Northern Blues Mountains included surveys across the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests of Northeastern Oregon in partnership with the United States Forest Service (USFS). Our surveyors also visited regions of Northern California, southern Oregon, and Portland to survey oak, riparian, and aspen restoration sites. Notably, this year marked the initiation of an oak restoration monitoring project as part of an ongoing partnership with the Upper Rogue Oak Initiative. This partnership is focused on restoring and maintaining healthy oak woodlands within the region. With more than 500 detections each, Western Tanagers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and American Robins were the most frequently seen species on our restoration projects. Our surveyors also had several exciting encounters with more uncommon species, including the American Three-toed Woodpecker, Northern Goshawk (American Goshawk), and Veery.

We’d like to give a big shout-out to our fantastic team of point count surveyors this year. They worked tirelessly to collect high-quality data about our bird communities while navigating life in the field. Our science team is happy to have another successful point count season on the books, and we are looking forward to learning more from the data we have collected.

Long-term monitoring project in Eastern Oregon will help biologists study trends in sagebrush-associated bird populations

The Great Basin Bird Conservation Region (BCR 9) is shown in light gray in this map of the United States’ western BCRs.

In 2019, KBO partnered with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to initiate a new long-term bird monitoring project in eastern Oregon as part of the Integrated Monitoring for Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program that is coordinated by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. This eastern Oregon bird monitoring project is an expansion of the IMBCR long-term monitoring program that is being implemented to better understand long-term bird population trends in North America’s Bird Conservation Regions, or BCRs. Our fieldwork brought us far from our home in Ashland, Oregon to monitor birds in the sagebrush habitats of eastern Oregon, stretching KBO’s point count program out all the way to the Idaho border!

One important benefit of KBO reaching out into eastern Oregon is that we helped to complete IMBCR’s coverage of the Great Basin BCR (BCR 9) and the sagebrush habitats of the west. Big Sagebrush is an important plant species for Greater Sage Grouse and this high desert shrub makes up an important component of the at-risk sagebrush ecosystems that other species of concern depend on, including Brewer’s Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Sagebrush Sparrow, and Short-eared Owl.

Brewer’s Sparrow

The IMBCR program started in 2008 and now covers nine BCRs in 16 states across the western United States. The goal of the program is to use a consistent, statistically rigorous design and protocol to provide complete and current information about bird distributions, abundances, and population trends over time. In addition to meeting BLM’s long-term goals, this new project strives to meet other BLM district-level information needs in Oregon. For example, IMBCR data can be used to understand ecological conditions, identify research needs, and provide valuable information for management and conservation planning.

Klamath Bird Observatory will collaborate with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies on broad scale analyses of individual species occupancy and density and results will be incorporated into reports, peer-reviewed publications, and decision support tools. The IMBCR dataset will be available to address both short-term management questions and long-term monitoring needs specific to BLM districts in eastern Oregon for years to come.