Birders, Citizen Scientists Sought To Participate In Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 - by Elsie Davis

The Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining migratory bird species.  Once a common bird in North America, populations have declined an estimated 85 to 95 percent over a 40-year period. This marks one of the most significant declines documented for a bird species anywhere in North America.

“Widespread and precipitous declines in Rusty Blackbird populations have brought the species much-needed attention in conservation circles over the last two decades, but the exact reasons for its declines remain mysterious, as does the identification of viable strategies for effectively reversing them,” said Dean Demarest, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who has worked on projects addressing Rusty Blackbird conservation for over 10 years. “The trick with Rusties is to gain enough of an understanding regarding the principal causes behind their disappearance so that we can act proactively to address them.”

Proactive measures are underway. This spring, the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group is organizing a 2014 Spring Migration Blitz.  Dr. Judith Scarl, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, serves as the International Coordinator of the Spring Migration Blitz.

“Rusty Blackbird migration remains a big mystery,” said Dr. Scarl. “Without an understanding of stopover locations, migratory timing, or migratory hotspots, we cannot even begin to design conservation strategies to protect this species during one of the critical periods in its annual cycle.”

The premise of the Blitz is simple: You can help scientists gather much-needed data during the Rusty Blackbird’s migration period by birding during the target weeks for your state and submitting your findings to eBird, even if you don’t see a Rusty. It’s just as important to better understand where Rusty Blackbirds occur as it is to know the locations where they have not been found.   

National wildlife refuges are an excellent place to get started. During migration, Rusties are often associated with shallow water, such as flooded forests and the edges of a creek or pond. They also utilize pecan orchards and crop fields. Refuges across the southeast such as Wappanocca in Arkansas, Okefenokee in Georgia, Eufaula in Alabama, and Black Bayou Lake in Louisiana are among many Refuges listed in eBird as locations where birders have observed Rusty Blackbirds.

By submitting birding data collected at national wildlife refuges into eBird, birders provide valuable information to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists for use in a variety of interests and applications.

“There are over 100,000,000 bird observations recorded in eBird, providing a wealth of data on bird distribution throughout the world,” said Steve Holzman, a biologist in the Service’s Inventory and Monitoring Program. “Tapping into this expansive database from very competent citizen scientists allows us to better understand which birds use our refuges, and how important these refuges are to their survival, much better than we ever could on our own.”

The Spring Migration Blitz presents a unique opportunity for citizens to both get outside and enjoy nature in the spring, and to actively participate in an effort that sets a new precedent for conservation.

“The Blitz focuses on Rusties, but it also demonstrates the power and potential for leveraging citizen science for conservation,” said Dr. Scarl. “How often do you have birders from 38 states, nine Canadian provinces, and three Canadian territories working together to gather information that can help inform the conservation of a single species?"

For bird and habitat identification guides, as well as other helpful materials, visit http://www.rustyblackbird.org.

For more additional tips on how to participate in the Spring Blitz in your state, visit: http://rustyblackbird.org/outreach/migration-blitz/get-involved/


Fishing Report From The TRWA

Here is the fishing report from the TWRA: Chickamauga Reservoir:  Reservoir Conditions: Summer normal elevation: 682.0 feet. Winter normal elevation: 676.0 feet. Current elevation: 681.0 feet. The water surface temperature is 62 degrees. Largemouth Bass: Grass mats and grass edges along large flats seem to be better than other areas. Frogs, buzzbaits, plastic ... (click for more)

2015-16 Sport Fish Regulations To Be Set During October Commission Meeting

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will establish the 2015-16 sport fish regulations during its October meeting. The meeting will be held in Greeneville on Wednesday-Thursday, at the General Morgan Inn.  The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Fisheries Division presented changes in the sport fish proclamation during a preview at the August TFWC meeting. The proposals ... (click for more)

2 People Shot Saturday Night On Carousel Road

Two people were shot Saturday evening on Carousel Road. At  9:11 p.m. , Chattanooga Police responded to 1406 Carousel Road on a call of a person shot. One victim on the scene suffered minor injuries.  Another victim was transported by personal vehicle to a local hospital. The s econd victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries.  The suspect ... (click for more)

Teenager Killed In ATV Accident Thursday Night

Damon Lee Jones, 15, was killed Thursday night in an ATV accident in Walker County. It was reported he was riding with a 17-year old, when they tried to enter a church parking lot, but ran into a cable barrier. The accident happened on Dunwoody Road in LaFayette. The other rider, identified as Timothy J. Wallin, was not injured.   (click for more)

Tom Dugan Was A Good Man

Tom was my boss for most of my 36 years at Carta.  At the ceremony where I was awarded my 30-year service award, Tom said, "Don disagrees with 85% of my decisions, but I wish I had 80 more employees just like him." This kind of indicates our relationship. When I asked him to help with my plans for a reunion for the group of Veterans that I served with in Vietnam, he quickly ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: More Sunday Funnies

On the last Sunday before Daylight Savings Time disappears next week, let’s go to my jokes back for some grins and giggles: * * * An old gentleman was on the operating table awaiting surgery and he insisted that his son-in-law, a renowned surgeon, perform the operation.  As he was about to get the anesthesia, he asked to speak to his son-in-law. “Yes, Dad, what is ... (click for more)