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

Wednesday, March 5, 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/


The Numbers Don't Lie: Life Jackets Save Lives

Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, TWRA officers have already investigated four fatal boating accidents and in each case, properly worn life jackets would have likely made a difference. The forecast this weekend looks prime for boating and Tennesseeans are expected to saturate the waterways to kick-off the summer.  What many of them will fail to do however is to properly wear ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Get Fit Challenge: Hike Stringer’s Ridge Saturday With Mayor Berke And Friends

Mayor Andy Berke invites the community to join him tomorrow at 11 a.m. in the Chattanooga Get Fit Challenge for a fun hike up to the overlook at Old Bell Avenue Trailhead at Stringer’s Ridge, the 92-acre urban wilderness park just minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Mayor Berke and participants in the Get Fit Challenge will explore one of the largest natural areas within city ... (click for more)

Sources Say Domestic Incident Involving Mayor's Aide Came After Husband Confronted Her And Mayor Behind Restaurant; Mayor Says Charge "Absolutely False"

A domestic disorder involving a top female aide to Mayor Andy Berke was sparked after her husband recently confronted the aide and the mayor in a parked car behind a Mexican restaurant, several sources said.   A spokesperson for Mayor Andy Berke said, "Last weekend a member of my senior staff was the victim of a domestic assault involving her husband. Upon being arrested ... (click for more)

Roommate Of Chance LeCroy Describes Sept. 9, 2010 Murder

The roommate of Chance LeCroy told a Criminal Court jury on Tuesday of the terrifying day that robbers burst into their residence and killed the 21-year-old LeCroy. Patrick Carmody, one of three men charged in the slaying, is standing trial in the courtroom of Judge Barry Steelman. Also charged were Ronald Lee Pittman and Billy Bob Parton. Carmody pleaded not guilty to ... (click for more)

Colonel Enicks Is Turning Out Leaders At Red Bank High School

I am a former teacher and football coach at Red Bank High School. I have been a witness to the great things that happen at Red Bank High School.  The teaching staff has a great mixture of experience and promising new teachers.   Dr. Robertson, the principal, is a great man and a wonderful role model for students. He shows up the same way every day and his consistency ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Christian Schools Bully, Too

Earlier this week, after I shared a story about bullying written by a very brave mother, it opened a floodgate of emails from parents and students who have been forced to endure such madness in our elementary, junior and senior high schools. Discipline is the No. 1 problem in our schools. Because of it, or because of a lack of it, no wonder our children cannot achieve all that ... (click for more)