Saturday, January 2, 2016

Concord Birds Project 2013-2015

The advent of 2016 marks the end of the three-year Concord Birds Project, a collaborative inventory of avian life in Concord.  Harking back to the days when birders kept and published town lists, our goal was simply to inspire some competition and see how many birds we could find in Concord.  And we did, logging 225 species that first year and 246 over the course of three years, drawing on a robust collection of over 2,300 eBird reports that represent thousands of contributed field hours.  

The concept was simple:  birders shared their Concord eBird lists and field notes with a virtual birder we called Ludlow G., who was the virtual companion to every party in the field and who gathered all their sightings into a single observer database on eBird.  Since eBird does not yet gather data at the town level, this was my way of doing it; someone with programming skills could streamline this process, but it would be less fun than corresponding with so many great birders and following their discoveries, list by list.

Given the interest generated by the project, it evolved into a longer term effort to assemble a robust, high quality data set of birds sightings on which to base a revision to the existing Concord checklist by Dick Walton, which dates from 1984, and Ludlow Griscom’s from 1949.  I have been collaborating with Cole W., a very talented young birder, on editing a new checklist, and we hope to publish it this year.  

The historical checklist stands at around 360 species, but in just three years some really cool birds were encountered such as a Swainson’s Hawk, Barn Owl, LeConte’s Sparrow, Prothonotary Warbler, and Mississippi Kite.  Nice surprises were breeding ravens, rediscovering territories for Louisiana Waterthrush and discovering a breeding population of Canada Warblers, deep in the swamps of Estabrook Woods. Habitat change and loss have brought losses:  shore-birding at Great Meadows is much diminished, Ruffed Grouse are nearly gone, and Goshawk and Blue-headed Vireo no longer breed in Estabrook Woods.

For now, I want to thank the many birders who answered questions, offered guidance, and contributed lists and field notes.  The list is very long, but among them I want particularly to thank Cherrie Corey, Jason Forbes, Willy Hutcheson, Chuck Johnson, Sam Miller, Simon Perkins, David Sibley, Bob Stymeist, the indefatigable Great Meadows survey crew of Alan Bragg, Kathy Dia, and Will Martens, and of course the dynamic duo of Cole and Jalen Winstanley.  To all named and unnamed, many thanks for the birds, and good birding to you in 2016.  And yes, that shadow might be Ludlow G. so make sure to count every bird, no matter how common.

David Swain

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