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2013 Grassland Focus Area Point Count Survey Protocol


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2013 Grassland Focus Area Point Count Survey Protocol
Objective: The objective is to perform avian surveys among grassland and shrubland habitats associated with Grassland Focus Areas and Bird Priority Areas in Ohio. The intent of the surveys are to 1) estimate occupancy, and where possible abundance, of priority grassland dependent species, 2) associate occupancy or abundance with habitat conditions, 3) monitor changes in occupancy or abundance over time that may result from changes in habitat condition caused by succession or management, and 4) provide information to make informed recommendations about future habitat management for the benefit of priority grassland species.
Study sites: Our study sites include Grassland Focus Areas (GFA) and Bird Priority Areas (BPA) at various locations throughout Ohio. GFA’s include Big Island/Killdeer Plains (Marion and Wyandot Cos.) and Lake LaSuAn (Williams Co.). BPA’s include sites on Woodbury Wildlife Area (Coshocton Co.), Tri-Valley W.A. (Muskingum Co.), Egypt Valley W.A. (Belmont Co.), and Crown City W.A. (Gallia Co.). BPA’s are located on areas that are generally reclaimed strip mines.

Figure 1. Grassland Focus Areas (GFA) and Bird Priority Areas (BPA) in Ohio.


Priority Species: Bobolink, dickcissel, eastern meadowlark, field sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, northern harrier, northern bobwhite quail, prairie warbler, ring-necked pheasant, savannah sparrow, short-eared owl, sedge wren, vesper sparrow, willow flycatcher, yellow-breasted chat, and upland sandpiper.
Other species that may be heard on surveys include: indigo bunting, common yellowthroat, yellow warbler, American goldfinch, song sparrow, European starling, northern flicker, American robin, northern cardinal, red-winged blackbird, Baltimore oriole, orchard oriole, chipping sparrow, house sparrow, house wren, Carolina wren, horned lark, killdeer, etc. While these species are not priority species and will not be recorded during point counts, you should familiarize yourself with these birds’ calls and appearance.
Methodology: A 6-minute point count will be employed to record the presence of the above species detected by sight or sound. No recorded playbacks will be used. The information to be recorded for each observation of a bird will include:
1) Time of first detection of the individual
2) Distance from observer
3) Method of detection (heard or seen)
4) Species
5) Sex of the individual, where possible
5) Directional orientation of the individual to the observer


GRASSLAND FOCUS AREA POINT COUNT DATA SHEET—6 minute survey
Focus Area:_________________ Start Time:_______________________

Point:______________________ Date:___________________________

Precip:_____________________ Wind:___________________________

Temp:______________________ Observer:________________________

______________________________________________________________________




Record:

Species


Time 1st detected

Distance


Circle if heard first

25m 50 m 100 m



Priority bird codes:

BOBO RNPH

DICK SASP

EAME SEOW

FISP SEWR

GRSP VESP

HESP WIFL

NOHA YBCH

NOBO UPSA

PRAW
GRASSLAND FOCUS AREA POINT COUNT DATA SHEET


Focus Area:_________________ Start Time:____________________

Point:______________________ Date:___________________________

Precip:_____________________ Wind:___________________________

Temp:______________________ Observer:________________________


______________________________________________________________________

Record:

Species


Time 1st detected

Distance


Circle if heard first
NOHA

4:38


250m

HESP


0:47 25m 50 m 100 m

26m
BOBO

1:24

70m


Instructions:


  1. Conduct point counts between 30 minutes before sunrise and 4 hours after sunrise. Point counts should be conducted under standard fair-weather conditions (i.e. no precipitation, wind < 12 mph, visibility in fog to at least 250 m).




  1. Get to each point as quickly as possible, using GPS and aerial photography to locate each point. After arriving at a point, wait 1 minute for birds to settle and to prepare data sheet, etc.




  1. Record location and weather data at the top of the data sheet before starting.


Wind speed should be determined using the Beaufort Wind Scale:

Smoke rises vertically No wind (0 mph)

Smoke drifts 1-3 mph

Wind felt on face; leaves rustle 4-7 mph

Small twigs in constant motion 8-12 mph

Dust rises, small branches move 13-18 mph

Small trees sway 19-24 mph


  1. Use a stopwatch to keep time for the 6 minute observation period. Do not record birds observed before or after the 6 minute period.




  1. When a bird is observed, use the 4-letter species code to indicate approximate distance and direction from the observer (see examples, above). The top of the rosette on the data sheet is north. If the first detection of an individual was by sound, then circle the code. Write the time of first detection under the code.

Use a rangefinder to determine the distance from you to the bird. In cases where birds are heard and not seen, use your best judgment to identify the location from which the bird is calling, and then measure the distance with the rangefinder. In the examples above, a Henslow’s sparrow was heard 47 seconds into the survey, a bobolink was seen 1 minute, 24 seconds into the survey, and a northern harrier was seen 4 minutes and 38 seconds into the survey. The Henslow’s sparrow was 26m from the observer as measured to the approximate location from which it called, and was along a 270 degree bearing from the observer.




  1. If a bird already observed and recorded moves to a different location during the point count period, you may record its movements with an arrow if needed; do not record these movements as new observations, however. If a bird that was unobserved before enters into the area and lands, do not record the observation as it could bias count estimates. If it is a noteworthy species (e.g. northern harrier or rare species), make a note of the flyover in the margins of the data sheet for that point. Generally, birds that fly over the area, but do not land, should not be recorded as an observation.


Point Count Training with Dendroica

  1. Register

    1. Go to http://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica/

    2. Click “Register”

    3. Fill out required information and click “Continue”

    4. Follow instruction. Confirm by clicking the link in the email you receive.

  2. Sign in

    1. Go to http://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica/

    2. Click “Sign In”

    3. Fill out “Username” (your email) and “Password” from registration

    4. Click “Sign In”

  3. Using Dendroica

    1. General use

      1. Once signed in, choose “U.S.A.”

      2. Double click any species name on the right to view a photo to hear the call/song and see a photo. To view alternate images of that species click on the numbered boxes next to “Photos:” at the bottom left. To hear alternate songs/calls of that species click any of the numbered boxes next to “Sounds:” at the bottom right. To change species, double click a new species name in the species list.

    2. Create a list of only our target species (you’ll want to do this)

      1. Click “Change Lists” at the top of the page.

      2. In the “Change Lists” window, click on the “Modify/Create My Lists” tab

      3. Type “Priority” in the box next to “Or, Define a new List (max 15 characters):”

      4. Click “Next”

      5. Select the following species:

        1. bobolink, dickcissel, eastern meadowlark, field sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, northern harrier, northern bobwhite quail, prairie warbler, ring-necked pheasant, savannah sparrow, short-eared owl, sedge wren, vesper sparrow, willow flycatcher, yellow-breasted chat, and upland sandpiper

      6. Move the selected species from the “Excluded” box on the right to the “Included” box on the left by clicking “

      7. Click “Close”

Note: you can create edit/delete/create lists following the same instructions above. Once you are comfortable with the “priority” species you can add other common species to your list, starting with:

  • indigo bunting, common yellowthroat, yellow warbler, American goldfinch, song sparrow, European starling, northern flicker, American robin, northern cardinal, red-winged blackbird, Baltimore oriole, orchard oriole, chipping sparrow, house sparrow, house wren, Carolina wren, horned lark, killdeer, etc.



    1. Quiz yourself

      1. Once you select the list of species you created and have familiarized yourself with the songs/calls, you should try the quiz.

        1. Click “Quiz” at the top right of the page

        2. Dendroica will play a random song/call from your list of selected species and you must select the correct species.

        3. The “Options” box will allow you to show the photo along with the song or play additional calls for that species. Try it without the photo to really force yourself to learn the song.

Note: The quiz doesn’t always play the most obvious/common song for a species. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t recognize some of the more simple contact calls. Start with the more distinctive songs. You may want to play sound box #1, which is usually the primary song for each species until you are comfortable with each of the calls and their variations.


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