Friday, July 19, 2013

What is a County Birding Blitz?

On June 22-23 the Oregon2020 project ran its first County Birding Blitz. The purpose is to inventory the birds in a small location (county) on a single day or weekend. It is apparently modeled after a Bio Blitz, a word coined in 1996 by a US National Park naturalist for a public-assisted biodiversity census in Washington DC.

Twenty-seven birders participated, generating 436 eBird checklists throughout many areas of Polk County (results summarized here to OBOL email birding list). Polk, a county in the central Willamette Valley, was chosen as it is near a large number of birders yet under-represented in eBird.

As an example of the data they gathered, look at the eBird map of sightings for Chipping Sparrows in the northern Willamette Valley during May and June 2013. Throughout their range they like pine/oak, but in the Willamette Valley Chipping Sparrows here are hard to find and their preferred habitat is hard to explain. Generally, they like overgrown Christmas tree farms, filbert orchards, oaks, and small 5-acre horse "ranchettes," preferably all together adjacent to wheat fields. Such locations are found scattered around the foothills of the Valley, and I usually have to take several visits to favored locations near my home each spring in order to find one for my local county for the year. But look at all the Chipping Sparrows found on the Birding Blitz by hitting more randomized locations:

Chipping Sparrows on Polk County Birding Blitz (west of Salem)
Blitzing a county is sure to produce surprises. When the next Birding Blitz is scheduled I want to make sure to attend!

But even though I missed this one, I made sure to imitate this by making some "random" stops when I am out birding and record birds for 10-15 minutes at a stationary point for eBird (point count), especially when I am in unusual (not frequently birded by locals) habitats. I did this last week in my home county in agricultural areas hoping for Vesper Sparrows (found none), and later in the forest at several different stands of noble fir and clearcuts where I found Townsend's Solitaires and Hermit Thrushes).

More stationary counts and less traveling counts in eBird!