Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory biologists and field technicians are once again preparing to fan out across mountains, prairies and high deserts to conduct breeding bird surveys under the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR) program. The IMBCR program is one of the largest breeding bird monitoring programs in North America. Its large scale (surveys occur in at least a portion of 13 different states), strong scientific design and efficiency led to it being awarded the Joint Conservation Project of the Year by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management back in March of this year.
RMBO, the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, Avian Science Center and Idaho Bird Observatory just finished training their field crews to conduct the IMBCR surveys. In order to train crews near the areas they will be surveying, RMBO and its partners have held six different trainings from Arizona all the way up to Montana. In total, more than 60 surveyors were trained to conduct IMBCR surveys. The weeklong trainings focus on the history of the IMBCR program and how data are used to inform management actions, the use of survey gear (e.g., GPS navigation, rangefinders, timers, compasses, etc.), how to properly collect data in the field, off-trail navigation, safety measures, plant identification and bird identification by sight and sound.
Surveyors and crew leaders typically camp out during the training sessions at state and national parks or on USFS and BLM property. This gives RMBO biologists a chance to dust off their tents and sleeping bags and get ready for the summer. Since the IMBCR surveyors work primarily by themselves, these trainings are a nice opportunity for everyone to meet others on the crew, share bird stories, socialize in the evenings and chat with like-minded folks. The hours are long but most of the work day is spent in the field looking at, listening to and learning about birds – not too shabby! It would be even more fun if the alarm clocks didn’t go off before 4 a.m.
The Dakotas and Wyoming crews were rewarded for getting up early on the second-to-last day of training with a sighting of a male Blackburnian Warbler. The beautiful bird was found by a member of the Wyoming survey crew who happens to be a former On The Wing camper (a camp put on by RMBO to teach field ornithology skills to teenagers). Perhaps because of the late cold spell this spring, the crew members were awarded magnificent views of this eastern warbler without all those pesky leaves getting in the way. They sat on the grass and enjoyed watching the Blackburnian Warbler glean insects off the branches of small shrubs for a full 10 minutes, a treat for all those folks coming from the western U.S. to get to watch this bird normally seen in the eastern part of the country!
Stay tuned to the RMBO blog and Facebook page for updates and stories from this year’s IMBCR field season. From bear sightings to rare birds, the season is always full of surprises.
~ Nick Van Lanen, Biologist