Yet another citizen science project? Yes, we need your help to monitor whether bird species do indeed change their range of occurrence as predicted by scientific models in the 2014 Audubon Birds and Climate Change report. To survive and breed birds need specific climate conditions. These conditions are predicted to change as temperatures worldwide rise and weather events become more extreme. The Audubon report warns: “314 North American bird species could lose more than half of their current ranges by 2080.”
To verify and refine this prediction National Audubon counts on you to go into the field and report the occurrence of birds. Specifically, we ask you to conduct 12 stationary point counts in a 10×10 km square area by counting birds within 100 m of each point for exactly five minutes. The intent is to visit the same 12 count points between Jan 15th and Feb 15th each year to assess long-term changes in their population on their winter range. Another count is conducted between May 15th and June 15th to assess long-term changes in populations on their summer range.
The pilot phase of the project is focusing on two groups of birds nationwide, bluebirds and nuthatches, but will eventually expand to include other groups. These two sets of species were chosen because they are easy to identify, there is a great interest in them among the public (think nestboxes for bluebirds), and the computer models have strong predictions for shifts in their ranges over the next years. Here in central Ohio this means that we focus on White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches and on Eastern Bluebirds. While conducting point counts though, participants count all birds they can positively identify, just like on a regular birdwatching outing.
Volunteers submit results through their individual eBird accounts with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the local Climate Watch coordinator will send a copy to the Climate Watch team at National Audubon.
Why should you participate? The results will help scientists determine whether their computer models predicting range shifts in birds due to climate change are accurate. This may help guide future efforts locally and nationwide at protecting birds and their habitats in the face of a changing climate. Sign up to participate at https://columbusaudubon.org/citizen-science/climate-watch/
By Angelika Nelson