[CT Birds] BBS Route Musings

jaybrd49 at aol.com jaybrd49 at aol.com
Sun Jun 7 22:23:43 EDT 2009

This morning, Gil Kleiner and I did our USFWS Breeding Bird Survey. The BBS survey routes cover 25 miles on roads.? There is a three minute stop every half mile for a total of 50 stops. The surveys begin at 4:45 AM and generally take about 5 1/2 hours to complete. The same routes are done year after year and as Chris Elphick stated in an earlier post, these BBS route can provide trends for various breeding birds. Numerous posts have dealt with the question of whether birds are scarce this year, or whether certain species may be declining. I cannot provide concrete data in support of one side or the other with respect to any discussion of population declines.? I can only provide a personal snapshot based on the route we did today. Our route begins in Burlington and travels north through New Hartford and Barkhamsted before ending in the wilds of Hartland, not far from the Mass border. Hartford area birders have been doing this route for well over 25 years, and I've been involved for about 20. With regard to declines, the group that in my opinion has shown the biggest drop off is the warblers. This has been apparent for the past 5 or more years. A decade ago, we heard and saw many more warblers including blue-winged, prairie, blackburnian and others. Today, we did not find any of those species.? Only Ovenbird, a species about which ornithologists have shown concern, was heard regularly in the woods. There were a few redstarts, two black-throated green warblers and but a single black-throated blue. We couldn't even find a yellow-rumped warbler in Hartland! Other species scarce in number along our route compared to prior years included wood thrush, scarlet tanager and rose-breasted grosbeak. On the plus side, there were many red-eyed vireos heard, and veery was also relatively common. Alder flycatcher is apparently still breeding in Hartland on the final stop of our route. Other interesting species included raven at two Barkhamsted locations, least flycatcher in New Hartford and Hartland, and yellow-throated vireo at

 Burlington and New Hartford stops. Chimney swift, another species about which concern has been voiced, seemed more widespread on a half dozen stops, but down from peak numbers in the center of New Hartford. Only four birds were seen there, less than half the number seen a year or two earlier. In and of itself, these results may not mean much.? However, when compared with results of surveys taken over the past 20 years as well as future surveys, they can help to determine whether there really are significant changes to bird populations in the hills of northwest Connecticut and elsewhere.

Jay Kaplan

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