If you think about the life of a migrant bird, there are three basic periods: breeding, wintering, and migration. There is no doubt that we know the least about migration, which is also likely the most dangerous: that patch of woodland in the middle of a soybean desert that provides refuge and food for a day before the next leg of the journey, could easily be eradicated. Birders enjoy the masses of birds that congregate at migrant traps, but whether these places provide the forage necessary to sustain the health of the birds may be an open question. And birds spend more time at these stopover locales than they do actually moving north or south.
Lizzie Condon has decided to devote her master’s research on the question of how these migrants fare in urban areas. I spent a morning with her as she checked out potential sites for her study. She is focusing on woodlands and they need to be of different sizes and distances from the lake. A team of counters will conduct point count surveys at each of these. I think this is really exciting work but the challenges of counting birds in the early hours on property in the urban area poses huge challenges. There are issues of land owner permission and potential safety risks to the counters. One potential area we checked was in the process of being cut down and turned into a housing sub-division.
But Lizzie did manage to find and cover all the sites she needed. Now that the field part is over, she will be busily engaged over the next period of months analyzing data. I will keep you posted on how the study progresses.