The Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project
Bird banding operations can positively influence local communities by providing unique environmental outreach opportunities. Children's appreciation of nature is enhanced by interacting with and learning from wild birds3 which can combat nature deficit disorder1, 2 and foster a life-long interest in conservation3. Most bird banding operations rely on volunteer assistance from the community. Because bird banding facilitates a deep understanding between birds and the habitat required for their persistence, local banding volunteers often serve as de facto conservation ambassadors within their community3. Besides obvious cultural benefits, bird banding operations also provide important scientific data.
For example, bird banding is used to study bird demographics4, identify important habitats5 and to monitor the physiological condition of birds5. Bird banding can also identify declining species in need of special attention and management. Despite the importance of banding operations, prior to our efforts detailed in this introduction, no contemporary winter or migratory bird banding station was operating in Central Louisiana.
In partnership with Baton Rouge Audubon Society, Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of Eastern Baton Rouge (BREC) and Louisiana State University, we initiated our first bird banding operation located in Baton Rouge called the Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project. BREC is providing access to their Bluebonnet Swamp 'conservation area' which comprises some of the last vestiges of mature bald-cypress swamp and adjacent upland forest in Baton Rouge. Two objectives guide the formative stages of our banding operation: (1) monitor resident and migrant bird populations using banding data combined with other census techniques and (2) provide extensive outreach and training opportunities for the community of Baton Rouge. More specifically, we provide opportunities for k-12 students to learn from and interact with captured birds. We also actively recruit LSU students as volunteers thereby teaching them contemporary bird monitoring techniques in order to prepare the next generation of informed conservationists and wildlife biologists.
The Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project (BBMP) has been conducting year-round banding efforts since March 2010. Since that time, an extensive protocol has been drafted based on recommendations from the North American Banding Council6, Handbook of Bird Monitoring Techniques7 and the Klamath Demographic Network8. Several publications have been produced including an in-depth examination of Indigo Bunting molt patterns and novel observations of Barred Owl foraging behavior. BBMP hosted a sold-out advanced banding workshop led by Peter Pyle and will be hosting an introductory workshop in April 2012. In 2011, BBMP partnered with Real Nature Environmental Farm to begin year-round bird monitoring in Louisiana’s vast agricultural landscape. Since March 2010, several thousand individual birds have been safely banded allowing us to monitor the population growth of potentially vulnerable species over time. Additionally, hundreds of children have been brought to the Bluebonnet banding site to learn about avian ecology, wildlife biology and conservation. LSU graduate students, LSU undergraduate students and local citizens routinely learn about bird monitoring techniques, ornithology and ecology by volunteering their time as bird banders.
Other Current Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project Endeavors
Molt Project Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project coordinator, Erik Johnson, created a website dedicated to progressing our knowledge of molt in southern bird populations. There is much to learn about bird molt in even common US birds, especially along the Gulf Coast where there are few year-round banding stations. One of our goals is to fill that gap while contributing to a broader knowledge of bird demography. You can visit our website here: http://bluebonnetbirdmonitoringproject.shutterfly.com/
Bird Parasite Collection Bluebonnet primary bander and coordinator, Erik Johnson, has recently begun collecting ectoparasites from captured resident and migrant species. Erik hopes to identify which species of parasites commonly occur in Central Louisiana and to identify parasite connectivity by collecting neotropical parasites hitching rides on migrant birds.
International and Domestic Partnerships The Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project has partnered with our sister station, the recently formed Costa Rica Bird Observatory's Madre Selva site in the mountains of Cerro de la Muerte to exchange ideas, data and techniques in order to build our mutual capacities to monitor migrant birds during all phases of their life cycle. The Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project also works closely with the Tortuguero Integrated Bird Monitoring Project in Northeastern Costa Rica, USFS Redwood Sciences Laboratory in Northern California and the Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon.
BREC Summer Day Camps Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project banders, in partnership with Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists, coordinate operations during BREC's summer camp giving local kids the opportunity to learn about bird conservation and biology through the best teachers themselves: the birds!
Farm Bird Monitoring Since May 2011, the Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project has partnered with Real Nature Environmental Farm to conduct year-round bird banding and censusing in an agricultural landscape outside of Jackson, Louisiana. Visit Real Nature Environmental Farm online: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Real-Nature-Environmental-Farm/195611243812212
Near Future Endeavors
Besides monitoring local bird populations and continuing to provide the community of Baton Rouge with quality environmental education, Baton Rouge Audubon and the Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project will be continue to hold beginner and advanced banding workshops in April. Please check the Baton Rouge Audubon Society website in the near future for more details.
If you are interested in volunteering with the Bluebonnet Bird Monitoring Project please contact Jared Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1 Kahn, P. H. and S. R. Kellert. 2002. Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- 2 Louv, R. 2005. Last child in the woods: saving our children from nature deficit disorder. Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- 3 Froehlich, D. and E. Sprong. 2009. Teens band: inspiring teen bird banders as ambassadors for bird conservation. Pages 471–478 in The Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference: Tundra to Tropics
- 4 Saracco, J. F., D. F. DeSante and D. R. Kaschube. 2008. Assessing landbird monitoring programs and demographic causes of population trends. Journal of Wildlife Management. 72:1665–1673.
- 5 Wolfe, J. D. and C. J. Ralph. 2009. Effects of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on nearctic-neotropical migrant condition in Central America. The Auk. 126:809–814.
- 6 Ralph, C. J. (Chair of The Publications Committee of the North American Banding Council). 2001. The North American Bander's Study Guide. The North American Bander's Council, Point Reyes Station, California, USA.
- 7 Ralph, C. J., G. R. Geupel, P. Pyle, T. E. Martin, and D. F DeSante. 1993. Handbook of field methods for monitoring landbirds. General Technical Report PSW-GTR-144. Pacific Southwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- 8 Ralph, C. J., K. R. Hollinger and R. I. Frey. 2004. Redwood Sciences Laboratory and the Klamath Demographic Monitoring Network mist-netting station management procedures. U.S. Forest Service, Redwood Sciences Laboratory, Arcata, California.