Avian Influenza Update from SCWDS

In the most recent edition of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) newsletter, several pages are dedicated to a summary of the recent outbreak of Highly Pathenogenic Avian Influenza (HAPI) infections since December 2015. There's also a short article describing detection of Avian Cholera outbreak, and its association with HPAI. Check it out here.


Recent Paper: Standardizing American Oystercatcher Surveys

A new paper in The Condor discusses the advantages of coordinated bird monitoring effort and accounting of detectability in estimating population estimates.

From the announcement:

How do you monitor a vulnerable shorebird species when its breeding areas are scattered across lands managed by a patchwork of state agencies, federal agencies, and non-profit conservation groups? American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliates) nests are sparsely distributed, time-intensive to find, and often in remote locations, all adding to the challenge of estimating the size of their breeding population. However, a new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications demonstrates that a new, simplified survey method, coordinated across 8 agencies, has tremendous potential to provide accurate population estimates and aid in the species’ conservation. Rather than searching for and counting each individual nest, researchers recorded how many oystercatchers they observed within suitable nesting habitat and then modeled the size of the breeding population from this data.

Abstract: The extensive breeding range of many shorebird species can make integration of survey data problematic at regional spatial scales. We evaluated the effectiveness of standardized repeated count surveys coordinated across 8 agencies to estimate the abundance of American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) breeding pairs in the southeastern United States. Breeding season surveys were conducted across coastal North Carolina (90 plots) and the Eastern Shore of Virginia (3 plots). Plots were visited on 1–5 occasions during April–June 2013. N-mixture models were used to estimate abundance and detection probability in relation to survey date, tide stage, plot size, and plot location (coastal bay vs. barrier island). The estimated abundance of oystercatchers in the surveyed area was 1,048 individuals (95% credible interval: 851–1,408) and 470 pairs (384–637), substantially higher than estimates that did not account for detection probability (maximum counts of 674 individuals and 316 pairs). Detection probability was influenced by a quadratic function of survey date, and increased from mid-April (~0.60) to mid-May (~0.80), then remained relatively constant through June. Detection probability was also higher during high tide than during low, rising, or falling tides. Abundance estimates from N-mixture models were validated at 13 plots by exhaustive productivity studies (2–5 surveys wk−1). Intensive productivity studies identified 78 breeding pairs across 13 productivity plots while the N-mixture model abundance estimate was 74 pairs (62–119) using only 1–5 replicated surveys season−1. Our results indicate that standardized replicated count surveys coordinated across multiple agencies and conducted during a relatively short time window (closure assumption) provide tremendous potential to meet both agency-level (e.g., state) and regional-level (e.g., flyway) objectives in large-scale shorebird monitoring programs.

Citation: Nathan J. Hostetter, Beth Gardner, Sara H. Schweitzer, Ruth Boettcher, Alexandra L. Wilke, Lindsay Addison, William R. Swilling, Kenneth H. Pollock, and Theodore R. Simons (2015) Repeated count surveys help standardize multi-agency estimates of American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) abundance. The Condor: August 2015, Vol. 117, No. 3, pp. 354-363.




Recent Paper: Terrestrial Animal Tracking as an Eye on Life and Planet

This recent paper summarizes progress and potential in the field of wildlife tracking (including birds), highlighting the exponential growth in technological capabilities in the past 5 years. 



Moving animals connect our world, spreading pollen, seeds, nutrients, and parasites as
they go about the their daily lives. Recent integration of high-resolution Global Positioning
System and other sensors into miniaturized tracking tags has dramatically improved our
ability to describe animal movement. This has created opportunities and challenges that
parallel big data transformations in other fields and has rapidly advanced animal ecology
and physiology. New analytical approaches, combined with remotely sensed or modeled
environmental information, have opened up a host of new questions on the causes of
movement and its consequences for individuals, populations, and ecosystems.
Simultaneous tracking of multiple animals is leading to new insights on species
interactions and, scaled up, may enable distributed monitoring of both animals and our
changing environment.



2015 Southeast Partners in Flight Meeting: Nov. 3-5, Lafayette, LA

This years' Southeast Partners in Flight Meeting will take place in Lafayette, LA on Nov. 3-5, 2015. 

Bird sighting opportunities include: both whistling-duck species, up to five species of geese, more than 20 species of ducks, the occasional Golden Eagle or White-tailed Kite, up to eleven species of wintering hummingbirds, Crested Caracara (a Christmas count from last year tallied >25 in one tree!), Great Kiskadee, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Bronzed Cowbird, and others.

More details to come. 


Citizen Science Opportunity: Nightjar Surveys

Each year, the Center for Conservation Biology runs a citizen science effort to survey for chuck-wills-widow, Eastern whip-poor-will, and common nighthawk through the US Nightjar Survey Network. It is part of a national effort where volunteers visit 10 stops at night when the moon is above the horizon and listen for these three species. Full details on the protocol, identification tips, and a map and list of available routes.

The protocol is detailed, so if you are interested in learning more before deciding to participate, you can read a short, two-page description of the survey and what it entails here (including survey time windows for North Carolina). 

More information about participation and the project itself can be found here.