Have you ever been involved in a citizen science bird survey? New Jersey Audubon conducts several every year: Shorebirds, Piedmont, Pinelands, Nightjar, Harbour Herons, and Grasslands. Pick one. Participating allows you and me to be part of something bigger. It lets the average John Q. (Or in the case, Jane) Birding-Public help collect large amounts of data on bird species across a wide geographic area. The Christmas Bird Count? Same thing.
When the call went out this year for the participants for the Grasslands Bird survey, I signed up. As a group grassland birds are declining more than any other species. But through NJ’s Landowner Incentive Program that provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested in conversation, there is hope. Or at least we are hoping there is hope. That is what we are trying to find out.
DJ Brown, Suzanne and I went to the mandatory training session, got our routes, street maps, aerial maps, forms to be completed, grassland bird call CDs and super official letters and car placards. The instructor reviewed the expected bird species, survey methodology, and answered questions. Honestly it has a little more rigor than I was thinking it would. I was thinking of it more as a drive in the country with a few stops, when in actuality, I am part of the control group. You heard me right, control group. Remember them? Holy flash back, shades of 9th grade science class.
But, I also remember growing up to the bouncing call of Field Sparrows in the farm fields all around us; the flash of black and white as Bobolink leapt out of the grass and being curious about grasshoppers impaled on barbed wire. But I now live in NJ where suburban sprawl is eating up the grassland and the birds are disappearing. So I am doing my part in providing the science in the hope that someone else may have those same memories.