Shorebird Waterfowl and Waders Monitoring Research

In Biological Monitoring, Bird Monitoring, Birds, Research by Administrator

Description of monitoring
Twice each spring and fall during peak migration, volunteers identify and count shorebirds, waterfowl, and waders at low tide during timed watches at four defined areas of Reserve wetlands and adjacent areas. Surveys are carried out by boat (from the main channel) and land.  (An additional site is also surveyed at high tide). The experience is challenging yet rewarding, since an impressive diversity of birds is encountered in the main channel and “walk-in” sites.

Objectives
The objective of this monitoring effort is to track migratory (and resident) shorebirds, waders, and waterfowl using the tidal wetlands of Elkhorn Slough.   While this modest program will not be sufficient to detect subtle alterations, we will be able to detect dramatic changes.  By comparing our results to those from other wetlands along the coast http://www.mbnep.org/Library/Files/Tidings/EstuaryTidings2010%209.pdf we can determine whether the changes are due to local factors affecting only the Slough (loss of foraging areas due to tidal scour, elimination of prey due to oil spill, etc.) or regional processes affecting the whole coast (breeding failure, El Nino effects on prey recruitment, etc.).  In addition to broad spatial comparisons, we can also compare the results of our surveys to those at similar times of year done by past MLML grads B. Ramer and S. Connors.

Results
Data from the first ten years (2003 – 2012) of this monitoring program show differences between seasons and years in bird abundance and diversity patterns. The survey data are available in the form of a summary report and figures below.

Report: Shorebirds, waterfowl, and waders of Elkhorn Slough – quarterly surveys of migrants and residents (2003-2014)

Supporting figures: Waterbird surveys (2003-2014)

How to get involved
We always need assistance from skilled birders for this monitoring program, although a few newcomers are also welcomed as notetakers. If you are interested in participating in this monitoring program contact Susie Fork (email).