Friday, March 23, 2012

Exploring spatiotemporal variation in migration phenology

Hey eBirders - you may not have known it, but you contributed to the paper in the title of this post, written by Allen Hurlbert and Zhongfei Liang using eBird data. You can see the post on eBird here and access and read the paper for free here. I was going to publish this post in April as more of the birds arrived in Connecticut but, well, I do not want to wait. With the unbelievably record-shattering warm weather continuing it is the perfect time to be reading such a fascinating paper and keep an eye open for early records.

Hurlbert and Liang stated:
"We examined the extent to which birds have been shifting the timing of spring migration in response to year-to-year variation in spring temperature over the past 10 years and at sites throughout eastern North America. We found what many of you have undoubtedly observed yourselves--that many species, like the Red-eyed Vireo and Scarlet Tanager, are arriving earlier in warm years and later in cold years. Other species, however, such as the Barn Swallow and Eastern Wood-Pewee, do not seem to be as able to adapt to this variation in climate, and their populations may be suffering as a result."
Even I have played around with temperature and bird observations in a very minor and only somewhat scientifically sound manner with local observations as it an obvious concept to explore. Utilizing all of the records put into eBird and weather observations for years across the country yields patterns that cannot be disregarded. I encourage you to read the paper - the trends are really staggering in some cases - and keep plugging in your data. Besides your year list, a sanctuary checklist, or even helping conservation organizations like ours in Connecticut, you may be contributing to some enormously important and groundbreaking science.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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