Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Darien Land Trust

Last week I participated in the first set of point count surveys by the Darien Land Trust. Connecticut Audubon Society is helping the land trust carry out these surveys in order to collect baseline data to support habitat management practices on their properties. Additional standardized surveys will be carried out at regular intervals during the migration and breeding seasons and provide valuable information on the bird species that occur in these protected areas.

Connecticut Audubon Society has been involved in open space issues statewide and has long been promoting better use of Connecticut’s open space for bird and habitat conservation with the state’s legislature. Detailed descriptions of a new way to prioritize open space for habitat conservation and specific recommendations can be found in several of our annual Connecticut State of the Birds reports, which can be downloaded for free here. The Darien Land Trust has partnered with Connecticut Audubon Society to develop data driven guidelines for wildlife habitat management, using CAS’ best management practices. In addition, the data derived from these surveys will be available to CAS biologists to “fill in the blanks” on bird distribution and breeding bird records for this part of the state, which will help us better understand larger scale conservation issues.

Tokeneke Park features a large variety of habitats.

The primary intent of the surveys on the Darien Land Trust properties is to discover and record breeding bird species. However, we also recorded numerous migrants during last week’s first two surveys. CAS designed a protocol of point counts tailored to the specific sites to standardize the data collection process, allowing us to compare data from each season and year for decades to come. Last week’s surveys took place in two areas – Selleck’s Woods and Tokeneke Park – where pre-identified survey points were visited for 10 minutes at a time. During these periods, every bird species was recorded with a variety of conditional components built into the survey protocol. Every single bird heard or seen by the observers was recorded while we visited each survey point in the two locations. Even though initially the data may seem somewhat opportunistic, combined with data from future surveys it will help us better understand what species utilize the habitat and how. During last week’s surveys, I came up with 57 species including 14 warblers, a few flycatchers, hawks, and several important breeding species. Already, these initial surveys will give the Darien Land Trust and its visitors a general idea of what birds they might find during a walk in this valuable open space while at the same time contributing valuable information to statewide conservation efforts.

Nest cavity of a Black-capped Chickadee pair we observed repeatedly entering and departing.

Connecticut Audubon Society is always interested in cooperating with other land trusts, organizations, or individuals who protect tracts of land and who are looking to better manage their property for birds and other wildlife. Please contact us for baseline or prolonged wildlife surveys, recommendations on wildlife habitat creation and maintenance, or management techniques and suggestions.

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