Atlas project tracking breeding birds

Andrew
Andrew Wagstaff
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Binoculars are being cleaned and field guides dusted off as area birders prepare for what promises to be a busy season ahead.

Atlas project tracking breeding birds

Binoculars are being cleaned and field guides dusted off as area birders prepare for what promises to be a busy season ahead.

The return of spring has brought an increase in the number and types of birds seen across the Maritimes, but this summer proves particularly exciting because of the Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas.

First done 20 years ago, the current project is an update of the atlas, according to Ramsey Hart, an ecologist and volunteer coordinator for the local atlas region between Oxford and Memramcook, N.B.

"The idea of redoing it is to look at changes in the distribution of birds," he explained.

These could be beneficial changes, such as the increased populations of the osprey and the bald eagle, or they could be areas of concern such as the declining swallow population, according to Hart.

"It's also a neat way to get birders and people who are interested in nature involved in doing some research and get them thinking about the state of the environment," he said.

There are 225 different types of birds breeding in the Maritimes. So far 550 participants have spent more than 8,500 hours collecting breeding evidence and have submitted more than 35,000 individual bird records. In total, 204 different species have been recorded throughout the Maritimes.

The Tantramar region is remarkable diverse, according to Hart, who said it is unique in that it offers habitat for an amazing mixture of wetland birds, ocean birds, inland forest birds, grassland birds and more.

The atlas project is more than just bird watching, according to Hart, who recently made a stop at the Amherst Point Bird Sanctuary.

"The atlas gets you to stop and consider the bird," he said. "Is it breeding here? What evidence do you have?"

Hart recorded 25 different species during the brief Amherst Point outing, including an American bittern, sora rail, pie-billed grebe, various warblers and ducks, a bald eagle carrying a fish in its talons, and a family of Canada geese.

"That's pretty good breeding evidence," he remarked, watching two goslings following their parents into the water.

The atlas project is now in its second year of a five-year survey. When complete, it will be printed in book form and used to identify areas and habitats of conservation priority, and also made available for recreational birders and environmental impact assessments.

But the atlas is still looking for volunteers. Those interested can visit the website at www.mba-aom.ca or call 1-866-5atlas5.

awagstaff@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Amherst Point Bird Sanctuary

Geographic location: Oxford, Memramcook, Tantramar Canada

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