If you own property in New England, you have an incredible opportunity this winter to benefit wildlife populations and make a real contribution to conservation science by hosting a Motus tower. The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is a collaborative research effort, organized by Birds Canada, that uses radio telemetry arrays scattered across the landscape to track the movements of bats, dragonflies, and birds that are carrying miniature Motus tags. Here at VCE, we have successfully deployed Motus tags to track the migration of Swainson’s and Bicknell’s Thrush, and I am involved in the effort to expand the New England Motus network.
In New England, most of the existing towers are located along the Long Island Sound, which is great for those species that migrate along the coast or make transoceanic flights (like Blackpoll Warblers). But what about species that migrate inland, down the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, like hoary bats? Well, thanks to a large State Wildlife Grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, there is now funding and a vigorous effort to add ~50 towers to private and public properties in interior New England in early 2021.
For each proposed hosting site, an engineer from the New England Motus Network will contact the landowner and conduct a site visit for promising locations. The engineer will tailor the tower design to your specific property, but all towers need a clear view of the horizon. The grant covers all of the cost of the equipment, installation (~1 day), and engineer’s time. Depending on the conditions at a potential site, these towers might be a 7’ tall assembly attached to the top of a fire tower, silo, former TV antenna tower, or unused utility pole. If you have an open field, then a free-standing 25’ tower would be more appropriate. Each tower is equipped with a small receiver that stores detections of tagged animals that pass near the towers (larger towers can detect outwards of 15 km in all directions). One of these receivers uses as much energy as a lightbulb, and it can be powered with a small solar panel (also covered by the grant) or from a household electrical outlet.
Interested? Of course you are! First, check out this brief Introduction to Motus for Landowners for more specifics on what it means to host a tower, and view this interactive map with green lines indicating where towers are approximately desired in interior New Hampshire and Vermont. Second, check out this video to see examples of Motus towers, and finally, use this Google form to suggest a possible Motus tower location. Someone from the New England Motus network will contact you to determine if your proposed site(s) are appropriate for a tower. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions as well.