Mountain Birdwatch

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For over a decade, hundreds of adventurers have combined their passions for birds with their love of the mountains across New York and New England. They've become Mountain Birdwatch citizen scientists, and you can too by counting birds at a mountain near you on any day in June.

The protocol is simple: each observer adopts a route and conducts early morning repeated point counts for just 10 bird species on any morning in June. Each route consists of 3-6 long-term sampling stations located along a high-elevation hiking trail. The short list of monitored species means that almost any birder who likes to hike can participate, and the results provide powerful insight into the health of our montane bird populations.

Bicknell's Thrush at Dawn / © K.P. McFarland

Bicknell’s Thrush at Dawn / © K.P. McFarland

An Innovative & Influential Monitoring Project

A unique assemblage of bird species breed in these difficult-to-access spruce-fir forests, but the inaccessibility of this ecosystem poses a barrier to population monitoring. Mountain Birdwatch was created in 2000 to address this challenge, and strengthened and revised in 2010 with the goal to monitor the distribution and abundance of montane birds in northern New England and New York.

In 2010, we established nearly 130 high-elevation routes (~750 sampling stations) using a sophisticated spatially-balanced sampling framework. Since then, several hundred Mountain Birdwatch citizen scientists have conducted 18,636 point counts, recording detections of Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Bicknell’s Thrush—species usually missed during traditional roadside counts.

Analyzed annually using cutting-edge statistical models, Mountain Birdwatch provides the only region-wide source of population information on these high-elevation breeding birds. For example, using Mountain Birdwatch data we recently published population estimates and state-specific trends of Bicknell’s Thrush and created a fine-scale web-based abundance map for this species. Each year, we make these data openly available online to other researchers at the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity and eBird. Check out our State of the Mountain Birds report to learn about the population trends and status of all 10 montane bird species monitored by Mountain Birdwatch.

So if you like to hike and wake up to the sound of bird song from a mountainside, then the birds and us could use your help this June.