The primary goals of the winter surveys are to obtain a complete list of all birds that occur in each block and an understanding of how abundance varies across the state. This will require both identifying as many species as possible, and conducting standardized counts to estimate relative abundance. In reality, it will not be possible to find every species in most cases, nor will it be possible to obtain complete counts. This is not a problem because we have designed the data collection to allow us to identify cases where species might have been missed. These methods will work best, however, if all blocks receive a thorough search that identifies the majority of the species present. As with the breeding surveys, we are aiming to obtain approximately 20 hours of nonbreeding season survey work in each atlas block over the course of the three-year study. These 20 hours should be split evenly between the early winter (Nov-Dec) and late winter (Jan-Feb). Volunteers who want to put in more time are welcome to do so, but it will serve the atlas project best if people move to a new block after reaching this goal.
Because birds distribute themselves differently during the non-breeding season, with many species forming flocks or concentrating in particular places, we will use several different types of survey. Most importantly, we will use standardized, timed one-hour surveys to estimate relative abundance of most species. Second, we will use incidental observations to help build species lists for each block. Finally, we will use specialized types of observation to target habitats or species that the other methods might not capture well.
Specialized surveys will focus on (a) inland lakes and ponds, (b) coastal shorelines, major rivers, and large lakes, and (c) nocturnal and high tide roosts. If you cannot do all types of survey, that is OK, just focus on whichever type of surveys are easiest for you.
The specialized surveys are designed to supplement the basic forms of data collection and do not need to be tied to a particular block. If the observations all fall within the same block, then we will use them to add to the block’s species list in the same way we use incidental observations. If the surveyed area falls on a block boundary, do not worry about attributing some birds to one block and some to the other. As long as we have a good point location for the observations (either the center of the waterbody, the coastal point from which observations were made, or the location of the roost site, we can just attribute the observations to that location.