Winter surveys - Shoreline POINTS

Not all waterbirds spend time on lakes and ponds and as the winter proceeds many will shift to the coast or to moving water. To document these movements and quantify the distribution of coastal species, we have devised a slightly modified version of the inland waterbody survey that will work better for long continuous stretches of water, such as the coast and larger rivers (e.g. Connecticut, Housatonic, Thames, etc.). This protocol can also be used for large lakes that may be difficult to survey entirely (e.g., Candlewood Lake, Barkhamstead Reservoir). Coastal counts will be especially important as they will allow us to update analyses used to inform the state’s Blue Plan.


  • Pick a point where you can scan Long Island Sound or a section of a major river or lake. If you have a coastal block, or one that lies on one of the state’s big rivers, then pick at least one site in your block. If you do not have one of these blocks, then feel free to pick a good site in another block, especially if it is a site where few people go birding.
  • Record the latitude and longitude of the point you observe from and give the location a name. Instructions on how to provide location information are here.
  • Visit as frequently as you are able (ideally at least once every two weeks, but even 1-2 visits are valuable) and count all waterbirds and birds of prey visible from the observation point. Frequent surveys will allow us to understand how use of these habitats changes over the course of the winter.
  • There is no fixed period of time for these surveys – simply spend whatever time it takes to count all birds visible from the point you have chosen. For many sites, that might just be a few minutes, but be sure to record the start and end time of each survey.
  • Although it is useful to report birds flying by, the priority is to document birds using the water at the survey site, so prolonged sea-watches are not necessary.
  • Counts should include all geese, swans, ducks, grebes, coots, shorebirds, alcids, gulls, terns, loons, gannets, cormorants, herons, kingfishers, and any rarer seabirds.
  • Because birds of prey often concentrate along the coast, we ask that you also record any osprey, eagles, hawks, harriers, falcons, or owls seen during your survey. Reporting other species is optional.
  • Although unlikely, if there is ice cover, record the proportion of visible water that is frozen.
  • Data can be submitted as an eBird checklist using the point from which observations were made as the location; please write “CT Bird Atlas shoreline survey” in the comments box and share with the ctbirdatlas account (for instructions on how to do this, go here). Alternatively, data can be submitted on the paper form here, again providing the latitude and longitude for the observation point.