Data collection for the Connecticut Bird Atlas begins this year and the full web site went live this weekend, so we have a lot of new information available. We will use this blog to post updates about the project over the next few years. Here are a few introductory comments taken from our initial email to volunteers.
1. If you want to sign up to survey a block, there is an interactive map on the web site where you can do this. Instructions are on the web site. Note, that if any of the links to create emails, or if the interactive parts of the map do not work, it is probably because your browser is set to block pop-ups, which you should be able to change by going into your browser security settings (another possible issue is that you have no email address associated with your browser).
2. If the block you’d hoped to work in has already been assigned to someone else, that does not mean you cannot collect data in that block. Anyone can collect data in any block. For us to get the most out of the project, though, we need to spread effort around across the entire state. So, taking on an unassigned block is the best way to ensure that your data will expand the quality of the overall project. The reason we are trying to designate a key person for each block is not to give them some sort of “ownership” over the block, but rather to make a specific person responsible for ensuring that that block gets covered – either by them, or by some combination of people that will collectively put in the needed hours.
3. Although the web site has a lot of information, not everything is there yet. The main gap for the breeding survey is the Field Card for data submission and details on how to fill it out. That form is not something anyone should need for at least another month, though, and it will be coming very soon.
4. Although it is a little early to begin block surveys, a few species are breeding already. If you have records of breeding activity, especially confirmed breeding (e.g., hawks carrying sticks to build nests, nesting or fledgling owls), then fill out an Incidental Observations form and submit the data right away. The web site has information on how to do this both via a paper form, which you can print and fill out, or via eBird.
5. Note that any time you submit atlas data via eBird you should (a) include an atlas breeding code for every breeding species in the eBird checklist and (b) share the checklist with the atlas eBird account (name = ctbirdatlas). There are instructions on how to do both of these things on the web site.
6. Although there has been a stunning response from the CT birding community with over 500 people already signed up to our atlas mailing list, we are still looking for more people to volunteer. You can do this on the web site. If you have heard one of our talks and thought that you have signed up, but have not been getting emails from Craig Repasz, our volunteer coordinator, then please sign up again through the web site. (A few email addresses on our sign-up sheets from the talks were hard to read, and we know there are some people out there who are not getting messages that we’re sending them.)
7. Information about winter and stopover data collection is not yet on the web site. We are still finalizing those protocols and will post the information latter in the summer after the breeding work is under way. Field work, though, will be somewhat similar to that for a Christmas Bird Count.
8. Similarly, there are a few other things that we plan to put on the web site, and may even have told some of you that we’ll include, that are not there yet. We (probably) haven’t forgotten, but have been trying to prioritize and make sure that the most critical information is taken care of first. Over the next few weeks, we will be tying up the various loose ends.
9. Over the long term, we expect this web site to become a general repository for all sorts of information about the status of Connecticut’s birds, with a separate page for every species that has occurred in the state. We’re a ways off from making that happen, but you should expect to start seeing additions fairly soon, starting with all of the distribution maps from the first CT breeding atlas conducted in the 1980s, which should be available within a few weeks.
10. Lastly, at the COA annual meeting Chris Elphick will be giving a talk about the atlas. This will not simply be a repeat of the talks we’ve been giving around the state over the past couple of months. He will touch on all the main points for anyone who has not seen one of those talks, but will also talk in more detail about information that is on the web site and how you can use it, how to collect data that will be maximally helpful to the project, what will be coming to the web site in the future, etc. etc. etc. We will also have a table at the meeting where people can get help signing up for blocks and/or ask questions about anything to do with the atlas.