Where have all the parids gone? (Answer: probably nowhere)

The summer of 2018 proved to be a really great start for the atlas, but whenever we present last year’s data we are constantly pointing out that comparisons to the first atlas need to be made with care. In part, we make these cautions because the data are still being reviewed to ensure we’ve made no errors. But, the main reason is simply that the historic data come from five years of field work, not just one. Continue reading “Where have all the parids gone? (Answer: probably nowhere)”

Early spring targets: ruffed grouse

Spring is well and truly here, and there are signs of breeding all around. Species that can be confirmed as breeders should be reported to the atlas, but what about everything else that you see? At this point there are more than a dozen species that are within safe dates, so any time you see any of the species on the list below in suitable nesting habitat, please report them. This week, we are planning a series of posts to highlight some of these species and to contrast the data we gathered last year with information from the first breeding bird atlas in the 1980s. As we’ve cautioned before, all 2018 data are preliminary as we are still checking records and fixing known errors, but the information provides a good snapshot of what we’ve learned so far. Continue reading “Early spring targets: ruffed grouse”

The trouble with safe dates …

The single most common cause of confusion during last year’s summer atlas data collection, was the use of safe dates. The important thing to remember is that these dates are based on the timing of migration and other non-breeding season movements, and do not describe the period during which breeding occurs. The goal is to filter out possible and probable records that could involve birds that are just passing through a block and will nest elsewhere. For example, ducks can be seen doing courtship displays right now.  Many of these birds, however, will breed 100s of miles from where they are being seen right now and do not represent Connecticut nesting birds. Indeed, some species that are commonly seen displaying in spring have never bred in Connecticut. Continue reading “The trouble with safe dates …”

Ravens

Over the past couple of weeks, ravens have been a regular sight at UConn. Displaying from the roof of the visitor’s center, wheeling over the parking garage, and yesterday I even heard one while sitting in my office. The species has nested in a farm building near the university’s Depot Campus for a couple of years and is seen throughout the area, but this is the first sign that they might nest right on the main campus. Continue reading “Ravens”

The trouble with fledglings

Recent posts on the ctbirds listserv have highlighted the fact that, although it is still mid-summer, migration is well under way for some species. At the same time, data collection for the breeding portion of the atlas will continue for almost another month. This overlap between migration and breeding reintroduces the need for safe dates to ensure that we are correctly attributing observations to the blocks in which breeding happens. Continue reading “The trouble with fledglings”

Slow birding in the swamp

Last week was widely noted to be one of the best for spring warbler migration in Connecticut for many years, and lots of birders took advantage of it to boost their year lists and to do big days. I, on the other hand, injured myself on the first morning and ended up laying on my back for most of the week (I did see 18 species of warblers and heard both cuckoos that first day … so some consolation). Yesterday, I was finally able to get back out in the field, but fearing a relapse I decided I shouldn’t push my luck. Continue reading “Slow birding in the swamp”

Backing up records from “unsafe” dates

A week or so ago, I provided two rules of thumb to reduce confusion over the use of safe dates:

1. If you are unsure whether to submit a record, do so.
2. Always submit any record that confirms breeding (i.e., warrants a 2-letter code).

The second rule has a firm basis in the way we will use the atlas data – anything that is confirmed is a solid record no matter what.  The first rule, however, simply defers the decision of what to include to us during the data management phase of the project.  This is good in that it means we can standardize what gets included and what does not, but we still have to decide when a record is counted as breeding evidence. Continue reading “Backing up records from “unsafe” dates”

Which species have been confirmed?

Yesterday, I pointed out that evidence for confirmed breeding by any species should be submitted to the atlas, even if we are not yet within that species’ “safe dates”.  In light of that recommendation, I thought it would be worthwhile to list the species for which we have already received confirmed records.  This list is growing every day – just this weekend I noticed a pair of chickadees excavating a nest hole in a dead tree stump in my backyard (see video here). Continue reading “Which species have been confirmed?”