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AVIAN POPULATION MONITORING

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Northern Saw-whet owls, Peregrine falcons, Appalachian Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Cerulean Warblers all live along the Blue Ridge Parkway and all are in habitats threatened by humans.

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While these birds are not strictly endangered, National Park Service (NPS) resource management specialist and biologist Bob Cherry in North Carolina, planned research projects to monitor species populations and use that data to mitigate human impact on their habitats. Cherry works on water resources, rare wildlife and wildland fire issues for the NPS on the Parkway. When it comes to wildlife, he says, “The problem we’ve always had is we don’t know what we have.”

FRIENDS supports this research through funding and volunteers for population surveys. Volunteers are needed to assist in population monitoring in three specific areas:

Northern Saw-whet OwlsGrassland birdsCerulean Warblers
Northern Saw-whet Owls
Volunteers are needed in April and May to visit sites with tape recorded calls two to three times a week to identify and count owls, from a half hour after sunset and returning by 1:00 a.m. The owls are remnant species of birds who made their homes in the mountaintops of the Appalachians, rather than following retreating glaciers north long ago. Development and road-building are affecting their habitats.
Grassland birds
Mr. Cherry was interested in tracking ten species of birds that liked to nest in hayfields. With the advent of higher-tech, earlier, more frequent and more thorough mowing, the birds’ nests were being destroyed. Volunteers are needed a couple days a week in May and June from sunrise to noon to listen for and count birds. The Parkway has used this data to make recommendations to farmers who lease Parkway farmland.
Cerulean Warblers
These birds like tall trees with an open understory, on steep slopes. While common in Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky, their numbers were declining along the Parkway. Volunteers are needed from mid-April to mid-or late May, sunrise to 10 or 11:00 a.m., to listen for and count birds in Parkway habitats.

These studies are of limited duration. If you are interested in assisting the NPS with this type of work, please contact FRIENDS for more information.

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