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Friday, April 27, 2018

ESKIMO CURLEW RESEARCH

Spring (green) and fall (red) locations for museum specimens of the Eskimo Curlew.



With examination of the specimen holdings at the U.S. National Museum and Yale Peabody Museum, our investigations into the external features of the Eskimo Curlew are drawing to a close.  To date, we have examined 86 specimens that were collected in spring, summer, fall and winter.  On each, we have made a series of measurements and also taken photographs of  breast, wing and back plumage. 

To examine differences in measurements, we used a statistical technique called discriminant function analysis.  This technique allows us to examine all measurements simultaneously.  Doing so has permitted us to conclude that males significantly differ from females in particularly bill and tail length.  We found no seasonal differences in measurements, however.  We are still working on comparing measurements of adults and juveniles.


To determine identity of adults and juveniles, we are scoring each specimen for a number of plumage traits, including shape, color, size and density of breast markings, feather edging of wing coverts and extent of spotting on back and scapular feathers.  Although this investigation is still ongoing, it so far appears that traditionally used means of aging individuals do not hold up to careful scrutiny.

In addition to examining specimens themselves, we are also studying the location data attached to each individual.  As traditionally thought, fall migration occurs principally through the Northeast, whereas spring migration occurs through the Great Plains.  Five late May specimens from Alaska provide evidence for a previously unconfirmed breeding population there, whereas specimens from western New York and Montreal provide evidence for a hypothesized fall migration corridor through the northeastern United States.

Friday, April 6, 2018

FOREST BIRDS OF CONNECTICUT AND RHODE ISLAND IN PRINT

The American Redstart was a common species of forest openings and forest borders.

Forest Birds of Connecticut and Rhode Island is presently available as an open source document through our publishing partner, Arts and Academic Publishing.  It will soon be available in print form as well, and before it is we wish to notify all that this is the final opportunity for sponsoring a species.  Individuals who sponsor species have their name added to the text under the species account that they choose.  They also receive a complimentary copy of the print version of the book.  To sponsor a species, go to our GoFundMe page or send an email to us at BCR.

Friday, March 23, 2018

DENSITY MAPS OF CT AND RI FOREST BIRDS

Summer bird density corresponds generally to the most densely forested regions.  Circles represent population densities at specific study sites.

BCR is presently working with a GIS specialist to turn our population data from the Forest Bird Survey of Connecticut and Rhode Island into density maps for the study area.  The resulting work will illustrate summer and winter habitat and community data as well as data for densities and distributions of individual species.  The resulting publication will serve as a companion to our recently release book, Forest Birds of Connecticut and Rhode Island, which is available via our publishing partner, Arts and Academic Publishing.  As with all products of BCR, including videos, educational documents and scientific papers, it is available as an open access document.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

BIRDS IN AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES




Three tanks of  gas is my self-imposed limit- that point at which my shoulders and mind are tired enough to make continuing on less safe for something as strenuous as chain-sawing.  On this day, however, the third tank and four more hours of labor had gotten me to where I needed to be- at the completion of beating back decades of landscape neglect.  A profusion of multiflora rose, autumn olive, privet, burning bush, Japanese barberry, bittersweet, amelopsis and other non-native invasives had overrun the borders of the ten-acre Connecticut farm now operated by Bird Conservation Research, Inc. as a field station.

To be sure, such border creep into agricultural land is largely the consequence of seed planting by native birds that disperse the fruits and seeds of exotic plants.  However, such creep is not compatible with the goals of production agriculture, and our mission for the past four years has been to maximize wildlife values of landscapes within the constraints of an effectively run agricultural operation.  Such borders, although wildlife-planted, are far from having the optimal vegetation composition for these locations.

Now that these borders are cut back (although the gargantuan task of turning the resulting slash into wildlife brush piles remains ahead), we are examining available options for replanting the borders with superior vegetation.  The borders will shrink from their present 30-75 foot-wide swaths to a more modest but agriculturally practical 15 foot edge that is punctuated by mature trees.  The understory is to be converted from invasive exotics to high wildlife value natives, like our various species of evergreens, hollies, viburnums, dogwoods, shadbushes, cherries, roses and aronias, as well as to non-invasive cultivated plants that are also favored by wildlife.

It is important to recognize that wildlife values are not confined to those species that breed on the property, but also include those conferred by species that pass through the area- notably migratory birds.  Hence, plantings must have value at all seasons.  Species that flower early and late, species that have persistent overwintering fruit and species that offer substantial cover, roost sites and nest sites are the types of plants to be selected.

At present, the field station is home to species that successfully use agricultural landscapes like the American Woodcock (we are presently working on banding our local population).  It also serves as a migratory stopover (and possibly incipient nesting population) to such typically Midwestern species as the Vesper Sparrow (territorial males in early spring), Savannah Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrow (present spring and fall).

American Woodcocks nest and hatch young well before the haying season and often build nests in the edge adjacent to hayfields.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

EVOLUTIONARY ECOLOGY

The island-dwelling Nightingale Reed-warbler of the tropical Pacific exhibits the phenomenon of gigantism.

The next video in the AP Environmental Science topic The Living World is entitled Evolutionary Ecology.  The lesson begins by examining a series of specimens of the possibly extinct Eskimo Curlew.  Doing so demonstrates the existence of individual variation that cannot be accounted for by considering age or sex.  This individual variation may be acted upon by natural selection to yield evolutionary change.  The example of gigantism in the genetically isolated, island-dwelling Nightingale Reed-warbler is used as an example.  Other species, like the unrelated Gray Catbird exhibit traits like the reed-warbler, which provides an example of convergent evolution.  The video also explores coevolution- the influence of one species on the evolution of another.  The video concludes by examining the concepts of r an k selection- alternative ways that reproductive strategies may evolve.

All videos in this series are open access and may be viewed through Arts and Academic Publishing.  This particular one may be viewed by clicking below:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY


This infrared photo of a tidal wetland is overlain with maps of vegetation types.

The eleventh in the Living World series of videos compatible with the AP Environmental Science curriculum is entitled Landscape Ecology.  The program concludes discussion of the species-area effect by extending its implications to the study of island biogeography. These issues relate to the larger issue of landscape ecology- considering the geographical scale at which ecological phenomena are studied. It concludes by relating ecology to evolution through discussion of natural selection, mutation, fitness and genetic isolation.  This and all videos in this series are open access and may be viewed via Arts and Academic Publishing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

OPEN ACCESS ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE VIDEOS


The now lost Cathedral Pines old growth stand in Cornwall, CT is used as an example of inappropriate forest management practices. 

All videos in Arts and Academic Publishing’s environmental science video library are now available as open access materials for students and educators everywhere.  We here highlight the videos in the Land and Water Resources unit. 

This unit covers topics in natural resource management, such as forestry, deforestation effects, sustainable agriculture, integrated pest management,  water resource management, waste management, public lands, habitat restoration and habitat remediation.  Each topic is presented in a single video episode and follows the national AP Environmental Science curriculum.

All videos incorporate PowerPoint lecture notes, images from BCR’s vast photographic library and graphic displays that enhance understanding of the complex topics explored.