Rouge River Bird Observatory shares results of annual spring survey

July 12, 2011

RRBO website screenshot

How many bird species might you expect to see on the UM-Dearborn campus during the spring season? This spring, it was 146, above the average of 130 species, according to Julie Craves, supervisor of the Rouge River Bird Observatory (RRBO), which is housed inside the Environmental Interpretive Center.

These ranged from several sightings of Bald Eagles flying over campus, to records of 30 of the 38 warbler species that can be found in eastern North America. The RRBO conducts near-daily bird surveys from April through mid-June, and has done so since the early 1990s.

Since these surveys follow a standardized route---and both distance covered and time spent counting are recorded---the long-term data can be used to monitor bird population trends. Consistent surveys of this type also can help to detect changes in the arrival dates of migrant birds, data which is used to examine the potential impacts of climate change,
said Craves.

Analyzing this volume of data -- about 21,000 individual birds were recorded on campus this spring alone -- can be daunting. That's why Craves has been submitting all current and historical RRBO data to eBird, an online database project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. eBird aggregates tens of millions of bird records and makes the data available to researchers studying the distribution and abundance of birds across North America and beyond.

RRBO has transcribed and entered more than 2,700 paper checklists representing nearly 400,000 birds of 235 species to eBird thus far, and is one of the top contributors for Michigan.

"Data in binders and notebooks becomes less likely to be used the more it accumulates," Craves said. "Now that our data is in electronic form, we can use it in our own analyses, but more importantly, it can be used by the wider research community to guide bird conservation efforts. That is RRBO's ultimate mission."

For more information, visit the RRBO website:

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