Did You Know?

Gray Vireos are even farther ranging than we know from the atlas, and the Nevada Bird Count has confirmed them to occur in areas that overlap with the bi-state population of Greater Sage-Grouse.

In response to a need identified by the Nevada Partners-in-Flight for a statewide, habitat-based, bird monitoring program, GBBO created the Nevada Bird Count(NBC) program. Initiated in May 2002, the program has grown to a scale that allows statistically meaningful evaluation of how priority species and whole bird communities of Nevada's major habitats are performing over time.

Current Status

Over the last few years, the NBC program focused on generating multi-species habitat suitability models for priority species. That data along with other that we have collected over the last 8 years of the NBC program were used to produce much of the information on population status, distribution, and habitat relationships of the priority landbirds in the Nevada Comprehensive Bird Conservation Plan.

Program Objectives

 Tricolored Blackbird / Photo: Martin Meyers

Tricolored Blackbird / Photo: Martin Meyers

The long-term objective of the Nevada Bird Count is to provide a scientifically sound data base for evaluating status and trends in bird populations for each of Nevada's major habitats. The program provides data for analyses at different spatial scales, including state-wide assessments, habitat-wide assessments, as well as comparisons of specific project sites with similar sites in the rest of the state.

The shorter-term objectives of the program include using the statewide data network to assess habitat suitability for priority bird species in order to generate widely-applicable habitat models to a variety of bird-habitat management questions. The main audience for the program outputs of public and private resource managers, who are encouraged to use the findings of the Nevada Bird Count for management planning and to conduct additional analyses of the data for their resource planning purposes.

Finally, the program provides a unique opportunity to integrate small-scale bird inventory, research, and monitoring efforts into a statewide data base. The advantages of using the same approaches for smaller-scale efforts, such as one-time research projects, site inventories, and restoration effectiveness monitoring include the ability to compare results to statewide measures of bird populations in similar habitats. All partners of the program are strongly encouraged to plan their short-term bird data collections in the context of the large-scale, long-term Nevada Bird Count program in order to make use of the large data network provided by the program. For assistance in project planning designed to be integrated with the Nevada Bird Count network, the program partners are encouraged to consult with GBBO.

Program Information

In its initial phase, GBBO's Nevada Bird Count primarily addresses monitoring needs for birds who breed in Nevada's terrestrial habitats. The majority of these are neotropical migratory landbirds whose nesting period takes place between May and July. For this group, we chose a habitat-specific, fixed-radius point count survey design, meaning that each point count transect is set within just one habitat type, and only bird sightings made within 100 m of the surveyor are typically used for analyses.

Our program involves two approaches to data collection: random point monitoring and project-related monitoring. Random point monitoring ensures that bird population status and trends can be assessed without including biases that may be inadvertently introduced from established projects. For instance, established conservation/restoration/management projects are often located in areas that have already been recognized as threatened or sensitive with regard to their biological resources. Using only data from such locations could lead to a skewed representation of the status and trend of a given bird species, or a given bird community, across the state.

On the other hand, using only random sampling locations would reduce the immediate applicability of the data set for specific questions that a resource manager of a specific project area may ask, for example "how intact/unique is the bird community of a stretch of the Virgin River compared to bird communities found in other Mojave desert riparian areas?"

Therefore, our program offers to integrate both sources of data in one program that provides for a shared survey protocol and immediate compatibility among data included in the network. A project manager who is a partner in this network can address his/her research question by accessing data from the same habitat type across the state. With this capability, resource managers will be given unprecedented scientific power for statements about birds in their Nevada project area, because their data can always be presented within a matrix of compatible, statistically powerful data from similar areas across the state.

 Western Tanager / Photo: Martin Meyers

Western Tanager / Photo: Martin Meyers

Benefits to Resource Managers

The single most important goal of GBBO's statewide, habitat-specific Bird Count is to provide resource managers with sound, scientifically defensible information for decision-making about Nevada birds and their habitats.

For example, a manager of a project area with coniferous forests might need to know how the bird community in his/her area compares to other "typical" coniferous forests in the whole state, or part of the state. Perhaps there is a concern about disease outbreak, or intensity of recreational use, or any number of other management issues. His/her first use of the GBBO Monitoring data base could be comparing data from the project area with data from random coniferous forest points elsewhere in the state, to find out how the area "ranks" in terms of relative bird abundance and community composition. In longer-term projects, more sophisticated problems might be addressed, for example "how does the trend of a priority bird species compare between my project area and other sites of the same habitat across the state?", or "how has bird diversity changed since the last fire?", or a multitude of other questions, depending on the exact needs the manager has identified for the project area. GBBO offers to assist sponsoring partners in exploring the potential uses of the data for their specific management issues, and in exploring options for data analyses. With prior agreement, data analyses can also be entirely completed by GBBO.

To benefit from the data network created under the Program, resource managers are encouraged to participate as sponsoring partners. This will ensure that their project area and randomly selected sites across the state will be sufficiently surveyed. The best options for becoming a program partner are (1) providing funds for GBBO to recruit enough surveyors to cover the project area and accompanying random points, (2) providing point count surveyors to survey the project area and random sites supplied by GBBO's data base, or (3) a combination of these two options. Other partnering options can be discussed on a case-by-case basis. Also, GBBO will make provisions to protect sensitive information and rights for publication. Contact Elisabeth Ammon to find out more about becoming a sponsor/partner of GBBO's Nevada Bird Count.

Survey Protocol

The current Point Count Protocol, survey instructions, data sheets, and explanation of codes are available below in the form of MS Word files and pdf documents. They are available on our Public Data Page.

Acknowledgments

We thank Lew Oring, John Swett, Jeri Krueger, Sharon McKelvey, Louis Provencher, Rob Bundy, Don McIvor, Aaron Holmes, Sacha Heath, and Kevin Mack for early reviews of the monitoring protocol. Staff of all sponsoring partners have actively helped implement the Nevada Bird Count by assisting with logistics, arranging permits for land access, or helping with the bird surveys.

The following individuals from our partner organizations have been particularly helpful with the implementation of the program: Aaron Ambos, John Axtell, Mauricia Baca, Janet Bair, Gretchen Baker, Joe Barnes, Jon Bart, Doug Barto, Brad Baumann, Everett Bartz, Doug Booth, Gerald Braden, Pete Bradley, Rodger Bryan, Michael Cameron, Eric Campbell, Sandy Canning, David Catalano, Ali Chaney, David Charlet, Greg Clune, Laura Crane, Kevin DesRoberts, Walt DeVaurs, Chris Dodge, Maureen Easton, Bob Elston, Gerry Emm, Dawn Fletcher, Tara Forbis, Bob Furtek, Chad Gourley, Dawn Grabowski, Ross Haley, Derek Hall, Norm and Beverly Harry, Lara Hartley, Dave Hays, Jill Heaton, Marci Henson, Gerry Hickman, Karen Hoff, Heather Hundt, Dan Jacquet, Portia Jelinek, Fred John, Joe Kahl, Christy Klinger, Kevin Kritz, Jeri Krueger, Jeff Mackay, Christiana Manville, Zane Marshall, Elroy Masters, Marc Maynard, Don McIvor, Brian McMenamy, Ron Mills, Kristen Murphy, Larry Neel, Jennifer Newmark, Jose Noriega, Eddie Pausch, Laura Richards, Beth Sabin, Lisa Smith, Teri Slatauski, Amy Sprunger-Allworth, John Swett, Cris Tomlinson, Dick Tracy, Debbie VanDooremolen, Matt Voisine, Lew Wallenmeyer, David Waller, Jason Williams, Genny Wilson, Diane Wong.

The University of Nevada, Reno, provided technical oversight in selecting random points (special thanks to Dick Tracy and Bob Elston).

We are also happy to acknowledge the loyal volunteers who spent their free time to support the first five years of Nevada Bird Count implementation.

NBC Partners

 Bendire's Thrasher / Photo: Dawn Fletcher

Bendire's Thrasher / Photo: Dawn Fletcher


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