Breeding Bird Survey – First Impression

I ran my first BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) last Sunday. And I came away with mixed feelings. Mainly positive but still something seemed off.

First, here is a description of a BBS from the Breeding Bird Survey webpage. “Each survey route is 24.5 miles long with stops at 0.5-mile intervals. At each stop, a 3-minute point count is conducted. During the count, every bird seen within a 0.25-mile radius or heard is recorded. Surveys start one-half hour before local sunrise and take about 5 hours to complete. Over 4100 survey routes are located across the continental U.S. and Canada.”

The Shelbyville Route I ran Sunday is mostly rural agriculture land with some stops along rivers in East-Central Indiana.

Where I have been…
And where I’m headed. Maybe there’s a river at the tree line?

What seemed off.

Except for Christmas Counts or the Big May Day Count we basically go birding where, when, and how long we want. Even on those counts we are assigned large territories with the option of when and where to go within those territories.

But Sunday I had a map that told me exactly where and when and how long I could bird a spot.

Not bad, just different from the usual routine.

There were stops along some of the rivers I wished I could have stayed longer. There where more than one rural stop where I was looking at the egg timer count down because I couldn’t see or hear any more Horned Larks or Red-winged Blackbirds. And you can only keep scanning a clear blue horizon for raptors for so long.

031 Breeding Bird Survey View
You’d be amazed how many Horned Larks there are if you’d stop and listen.
029 BBS
Only 3 distant Turkey Vultures on the day and 2 perched Red-tailed Hawks. Not much else in the air on the warm summer morning.

So did I enjoy myself? Of course I did!

I got to bird a new area. I found 60 species in a territory which usually has counts in the 40’s or 50’s. I added some new species to the route.

Most importantly I added data to the 4100 other BBS routes that can and is used by conservationists for making critical decisions.

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