U.S. BREEDING BIRD SURVEY
Memorandum to Cooperators
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
12100 Beech Forest Road
Laurel, MD 20708-4038
 

SUMMER 1997

NEW DATA FORMS
This year the BBS embraces the 21st Century by converting to a new relational database system using scannable field sheets and electronic data entry.  The database system consists of a Windows NT Server housed in a Pentium PC while the management program is SQL Server.  Though the database set-up may be of some interest to those of you with a technological bent, it should not play a significant role in how you interact with our office.  Let it suffice to say that the new system will allow much more flexibility in how we access, manipulate, and retrieve data.

The second and more relevant change, at least from a BBS observer's perspective, is the new data sheets.  They are actually very similar to the old forms but we streamlined both the data collection and entry processes, and by modifying the Field Sheets we have eliminated the need for a species Summary Sheet.  Each Field Sheet still contains 10 stops, but we have used both sides of the page, 5 stops per side, to allow more room for recording data.  In addition, the species listed on each Field Sheet have been tailored to the specific route based on the previous yearsí data.  No longer will you have to search through a huge list of species to find the ones commonly detected on your route.  Moreover, the data will be electronically extracted from the data sheets using a scanner, instead of being manually keypunched, which should reduce errors, increase efficiency, and save money.  Also, for the first time in BBS history, individual stop data will be available in an electronic format, not just 10-stop page totals.

With the new data sheets there is no need to calculate page totals or go through the tedium of counting stops.  Our computer will do all summary calculations for you, which should reduce transcription and mathematical errors.  However, to reap these benefits the data must be recorded as Arabic numerals (i.e., 1,2,3,...) directly on the new Field Sheets.  If you feel that you must use hash marks, dots or other methods to count individuals, use the old field sheets (10 stops/page) which we have provided and then transfer the data to the new Field Sheets.  Alternatively, you could make a photocopy of the new Field Sheets for use in the field and then transfer the data to the original.  In either of the above two cases, please return both sets of data sheets to our office.  But remember, if you are able to accurately count and record data in the field as Arabic numerals directly to the new Field Sheets, there is no need to transcribe data.

We are also investigating other methods of data submission, and envision implementing an electronic data submission system via the Internet or facsimile machines in the near future;  updates on our progress, as well as, instructions will be posted on the Internet at: http://www.im.nbs.gov/bbs/bbs.html.

Undoubtedly, there will be unforeseen problems and delays for which we apologize in advance, but we do appreciate your patience and understanding as we all become accustomed to the new system.

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Since our last bulletin, the BBS has become part of a new bureau within the U.S. Geological Survey, the Biological Resources Division, whose motto -- Good Science, Well Managed -- reflects its mission to conduct sound scientific research for the proper management and conservation of our biological resources.  Under this new relationship, both physical and biological scientists will be working in close conjunction to address the pressing environmental concerns facing our nationís natural resources.  More specifically, the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is now both our physical and administrative home.  The BBS looks forward to this new partnership and to our continued role in monitoring the status and trends of the continentís bird populations.

1996 COVERAGE
Our thanks to all participants for another solid year for the BBS with 2913 completed surveys.  Somewhat unexpectedly though, this yearís total represents a 5.0% decrease in route coverage as compared to last yearís record-breaking total.  In the U.S., the number of completed routes fell 3.2% to 2510, while Canadian coverage dropped 8.6% to 403.  Moreover, almost two-thirds (40 out of 61) of the states/provinces suffered declines in route coverage.

Given the widespread nature of these declines no single cause seems immediately attributable.  However, a cool, wet spring throughout much of the continent, and miles of election-year road work may have been contributing factors.  This lower total also reflects the cessation of the 3-year Mexican BBS pilot project.  Even accounting for the loss of those 30 or so routes, the 1996 total still falls short of last yearís total.  Fortunately, the total will undoubtedly rise as misplaced and forgotten data trickle into our office over the next few months.

On a more positive note, the efforts of state coordinators Robert Reid, Jr. in Alabama, David Watts in Mississippi, and Steve Hedges in Utah are to be congratulated;  they increased coverage of existing routes in their respective states by almost 20% over last year.  In addition, Robert and Steve have added more routes   to Alabama and Utah, respectively, and look forward to even better coverage this summer.  With the additional routes, Alabama has joined the ranks of those states with six or more routes per degree block, making it the first state south of the 36th parallel to achieve this goal;  other states with more than six routes per degree block include: Connecticut (7), Delaware (6), Maine (6), Maryland (14), Massachusetts (6), New Hampshire (6), New Jersey (7), New York (7), Pennsylvania (7), Vermont (6), and West Virginia (7).
Although route density is determined by the availability of qualified observers, we strongly encourage other state coordinators, especially in the mid-west and west, to consider adding additional routes.  By the year 2000, we would like to increase the route density in the U.S. by 300 routes.

                                        1995-1996 Coverage Summary
         # of Routes                           # of Routes
State    1995  1996  % Change        State     1995  1996   % Change
AL        67    82    22.4            AK        74    77     4.1
AB        91    78   -14.3            AZ        56    51    -8.9
AR        31    33     6.5            BC        64    59    -7.8
CA       153   139    -9.2            CO        88    95     8.0
CT        12    12       0            DE         9     9       0
FL        75    73    -2.7            GA        52    50    -3.8
ID        51    53     3.9            IL        79    80     1.3
IN        34    34       0            IA        27    25    -7.4
KS        35    35       0            KY        29    23   -20.7
LA        33    33       0            NWT        1     1       0
MA        19    19       0            ME        51    56     9.8
MB        40    42     5.0            MD        58    57    -1.7
MI        62    49   -21.0            MN        68    63    -7.4
MS        17    20    17.6            MO        42    43     2.4
MT        56    57     1.8            NE        35    38     8.6
NV        23    20   -13.0            NB        15    14    -6.7
NF         7     3   -57.1            NH        23    22    -4.3
NJ        26    22   -15.4            NM        58    56    -3.4
NY        82    77    -6.1            NC        55    51    -7.3
ND        37    40     8.1            NS        22    23     4.5
OH        61    61       0            OK        51    47    -7.8
ON        96    91    -5.2            OR        92    96     4.3
PA        96    92    -4.2            PEI        2     2       0
PQ        60    54   -10.0            RI         1     1       0
SK        28    23   -17.9            SC        16    18    12.5
SD        38    37    -2.6            TN        41    41       0
TX       139   130    -6.5            UT        58    71    22.4
VT        20    18   -10.0            VA        61    56    -8.2
WA        75    70    -6.7            WV        46    44    -4.3
WI        65    67     3.1            WY        84    67    -20.2
YK        15    13   -13.3

                             # of Routes
                 Country    1995    1996    % Change
                 Canada      441     403       -8.6
                 Mexico       34       0     -100.0
                 USA        2595    2510       -3.2
                 Total      3070    2913       -5.0

MOST ABUNDANT SPECIES
This year the most populous species along BBS routes in the U.S. was the Red-winged Blackbird with 130,032 individuals recorded.  Though the Red-winged Blackbird was the most abundant species, Mourning Doves were detected along the most routes (2202 routes).  In Canada, the American Robin was detected in the highest numbers (16,529 individuals) and along the most routes (392 routes).
 

STATE COORDINATORS
The BBS welcomes five new state coordinators to the program this season!  You folks in California, Georgia, Kansas, South Dakota, and Vermont pay particular attention here.  In northern California, Kevin Hunting is the acting coordinator while Lyann Comrack is away.  Joe Greenberg relinquished his role as the Georgia coordinator, and has been replaced by Todd Schneider.  In Kansas, John Zimmerman has passed the role of coordinator to Bill Busby.  After thirty years as the South Dakota coordinator, Nathaniel Whitney has also decided to pass the torch on to Richard Peterson.  In Vermont, Steve Faccio replaces Chris Rimmer who relinquished the coordinator role in late 1996.  We extend our heartfelt thanks to Joe, John, Nathaniel, and Chris for their years of dedicated service and we wish them the best as they move on to new endeavors.

Other changes include a new phone number (405/332-8843) for Bill Carter, the Oklahoma coordinator, and an address change for Harry LeGrand, the North Carolina coordinator.

California              Georgia                   Kansas
Kevin Hunting           Todd Schneider            Bill Busby
CA Dept. Fish & Game    GA Dept. of Natural Res.  KS Biological Survey
Wildlife Mgmt. Div.     Nongame/Endang. Wildlife  2041 Constant Ave.
1416 Ninth St.          116 Rum Creek             Lawrence, KS 6047-2906
Sacramento, CA 95814    Forsythe, GA 31029        913/864-7725
916/657-4436            912/994-1438 W
KHunting@dfg.ca.gov     912/746-4523 H
 

North Carolina          South Dakota              Vermont
Harry Legrand           Richard Peterson          Steve Faccio
NC Nat. Heritage Prog.  P.O. Box 118              VT Institute of Sci.
P.O. Box 27687          Wewela, SD 57578          R.R. 2, Box 352
Raleigh, NC 27611       605/842-2017              Woodstock, VT 05091
919/715-8687                                      802/457-2779
harry_legrand@mail.ehnr.state.nc.us
 

EXOTIC SPECIES REPORT
As discussed in Stevenson and Andersonís The Birdlife of Florida, the Eurasian-Collared Dove was brought to Nassau, Bahamas in the early 1970s, where it escaped from captivity in 1974 and quickly spread throughout most of the Bahamian islands.  From there, the doves are believed to have immigrated to Florida in the late í70s or early í80s.  The first BBS record for the species was on the Plantation Key route in 1986 by Alex Sprunt, IV.  The map on the facing page depicts the distribution and population expansion of the Eurasian-Collared Dove as detected on BBS routes.  Now this species can be found throughout Florida and in much of Alabama and Georgia, although there have been sightings as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  In addition, an individual of this species, thought to be a local escapee, was detected on a BBS route in Texas. Given this species wide habitat tolerance and history of range expansion, here and in Europe, it seems likely that the Eurasian-collared Dove will continue to spread, establishing itself throughout the mid-Atlantic and mid-western states, in future decades.

The Eurasian-Collared Dove is similar in appearance to the Ringed Turtle-Dove, with which it may be confused, but is usually larger and darker with gray undertail coverts.  However, familiarity with its "undove-like vocalizations" (e.g., kuk- kooooo-kook, kuk kírooo, and a catbird-like mew) should limit mis-identifications in the field.

BBS IN PUERTO RICO
As a consequence of expanding human populations and increased tourism in recent decades, many Caribbean Islands have suffered severe environmental degradation and in some cases irrevocable losses of biological diversity.  Although economic development should not necessarily be discouraged, it must be balanced with environmental policies that are based on sound scientific data.  Puerto Rico, as well as most Caribbean Islands, harbor many endemic and native avian species whose populations are not currently being monitored on an island-wide scale.   This year, with the support of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, 29 BBS routes have been established on the island of Puerto Rico, a U.S. Commonwealth, to provide much needed information on this islandís unique avifauna.

Marking our first foray into the Caribbean, the PRBBS will be somewhat exploratory in nature as we adapt current BBS methodologies to the island setting;  but we anticipate the PRBBS being as successful as its continental counterpart.

1996 BBS & RELATED PUBLICATIONS
-- First-time observer effects in the North American Breeding Bird Survey by W.L.  Kendall,
    B.G. Peterjohn, and J.R. Sauer (Auk 113:823 -829).
-- Extremes in ecology: avoiding the misleading effects of sampling variation in summary
    analyses by W.A. Link and J.R. Sauer (Ecology 77:1633-40).
-- The Breeding Bird Survey in Wisconsin: 1966-1991 by S.D. Robbins, D.W., Sample, P.W.
    Rasmussen, and M.J. Mossman (The Passenger Pigeon 58: 81-179).
-- Population trends of breeding birds of Ohio by S.L. Earnst and B.A. Andres (Ohio Biol.
    Surv. Misc. Cont. No. 3 vii + 125 pp.).
Copies of the first two articles can be obtained through our office.  Requests for the latter two should be directed to the corresponding authors.

BBS PATCHES
In 1994, we distributed official BBS patches as a token of our appreciation to BBS participants.  We still have several hundred left, so if you did not receive one then or have joined us recently, please let us know and we will send you one.  The patches will be distributed on a first come, first served basis while the supply lasts.

STORIES FROM THE FIELD
As in past years, vehicle problems, inclement weather, poor roads, and animal encounters have delayed and in some cases prevented observers from conducting their surveys.  But time and again, BBS participants have demonstrated the three key ingredients of successful field biology: preparation, determination, and observations.  But even the most prepared observers are caught unawares at times by the vagaries of nature, as was the case for Dolores and Don Harrington.  Having discovered no problems during the scouting of the Ramsey, AR route, they attempted to run the survey a few days later.  However, a tornado had crossed the route in the intervening days downing two large trees just after stop 28.  Unable to proceed farther, they back-tracked and detoured until they were able to reach stop 29.  Unfortunately, the delay had allowed a rainstorm to catch them ending the survey, and losing two new species records for the route.  Undaunted they completed the route on a subsequent attempt.

Robert Daly gets the award for the most dedicated observer this year.  While attempting to cross a wide water-filled pothole on the Hillsboro, AL route, he found that its  normal 12-inch depth was now 3 feet and almost became hopelessly mired.  He finally pulled free using the mechanical winch cable but found that his truck would not restart.  Water had damaged the computer engine controls that cost nearly $1000 to repair.  Incredibly, he completed the route a few days later avoiding the pothole.

The next stories illustrate how non-avian animals often enhance, for better or worse, the BBS experience.  For example, at the start of the Dunckley Pass, CO route, David Pantle and his son, Hardin, narrowly avoided a car fire when gasoline fumes alerted them to holes in their gas line from which fuel was  spraying out dangerously close to the hot exhaust system.  While they had slept under the stars, some critters had decided to fuel-up by munching on their carís rubber gas line.  Although they suspect chipmunks or ground squirrels, the culprit was never positively identified  since after the hose was repaired they had the foresight to move their camp.

While running the Brite, TX route, Ben Archer found he had no need for the strong coffee he carries.  Arriving at a stop mid-way through the route, Ben noticed an apparently dead rattlesnake lying a few meters ahead in the middle of the road.  Conscientiously completing the stop before investigating the carcass, he turned not only to find that the snake was not dead but that it was no longer in sight!  Luckily it hadnít decided to seek shade under his car.  If this wasn't enough to keep his adrenaline flowing, a few stops later Ben found himself in the middle of a huge swarm of bees.  As he stood still allowing the swarm to pass, he wondered whether they were domestic or African?  It is probably better that he never found out.

Farther north, Susan Weller got quite a start while driving to the Coeur díAlene, ID route when an atypically large white-tailed deer plowed into the side of her car -- talk about things "that go bump in the night."  Fortunately, besides some frayed nerves and perhaps bruised shoulder muscles, neither Susan nor the deer were hurt.  But where the buck stopped, it required $471 to repair.

Animals caused other unexpected delays as well.  On the Manawa, WI route, Daryl Tessen, the state coordinator, was out of his car counting birds at a stop when a skunk decided to investigate him.  After a few tentative attempts, he was able to discourage the skunkís interest, luckily, without incident.  For those of you wondering how one discourages a skunk -- Daryl writes, "Very carefully."

Other more pleasant wildlife encounters include those of Mike Hall.  He was treated to a regular avian parade along the Cedar Falls, WA route when he spied a crow chasing a bald eagle chasing an osprey carrying a fish.  The fish won this time though, since the osprey, perhaps intimidated by its entourage, dropped the fish while flying over a lake.  Mike also enjoyed the sights of a  young cougar and black bear along the route.

Ralph Keel and David Hughes also saw two black bears and a bobcat while surveying the Dismal Swamp, NC route.

The final story comes from Madelon Schouten of British Columbia.  Madelon has identified the BBS Syndrome.  Symptoms include tendonitis of the right elbow due to repeated gear shifting while conducting her 6 BBS routes.  Unlike Tunnel-Carpal Syndrome, BBSS appears to clear up quickly with the application of cold packs and aspirin.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Do you have BBS data from previous years that was never sent in?  Remember, it is never too late.  Whether it is 1 or 25 years old, we can still use it.  While we donít wish to promote late data submission, donít throw it out just because itís a year or two old.
 

Good luck & good birding in 1997!
 

                Bruce Peterjohn                                                                 Keith Pardieck
                email: Bruce_Peterjohn@nbs.gov                                        email: Keith_Pardieck@nbs.gov
                tel: 301/497-5841                                                                 tel: 301/497-5843
 

For BBS trend estimates and related analyses visit the Internet home page at:
http://www.mbr.nbs.gov/bbs/bbs