The Bird Conservation Network has created a set of standardized methods for studying the birds of the Chicago Wilderness region. These methods can serve a variety of research purposes while also allowing birders to participate at three different levels of intensity.
The goals of this study are to generate a general picture of bird distribution in the region, to collect data to assist land managers and conservation planners in decision making, and to create a database compatible with other types of habitat data being gathered in the region which can be used by researchers investigating specific ecosystem questions.
If you have a special interest in a particular site, we encourage you to become a regular monitor at that site and keep a year-round watch on the birds that winter or migrate through that site in addition to being a Point Count Monitor
You may help track changes in nesting populations, by conducting point count surveys during the breeding season.
You may visit a site, or sites, during the nesting season and record numbers and species of birds just as you would on a Christmas Count. Much of the information below will not apply to casual monitors, but you may still want to look it over.
Bird monitors participate in the management of natural areas by providing information to land managers and site stewards about how birds use the site. Having a bird monitor for individual sites ensures that consideration of the possible effects of management activities on birds will be made a part of the planning and management process.
Bird monitors with responsibility for a particular site should:
The main innovation of this study is that surveyors can use point counts along a transect, rather than on a grid, during nesting season, although a grid can be used by any who prefer this method. Surveyors conduct point counts with points located at 150-meter intervals along a transect(s). You may determine the length of your stride in advance and pace off the points, or use a measured string or tape measure. We can also help you mark off your points on a satelite map to aid in locating or relocating them. In some counties, the landmanagers will provide these maps for you.
Setting up and preparing for your points:
Instructions once you are at your point:
Spend five minutes at each point recording all birds seen or heard. Only count birds detected within a 75 meter radius of your point. Birds detected outside this radius, or while you are moving between the points, will be noted in a separate column on the form and entered as incidental observations for that date, so no observations will be discarded. Birds observed flying over (i.e., not actually using the site) should also be reported on the incidental observations list. Begin at the first point on one day, and the last one on the next, to maximize the number of birds detected during the hours when birds are most active.
Points for surveying water and marsh birds may be placed at intervals designed to get the best views of the areas being surveyed. They can be more or less than 150 meters apart.
The easiest way to create transects is to follow existing trails. To minimize edge effects, these trails should tend toward footpaths where possible, as opposed to bike trails or bridle paths. If no trails are available, a transect can be a straight line created by following a compass heading.
Where practical, consult with the agency that owns or manages their site about how to lay out permanent transects. Transects should sample all the habitat types on the site, and it should be possible to cover each transect in three hours at most. Shorter times are preferable, especially during nesting season.
Walk the transect in approximately the same amount of time during each visit. This would normally be approximately one mile per hour. Record species and numbers of all birds seen and heard. Visits are scattered throughout the year but should be more frequent during height of migration. If your transect loops around or draws back close to itself, try your best not to double-count birds that you have already seen. Transects are useful during the non-nesting season at those sites that use point counts during the nesting season.
You can keep field notes in any fashion that is comfortable for you. Forms for conducting surveys are available on the BCN Survey page, but you may use whatever method works best for you. Enter data directly at the BCN eBird Website. For more information about entering your data, see the BCN eBird help page. For those without Internet access, send your reports, on BCN Survey forms, to the Bird Conservation Network office at the address below. If you have web access, it would be helpful if you volunteer to enter the data of one person who does not. We hope to avoid backlogs of unpublished and therefore unusable data through use of the BCN eBird Website.
Send lat-long coordinates or a copy of your map with the points and transect clearly marked to:
Bird Conservation Network
c/o Bird Division
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
To volunteer to monitor/collect data or for more information contact the BCN Survey at
or phone Judy Pollock (847-962-7868).
BCN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization
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