Sunday, February 24, 2013

Considering becoming a monitor?

Are you considering becoming a Piping Plover monitor for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and working with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection along with us at the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds to volunteer your time helping to protect the federally endangered species? Please take a look at this press release from USFWS if you have not and let's examine the process a little more closely, from training to the field work you will be a part of this spring and summer. Volunteering as a monitor may sound time-consuming or intimidating but it is a very rewarding experience as can be seen in the ever-growing number of people who participate each season. All you need is a little time each month (two hours at least) and a passion for helping endangered wildlife.

If you look at this blog entry from last year you will find a few videos from the volunteer monitor training session held last March. The first video discusses the job of a volunteer monitor, the role they play on the beach, the limited responsibilities monitors have, and some of the legalities pertaining to this wonderful service. The second video discusses the difference between volunteering some of your time for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It also goes over your role as an educator on the beach, how best to impart knowledge of the birds and their survival needs, any situations we try to avoid, and how to report disturbances or any issues. The third video delves into beach monitoring details from who to approach or not approach, what to do in troubling situations such as loose dogs, and what the responsibility of USFWS is to you and the municipality is with respect to their property and local ordinances.

After the training session is complete you will receive an identification badge and be set to begin monitoring at your chosen beach and chosen time in April. Those who are new to the program may also be able to have a staff member or master monitor, a veteran volunteer, join them on the beach for their first visit to help to acclimate them further. Apart from what you can view in the videos above it is basically as simple as visiting the beach, passively and carefully searching for target species, recording their numbers, behavior, breeding conditions, and so forth (without them knowing you are even there), and reporting the information back to the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com. You can approach friendly beachgoers and talk to them about the birds if you like, or perhaps kindly request others be watchful for nesting birds or young.

The right-hand column of this blog contains a section named "Important Documents" where you can find a list of various files that you may want to review. AAfCW's information brochure on Piping Plovers helps to serve as a starting point to education the public about the birds on the beach and is available in hard copies as well for you to pass out or use while monitoring. There are two datasheets that can be used in the field for our four focal species with one for Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers and another for Least Terns and Common Terns. Another datasheet is for long-legged wader or other shorebird and tern data as well as disturbance. If you use these in the field you can scan them on your computer and email them directly to us when reporting your data to ctwaterbirds@gmail.com or you can transcribe the information you record and send us a quick email with it. We will take all of your bird data along with any other information such as problems you encountered, questions you may have, disturbances you noted, and people's activities on the beach, and get back to you as soon as possible if you require a response.

The breeding bird survey codes document helps to explain the differences in breeding conditions that we use. Under that are several important USFWS and CT DEEP documents that focus on incidents and legalities and also provide more information on monitoring and the birds which you should read as soon as possible and multiple times in order to be familiar with them. Finally there are International Shorebird Survey documents that are available in case you have decided to participate in them. Here is a post from last season with more information on that endeavor but we will also be posting more on the ISS program soon.

As always, if you have any questions please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com, thanks!

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut. 

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