With Memorial Weekend fishing, Christine's road trip (June 11th through June 23rd), and a few rounds of golf I haven't been out birding much since migration slowed down. Luckily for my psyche, a fellow birder asked me to assist with the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas Project around Winona. He showed me how to enter data after birding a couple hours together on June 2nd and I agreed to survey a couple of three mile square blocks. This project was a reason to get out birding and contribute to a useful purpose beyond my enjoyment.
From the MN BBA website, "A breeding bird atlas is a comprehensive, systematic field survey of the occurrence and breeding status of breeding birds, conducted by citizen scientists during a limited time period. Hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand volunteers, both professional and amateur, watch and record breeding evidence for birds in selected survey areas. The data collected by these volunteer surveyors provide the information used to create maps that describe which species breed in the state and where in the state they breed."
Basically this project was very similar to when I go birding in general as I identified different species, but new to the projects is that I watch their behavior and enter codes to indicated if a species was observed, a possible breeder, a probable breeder or a confirmed breeder. After birding yesterday and tonight I finished four different blocks by driving approximately 150 miles and spending 24 hours in the field this past month. I enjoyed how the survey asked me to be a better bird watcher and observer, seeing what the bird was doing rather than merely identifying them.
In total I entered data on 79 species in Winona County. I focused my effort on four different blocks and had 43 species confirmed breeding (which includes the same species in multiple blocks), 79 probable, 95 possible, and 2 observed. The highlight was watching two male bobolinks sign their hearts out tonight and return to the same area repeatedly (likely their nests). This species has a unique song (Click on the link to see an awesome YouTube video) and the male appears to have training wheels on in flight, but luckily for me they perched on the same shrub a couple of times and allowed me these pictures.