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Help with winter raptor surveys!

Posted on Jan 15, 2014

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are teaming up to conduct wintering raptor surveys in Chautauqua County in 2014 and we need your help! The primary focus of these surveys is to determine where Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers are spending the winter season to roost and feed. Western New York’s NYSDEC Region 9 is a large geographical area and we at RTPI volunteered our time to assist NYSDEC in covering this vast region. We are hoping some of Chautauqua County’s citizen scientists will also volunteer to help out in discovering, tracking and recording these birds.

Short-eared Owl DSC_3268

Short-eared Owl at the Chautauqua County/Jamestown Airport in late 2013

We have two sites where our staff and local birders and naturalists have been and will be watching – the Chautauqua County/Jamestown Airport and the proposed Arkwright Wind Farm project area. You can find a PDF map provided by NYSDEC of the Airport here and of the proposed Arkwright Wind Farm here. If you have any recent records from the past few years of Short-eared Owl or Northern Harrier from in and around these areas this data and information is also vital and I would ask that you please email it to me at skruitbosch ‘AT’ rtpi.org.

Why is this important? The location data collected during this project will be sent to the New York Natural Heritage Program for addition to their Element Occurrence dataset.  The data will therefore ultimately be used to “red-flag” any proposed development projects in the vicinity of winter raptor use areas (at least those requiring SEQR review or DEC permits) and may otherwise be applied toward conserving habitat for these (and other grassland bird) species.

Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus

Northern Harrier hunting over grasslands. Note the white band on the rump and how the wings and body are held over the ground.

If you want to be involved as more of a regular and current volunteer citizen scientist please email me at skruitbosch ‘AT’ rtpi.org. Checking the above locations at dusk for Short-eared Owls taking flight to feed or any time during the day for Northern Harrier would be helpful, but even more helpful would be finding these birds in areas we do not know about in Chautauqua County! If you can send me any records or data you have on either species I would greatly appreciate it. We would love to learn about “new” places that these important birds are using to get through the winter.

We will take data and information in any format, but if you could or would like to use this .doc form provided by NYSDEC that would be fantastic. Directions on the specific data and information desired, from weather to location mapping, are in the document. Thank you all for any assistance you can provide RTPI and NYSDEC this winter! If you have any questions whatsoever feel free to email me.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photo 1 © Twan Leenders; photo 2 ©Scott Kruitbosch