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Citizen Science

Our conservation staff is currently expanding our citizen science programs in the region. We participate in the following projects and encourage you to as well! You can contact us to learn more about our work or if you have any questions about these programs.

Winter Raptor Surveys
Grasslands are amongst the fastest declining habitat types within the country and the bird species dependent upon those vast stretches of waist-deep grasses are disappearing at alarming rates. In effort to learn more about these imperiled species within New York State and protect existing populations, the Department of Environmental Conservation has been conducting winter raptor surveys, specifically monitoring overwintering Short Eared Owls (endangered) and Northern Harriers (threatened). The NYS DEC has also enlisted the help of many interested organizations and citizens to provide more eyes on the skies. Of those organizations, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute has assisted in monitoring winter raptor species in Chautauqua County over the past three seasons and is asking for your help this winter!

Those interested in becoming involved in the project can participate by doing any one of the following:

1. Begin to monitor a nearby field, brushy area near a stream, or marshland in the evenings (between the dates of November 30th and April 15th). Watch for raptors (short-eared owl, northern harrier, rough-legged hawk, red-tailed hawk, etc.) flying overhead or near to the ground as well as owls perching on the ground, fence posts, hay bales, in trees or backyard conifers. Upon spotting one of these birds, please enter your sighting by:

a. Filling out a Winter Raptor Daily Log Sheet (copies can be picked up from RTPI) and return the form plus an aerial map of the area surveyed (if possible) to Jacquie Walters (Bureau of Wildlife, NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, 270 Michigan Ave Buffalo, NY 14203) or Elyse Henshaw (Roger Tory Peterson Institute, 311 Curtis Street, Jamestown, NY 14701; ehenshaw AT rtpi.org).


b. Entering information into eBird with as many details as possible including location, date, time, weather, number of individuals, sex, age, behavior (e.g. hunting, roosting, preening) and general condition of the bird(s).

2. Get involved in coordinated survey efforts, fill out the respective data sheets and return them to RTPI or NYS DEC. These efforts include a combination of driving and stationary surveys and occur near sunset. Survey efforts greatly depend upon weather conditions. If you wish to get involved in these survey efforts please contact Elyse Henshaw at ehenshaw AT rtpi.org. Details of scheduled survey efforts will be posted to RTPI’s website or emailed to those indicating their interest in getting involved.

Please find NYS DEC’s volunteer instruction guide (.doc) and winter raptor daily log sheet (.pdf), or stop in to RTPI for a copies of each.

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid Surveys

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is an aphid-like insect, originating from Asia, which feeds off of the food storage cells below the needles of a hemlock tree and hides itself under white woolly masses for protection. Within only a matter of 4-10 years an individual tree can succumb to an HWA infestation if left unnoticed. This deadly bug has been progressively moving closer to the area as it has spread throughout much of the eastern United States. With infestations recently found in Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area, Allegany State Park and the SUNY Fredonia College woodlot, its presence is becoming an increased threat to any forest within the county. Early detection of this particular pest is crucial as the spread of HWA can be managed. Collaborating organizations joined by a multitude of dedicated community members are working together to spread the word about HWA while slowing its actual spread throughout the county. While there is growing awareness of this invasive forest pest, these organizations and citizens are calling for assistance.

From November 1st to March 31st, join RTPI and partnering Jamestown Community College and Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy in surveying our local area for the presence or absence of HWA. Interested citizens can join in one of our formal surveys (dates found here: http://rtpi.org/events-exhibits/upcoming-events/) or survey on their own and report their findings to Elyse Henshaw by emailing ehenshaw AT rtpi.org. For more information, please go through our citizen scientist training presentation below.

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds: http://rtpi.org/conservation/audubon-alliance-for-coastal-waterbirds/
The Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) is a conservation and educational outreach program in Connecticut that relies on volunteers from the state and nearby areas to monitor and survey area beaches for threatened species like the Piping Plover and Least Tern, among others. RTPI is an official partner in AAfCW and we would love to have you participate! See this page for more information on the program or sign up by emailing us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com. You can learn more by emailing RTPI Conservation & Outreach Coordinator Scott Kruitbosch at skruitbosch AT rtpi.org.

Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz: http://rustyblackbird.org/
RTPI Conservation & Outreach Coordinator Scott Kruitbosch is a member of the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group and the statewide Connecticut coordinator for the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz. The Blitz runs from March through mid-June across the continent and focused in Connecticut from mid-March through April. This effort to save the one of the fastest declining once-common landbirds in North America needs your help. You can see more about the species in this two-page informational document about the Rusty Blackbird and on the Rusty Blackbird International Working Group’s website, including dates for the Blitz in your state. Please report all of your Rusty Blackbird sightings to eBird, even outside of your local Blitz period – and thank you!

eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/
“A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence.”

Odonata Central: http://www.odonatacentral.org
Odonata Central “is designed to make available what we know about the distribution, biogeography, biodiversity, and identification of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) world-wide.”

YardMap: http://content.yardmap.org

“The YardMap Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of bird habitat, for both professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments.”

FrogWatch USA: http://www.aza.org/frogwatch/

“FrogWatch USA is AZA’s flagship citizen science program that invites individuals and families to learn about the wetlands in their communities and help conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads.”

Dragonfly Pond Watch: http://www.migratorydragonflypartnership.org/index/dragonflyPondWatch

“Dragonfly Pond Watch is a volunteer-based program of the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) to investigate the annual movements of five major migratory dragonfly species in North America: Common Green Darner (Anax junius), Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea), and Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum). By visiting the same wetland or pond site on a regular basis, participants will be placed to note the arrival of migrant dragonflies moving south in the fall or north in the spring, as well as to record when the first resident adults of these species emerge in the spring.”