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Photo by Nick VianiA Western tanager near Grizzly Peak.

Impressive number of birds spotted during BioBlitz

More than 85 people fanned out across the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument on May 26 on a mission to count birds. In small groups, birding experts and citizen-scientists began at daybreak surveying 11 different sites within the monument.

A total of 112 bird species were identified during this year’s BioBlitz, including both resident and migrating species.

“Its remarkable that during one eight-hour period nearly half the number of species that have been reported during the entire month of May in all of Jackson and Siskiyou counties were recorded,” said John Alexander, director of the Ashland-based Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO).

BioBlitz is a communal citizen-scientist effort to record as many species as possible within a designated time and place. Howard Hunter, a board member for the Friends of the Monument, explains, “A BioBlitz is a great way to engage the community and connect them to their monument while generating useful data for science and conservation. They are also an excuse for naturalists, scientists and curious members of the public to get together in the great outdoors for fun and to contribute something meaningful.”

KBO is helping to compile the BioBlitz data through eBird Northwest, a regional portal of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s international eBird database (ebird.org/NW). Alexander adds — “Our region is a Western hotspot of bird diversity and migratory bird diversity is one of the items of biological interest for which the monument was established to protect. By engaging our local citizenry in this first avian inventory of the newly expanded monument area we are increasing our understanding of birds while also increasing community engagement and ownership in the science that has driven, and must continue to drive, the protection and conservation of our monument.”

Several teams conducted the first bird surveys in the monument’s expansion areas, including Horseshoe Ranch in northern California, Surveyor Ridge, Grizzly Peak, Little Hyatt Lake and Lower Jenny Creek.

Pepper Trail, a prominent ornithologist from Ashland who led one of the teams, called the event a success. “From hummingbirds to great grey owls, more than 100 species were identified. It was very rewarding to lead others into the monument to document its tremendous biodiversity first-hand. Even on a cold and soggy morning the enthusiasm was palpable.”

Trail classifies birds by the habitats in which they live. He says, “Home is where the habitat is.” His list of monument habitats includes: oaks and grassland; riparian and wet meadows; creeks and lakes; chaparral and brushlands; mixed conifer and hardwood forest; high elevation conifer forest; and eastside pines and shrub steppe. Each of the BioBlitz teams surveyed birds in one or more of these habitats.

The Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument host an annual BioBlitz to engage people in understanding what a treasure the monument is by sharing information about the variety of species found there. Friends of the Monument Board Chair Terry Dickey notes, “Past BioBlitzes included surveys on butterflies, fungi and herpetology, and next year the Friends plan to engage our citizen-scientists to learn more about dragonflies and damselflies.”

“We often think that biodiversity is found in faraway tropical climates, but there is amazing biodiversity in Southern Oregon and Northern California,” adds Hunter. “The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is one of the top-10 ecosystems of the world,”

As the 18th anniversary of the establishment of the monument approaches on Saturday, June 9, Dickey says, “BioBlitz is a rich example of why the monument is so vital. We see such a wide variety of species all living in close proximity because of the convergence of habitats. I don’t think most people realize just how unique this is.”

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