Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Opening weekend of the BBS

While those of you in more northerly latitudes are still admiring your late spring migrants, down here May 27th marks the opening of the officially-sanctioned Breeding Bird Survey season. I've got three routes now, one of which is entirely new to me, one that I have only run as the data recorder before, and one I picked up and ran last year for the first time. The first of these was run last year on May 28th, so for consistency I put it first on my schedule for this year, too. The previous observer, who ran it for 20 years, did me the great favor of scouting it with me last week and showing me where all the stops shoud be made. That was a huge help this morning. You don't have a whole lot of time between stops to dick around with maps, directions, and getting lost on the day; you really need to just boogie on down the road from one stop to the next bam-bam-bam to get done before the birds all quiet down for their late morning siesta.

The good news is that in spite of the harsh weather of the Spring (extreme killing freeze in April, severe drought conditions ever since), the nesting bird populations seem largely unharmed. Though this is my first time on this route, the previous observer and I seem to be pretty evenly matched. My numbers were quite similar to what he reported in recent years. The woodland passerines are all present, on territory, and singing away as though nothing happened. It's too early to tell much about nesting success yet, but a least conditions were not bad enough that the birds just abandoned these areas in search of greener pastures. I found a total of 76 species, including 15 species of wood warblers. It's a nice route, that winds from the top of the Highland Rim in eastern Hickman County through the hills and hollers and under the Natchez Trace Parkway to the knobs and valleys of the outer parts of the Nashville Basin in Maury and Williamson counties.

Species totals like that (e.g. 15 species of nesting warblers found in one morning within a fairly small area) are actually one of the reasons we singled out this area for our relocation. This is a belt of markedly enhanced biodiversity, in the plants and the animals. Influences from the midwest, Appalachia, and the deep south all combine here and blend in interesting contrasts (sourwoods and bald cypress growing within sight of each other, for example). We figured, if it supports high natural biodiversity, the environment ought to also be favorable to a wide range of human-tweeked biodiversity, too.


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