The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is partnering with the Cary Institute, NY Natural Heritage Program, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, and SUNY New Paltz biology department to monitor birds, such as the Bicknell’s thrush, that nest in rare mountaintop habitats.
Three field technicians are surveying dense and shrubby spruce-fir habitats on high peaks in the Catskills for Goldilocks-like montane bird species that nest on or near the ground in trees that are not too big, not too small, but just right.
Finding montane nesting birds is no easy feat — field technicians have to be on these summits before dawn, monitor for montane birds along specific routes in the dark, and identify these birds strictly by their song. In June and July, the birds’ pre-dawn song indicates that they are breeding in the vicinity.
Some of the goals of this fieldwork include: collecting data about the presence of nesting montane birds including Bicknell’s thrush, yellow-bellied flycatcher, white-throated sparrow, dark-eyed junco, and blackpoll warbler; helping DEC determine the impact that informal trail networks and bushwhacking have on montane nesting birds; adding to existing data that DEC is collecting for the visitor use monitoring efforts in the Catskill High Peaks; and comparing this season’s bird monitoring data to data collected from Mountain Birdwatch and other sources. This will help DEC make management recommendations to decrease the negative impacts of recreation in order to help protect vulnerable bird species.
To learn more about ongoing research on informal trails in the Catskill High Peaks, visit the DEC website.
Photos, from above, provided by DEC: Bicknell’s thrush sitting on its nest, courtesy of Kent McFarland; and field technicians Danielle Takacs, CSC Fellow, & Samuel Mateo Jr, Wildlife Photographer, surveying for montane nesting birds and recording data on Hunter Mountain.