GO BIRDING WITH A PURPOSE IN MARYLAND’S
IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS

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MBCP is partnering with Audubon MD-DC to develop a monitoring program for our state's Important Bird Areas. Volunteers will contribute data that will directly impact conservation actions and management of areas critical to some of our most vulnerable birds. 

Between 2007 and 2012 more than 100 MOS members and other birders rallied to the cause of identifying Important Bird Areas (IBAs), by conducting “Bird Blitz” surveys at candidate sites across Maryland. Now it is time to rally again, and go birding with a purpose. 

Audubon Maryland-DC and the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership (MCBP) joined forces in 2017 to monitor bird populations at IBAs. Important Bird Areas represent the most essential sites for birds across the state – 43 IBAs have been identified in Maryland because they support one or more of three categories of vulnerable birds: at-risk species, species assemblages that depend upon a particular habitat type, exceptional concentrations of birds.

Monitoring birds at IBAs can help bird conservation in two main ways. Firstly, data on the numbers and locations of at-risk species can help site managers more effectively cater to the habitat needs of those species, and when monitoring is repeated over time, revealing local population trends, managers can be alerted to issues with declining populations while there is still time to act. Secondly, counts of birds at IBAs can build a case for protecting an area from threats like poorly-planned development. It is not just the bird data, per se, that lead to land protection – the fact that local citizens care enough about birds and their habitats to go out and monitor bird populations sends a powerful message to community leaders when land use decisions are being made.

To generate high-quality data of value to conservation planning, we are taking a targeted approach, consulting with Maryland Department of Natural Resources and other experts to prioritize IBAs where there are specific conservation needs and opportunities. In 2017 we selected six priority sites and designed survey routes. We are working on a plan for the 2018 breeding season.

The monitoring program has a focus on breeding birds, and we need the help of devoted volunteers. Monitoring involves:

  1. Walking a designated survey route during the morning, before 9:30am, and completing ten point counts. These are counts of all birds heard or seen from a fixed point.
  2. Identifying and counting all individuals of all bird species seen or heard at designated survey points for five minutes.
  3. Recording the data on a provided datasheet for later submission online.
  4. Conducting this survey twice during the breeding season (late May – late June).

Audubon and MBCP will provide volunteer training in May and assign survey routes based on volunteer preferences and availability. Most survey routes will be laid out along well-worn trails, but for the more adventurous some routes go off-trail and will require navigation with a hand-held GPS.

We need your help! Your birding expertise will be tremendously helpful in providing the ornithological data necessary to plan appropriate conservation measures for Important Bird Areas in Maryland. It is a small time commitment with a big conservation impact!

Looking to get involved? Visit our IBA Volunteer Registration Page.

Questions? Contact Chris Eberly, Director of the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership, director@marylandbirds.org, 410.573.4560 or David Curson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Maryland-DC, dcurson@audubon.org.

For more information on Maryland’s Important Bird Areas, visit http://md.audubon.org/conservation/important-bird-areas