Today marked the 200th time a bird survey has been conducted at Fish Lake by citizen scientists! This morning, a pontoon boat circumnavigated Fish Lake carrying binocular-wearing volunteers who observed and recorded birds. The lakeshore is divided into 4 birding stations and surveys are conducted year-round on the first Thursday of each month.
Heather Murphy (USFS, retired, wildlife biologist) coordinates a team of citizen scientists who record observations into field notebooks and later enter observations into the Cornell Lab of Ornithology eBird database. As of Aug. 3, 2017, 1850 checklists have been entered into eBird with an average of 8 separate birding stations visited during a single day.
This project started in 1999 when the U.S. Forest Service began field surveys to determine bird habitat quality in the Upper Wenatchee Basin, including Fish Lake and Lake Wenatchee. When the monitoring funding ended in 2003, Forest Service biologists (Heather Murphy and Janet Millard) developed field survey protocols and data input methods designed for an all-volunteer program.
After retiring, Heather continued to serve as the coordinator, naming the project the Upper Basin Birders (UBB). Janet and Heather consulted with Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Brian Sullivan for protocol design and Brian continues to assist with data analysis. All of the data has been entered in to eBird
Heather reports, “During August-September, a total of 154 species of birds have been seen by UBB, compared to 205 total species January-December.” She continues, “Our August data shows big counts of neotropical migratory birds who are moving south and a lot of juvenile birds born this year.”
Now in the 19th year of recorded observations, Heather can use the data to compare individual species populations changes over time. For example, she reports that bald eagle populations appear to be increase. Between 1999-2009, the July counts found 2-9 individuals. The July counts for years 2010-2016 found 8-40 individuals. Bald eagles are year-round residents of the Wenatchee Watershed and UBB has documented this species recovery.
A few weeks ago, Heather created an artistic slide show to showcase the upper Wenatchee watershed and Upper Basin Birders! Click here to see the presentation: Upper Basin Birders Introduction