Earlier this summer, Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve landowner Jeff Leon placed a receiver station on his property to collect data on migrating birds. The receiver station is part of the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, a collaborative research network to collect wildlife movement.
This receiver station picks up signals given off by tiny digitally encoded tags placed on birds. Bird movements during migration season across the northeast and eastern Canada are captured by the receiver, giving scientists detailed data like never before. This data helps scientists to better understand bird movements and reasons for increasing bird declines over the last few decades.
The receiver at Strawberry Fields is one of 325 receivers placed in the Northeast and Great Lakes Region to fill a critical information gap for bird scientists. Strawberry Fields was selected for its northeastern location and elevation. If you have visited this preserve, you know the panoramic view down to the Mohawk Valley it provides! This, along with the open fields maintained by the Leon Family make the preserve an excellent spot to collect bird migration information.
Strawberry Fields Motus Station Captures First Migrating Birds!
In late August, the Motus station at the Strawberry Field Preserve had its first two data points of birds migrating over this promontory in the Capital Region. The first species was a sanderling, a small shorebird often seen running in the surf to catch small animals in the sand. This species is not one you would normally affiliate with the rolling grasslands of Montgomery County. The Sanderling just flew over on its fall journey–which could be anywhere between 1,800 and 6,000 miles depending on its final wintering grounds. We won’t know if this bird prefers a few weeks in Florida or South America.
The other species to fly over was a chimney swift. This bird spends all of its time on the wing feeding on flying insects and can sometimes be seen diving into chimneys near dusk to roost during the summer months. Here, they cling to the side of these man-made cavities and raise their young. This particular bird is on a long journey, moving from the north of Canada, it passes through the Mohawk River Valley on its way south for the winter.
Why is this data important?
A recent report in the journal Science noted that one out of every four birds has been lost in the last fifty years. By tracking bird movement with nano-tags and Motus towers, scientists can find out how long birds live, where they travel for the winter, and they can determine where along the journey threats may lie. This data leads to more protections for birds where they need it most!
Although it’s early in the migration season, you can watch the bird movement increase over the coming months using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Live Cast Bird Migration Map. You can also learn more about the bird species mentioned in this post at the Lab’s All About Birds Website.
MHLC would like to thank Bird Studies Canada, Project Owlnet, and the Williston Conservation Trust for reaching out to us and for leading the effort to gain new Motus receiver locations. Stay tuned for additional data as birds migrate over Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve this fall! To learn more about Motus, click here.