Marsh Bird Surveys

The research staff has spent yet another Spring surveying marsh birds. Once a week for the past 6 weeks, staff arrive to work well before dawn and begin the survey approximately 30 minutes before official sunrise. The species of interest in this survey are Black Rail, Virginia Rail, King Rail, Clapper Rail, Least Bittern, Sora, and Common Moorhen. The data is ultimately used by the D.E.E.P., as we are just one place of many that perform this sort of survey. However, this data is also useful to us here at White Memorial because it tells us about the health of our wetlands. These birds are considered indicator species, ie, they indicate how much humans have disturbed that habitat as these birds are indicator species. An indicator species tells us about the health of the ecosystem, ie, they are more sensitive to human disturbance than other species. So, you can imagine our excitement when we find the birds we're looking for!

Interns Abby Wilson (Left) and Cheyenne Liberti (Right) during the
canoe portion of the survey on the Bantam River

The surveys start at first light (30 minutes before official dawn) and generally last about three to four hours. The survey consists of 16 points at which researchers drive or boat to. Once at the point, researchers play a CD provided by the D.E.E.P. The CD begins with 5 minutes of silence to allow the birds to settle after the initial disturbance of arriving on scene. Next, 7 different songs/calls are played for 30 seconds each, and separated by 30 seconds of silence. Whenever researchers hear a call or song of one of the birds of interest, we record the species heard, and at which point in the CD we heard it.

Pictured above is the CD player  a point on the survey which is accessed by truck.  

So far this season, researchers have heard Sora and Virginia Rail. As seen in a previous blog post, we were lucky enough to see a Virginia Rail calling to our canoe at the end of a recent survey. It called to us at the very last point on the survey, so once the CD was finished playing and the survey was over, we used an app to play Virginia Rail calls toward its direction. Within a few minutes we saw two, calling to us and back and forth to each other. The one pictured in the video in the previous blog post actually flew right into the gunwale of our canoe about 30 seconds after that video was taken. These birds are so mysterious. Not much is known about them, and they are presumed to be very secretive. In this encounter however, we witnessed some curious behavior by the birds.
Here is a link to the blog post which highlights the Virginia Rail discussed above:Virginia Rail Call

Here is a D.E.E.P. special report from 1999 when state biologists first began these surveys :
Special Report Wetland Birds
Photo of a Sora courtesy of Ian Davies -Macauley Library
Cornell Lab of Ornithology : SORA

Virginia Rail
Photo of a Virginia Rail courtesy of Evan Lipton - Macauley Library
Cornell Lab of Ornithology : Virginia Rail

2018 Summer Research Staff

Sarah McQuade

Sarah is the Research Technician for White Memorial, she will be working with the Research Director, James Fischer, throughout the summer and into the early fall. She is pictured here planting American/Chinese Chestnut Tree hybrids at a research plot in Thorndike, Maine

I graduated from Unity College in May of 2017. I majored in Biology and minored in Ecology. Before college, I attended Lyman Hall High School's Agricultural Education program. My area of focus throughout high school was wildlife biology. I've always been passionate about life sciences, and briefly considered going into the teaching profession.
During my summer breaks from college, I worked as a seasonal research technician with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, aiding in the comprehensive tick management project. It balanced field work with laboratory work fairly evenly, and allowed me to gain some insight into the field of wildlife biology. After graduating college I worked for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as a seasonal maintainer at a Southford Falls State Park, and then as an assistant in the Forestry division at the headquarters in Hartford. I occasionally do part time work coaching gymnastics on the side. When I'm not working, I'm likely still spending time outdoors. Mountain biking, hiking, camping, canoeing, and bird-watching in the summer and fall, and downhill skiing in the winter. I plan to stay in wildlife field, eventually travelling out west to work for USGS or other affiliated organizations. I'd love to get new experiences and challenge myself in a new setting. Eventually, I'd like to transition into environmental education to teach the young generation about the importance of wild places, and how we can use science and biology to make the world a better place. The thing I love most about White Memorial is the history held both within the walls of the museum, and outside where stone walls and foundations lay in ruin, slowly being taken over by natural processes.  

Cheyenne Liberti

Cheyenne is a Research Intern at White Memorial, and will be working throughout most of the summer before heading home to Florida. Here she is pictured on the bridge on Little Pond.

Hello! My name is Cheyenne Liberti. I am a rising Junior at Yale University studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and I am from Orlando, Florida. This summer working at White Memorial is my first field season! In the past, I have worked as a volunteer research assistant in the Cappello Lab at the Yale School of Medicine, learning about the treatment and pathogenesis of hookworm-induced illness in Ghana. I am interested in Public Health, and hope to apply my experience with wildlife and conservation field work to an education and career focused on environmental health and food security. My future plans include joining the Peace Corps and getting a Master’s in Public Health. In the time that I’ve spent at White Memorial so far, something that I’ve found particularly pleasant is seeing how many different people from all ages and backgrounds come here to enjoy nature and learn something about living in harmony with the planet. Whenever we are out in the field working on a project, hikers and passerby are always curious to hear about what we are doing, and I am always so happy to share with them!

Abby Wilson

Abby is a Research Intern and will be working for a portion of the summer with the research staff at White Memorial. Here she is pictured with an American Kestrel chick as part of the banding program. 
Education: Unity College Senior studying Wildlife and Fisheries Management
Work History: For three years I have been a volunteer at the Sharon Audubon as a wildlife rehabilitation assistant; feeding baby birds, assisting in rehab procedures, and participating in the American Kestrel banding program. I have also worked with rock weed surveys on the coast of Maine, participated in the Maine Cooperative Bear Study, and assisted in the Unity College Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring cover-board survey. At Unity College, I work as a Sustainability Ambassador and develop programs on campus to educate students on sustainable practices.
Interests: Hiking, swimming, rock climbing, bird watching, canoeing, hammocking, and reading.
Future plans: I plan to work in the field of conservation in the future. My goal is to gain experience through field work and continue to study ecology and wildlife science. I would eventually like to go to graduate school to study marine biology.
Favorite part of White Memorial: White Memorial allows me to gain experience with all levels of wildlife from microscopic to mega-fauna. I get to brainstorm projects, implement them, and witness the results.The research projects allow my interests to continually grow as I learn new facts about various species. 

Virginia Rail responding to callback survey, Bantam Lake, Litchfield, Li...

Sarah McQuade, Seasonal Research Technician, recorded this Virginia Rail while performing callback surveys.  Cheyenne Liberti (Yale University and Abby Wilson (Unity College) were also present during the dawn canoe survey.