from the Field
Detail from a watercolor by Allan Brooks -- from the Ellen Browning Scripps collection at the San Diego Natural History Museum
Final Breeding SeasonFinal Assault
The breeding season of 2001, which we're now entering, is the final breeding season of data recording for the San Diego County Bird Atlas. Thus using our time and energy effectively is more critical than ever for achieving the project's goala thorough inventory of birds in as many of the 479 squares of our grid as possible. Already our threshold for coverage has been cleared in 51% of the squares, and the goal for number of possibly breeding species has been reached in an impressive 84%. If we can keep the level of effort at least at that in the previous four years, we will clear the threshold in a very large majority of squares.
Our level of achievement so far means that many squares need a comparatively small amount of effort to be pushed over their goal. This also implies, though, a shift in our strategy so far. There are essentially no accessible squares needing to be brought up from zero. What we need most is that extra little push. What strategy do we use?
If the threshold is still not cleared in a square you have adopted, please think ahead now, early in the season. Is the only thing between you and the threshold lack of hours? If so, visit the square early in the season, in March and early April. You'll clear the threshold early in the season, leave the peak open for other areas, and still probably pick up some additional early-nesting species. If you still need more breeding confirmations, scan your target list for species still not confirmed, select some for a focused effort, and schedule field trips at the times and to the habitats best for them. Lots of unanticipated discoveries are made incidental to these kinds of efforts, so this is a perfectly legitimate strategy.
For squares where the threshold is not yet cleared, we'll be sending the lists of possible and confirmed breeding species. These will inform you of species reported in your square by other observers, helping focus your effort on possible species still outstanding.
If you think you need help, ask early. With planning ahead we should be able to get some help for your area if needed.
If you are over the threshold in your squares, or close to it, please help us hit squares that are still lagging. This is our attack force concept. Already this winter this strategy has proved very useful and yielded unexpected payoffs. The most stunning example was at San Onofre State Beach, where John and Beverly Hargrove went on 20 January. Their search for wintering birds turned up Allen's Hummingbirds, both a male for positive identification of the species and a female gathering nest materialfirst confirmation of this species' nesting in San Diego County!
The attack force works in several ways. If you want to spend some time in the field, just call me or send an e-mail message asking for suggestions of where your efforts are needed. You're welcome to suggest a region interesting or convenient to you. Please check the maps in the progress report in the latest Wrenderings or on the this website for where thresholds are not yet cleared.
Also, I will send e-mail messages to our attack-force roster proposing areas where we need help. If one or more of these interests you, just ask and we will send you lists and maps for it. I will be spending as much time in the field as possible myself, on weekdays as well as weekends, and will announce to the attack force the areas I'm covering in the hope of recruiting a little team to increase our effectiveness. We're eager to add participants to the task force, so just ask to join!
Critical to the attack force's success is getting the results in as quickly as possible, so we know day by day our progress toward our goals. The quickest way to send results is via the interactive forms on the museum's website. The paper forms are always welcome too; please mail them as soon as you complete them.
Our blockbuster weekends, which have been so successful in the past, will continue up to the end of the project, so please check their schedule. The camaraderie as well as the valuable data generated by these events has made these one of the most enjoyable aspects of our whole effort.
However you participate in the project, please remember that sustaining our effort through this final year will ensure that our final product is the best it can be.