Old News Archive

Maine Audubon Seeks Volunteers to Monitor Owls

April 05, 2008 - TRC


Maine Audubon is seeking volunteers around the state to conduct early morning owl surveys for the Maine Owl Monitoring Project. Volunteers are needed on routes in Downeast (Deblois) and northern Maine (Willimantic, Dover Foxcroft, Medway, Molunkus, Chamberlain Lake, Clayton Lake). More than 110 volunteers participated last winter, hearing the calls of over 400 owls on 84 routes.

Each “citizen scientist” volunteer is assigned an established road route and on any night between now and April 15 will conduct a 13-minute survey at each of 10 points along the route. As part of their training, all volunteers receive a compact disk and written material to learn calls of the nine owl species they may hear. Surveys begin at 1 a.m. and end at 5 a.m.

“The surveys are important because the results give us information about how many owls we have and where they are,” said project coordinator Susan Gallo. “They will be especially interesting this year, because deep, crusty snow has made life difficult for Maine’s owls.”

The surveys also provide a unique opportunity for volunteers. “Being outside so early in the morning and hearing owls respond to the calls is an experience you won’t soon forget,” Gallo said.

The volunteers play a CD at each survey point. The first three minutes of the recording is silent, allowing volunteers to “passively” listen for calling owls. The CD then plays calls of three owls (long-eared, barred and great horned), with silent periods between each call during which volunteers note any responses.

Citizen scientists then log information about the survey—including weather conditions, temperature and owls heard—on a data sheet they send back to Maine Audubon.

Data from the surveys give scientists at Maine Audubon and its project partner, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, an idea of how many owls live in the state, which is not an easy calculation because the birds are nocturnal and breed in the winter.

The organizations hope long-term data from the project will reveal if owl populations are declining, as anecdotal evidence suggests, and if large die-offs, which occur every few years, affect statewide populations.

This is the second year surveyors will play the call of the uncommon long-eared owl to listen for responses from this species of special concern. The calls in last year’s survey resulted in a much higher number of responses from long-eared owls than in prior years, shedding some much-needed light on where these birds are. Researchers hope for more information this year.

Maine is the first U.S. state to organize such a project, though long-term owl monitoring efforts have been underway in Canada for several years. Maine’s owl project also has become a model for states in the Midwest that are starting their own owl survey routes.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Susan Gallo at (207) 781-2330, ext. 216, or sgallo@maineaudubon.org. Visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.

MAINE AUDUBON works to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat by engaging people of all ages in education, conservation and action.

Maine Audubon maintains some of the most productive, science-based conservation and research programs in the region. Initiatives such as the Maine Loon Project, the Maine Cooperative Owl Surveys and ongoing programs to monitor and protect the endangered piping plover and least tern are made possible through partnerships with volunteers, public agencies, universities and other conservation organizations.

Submitted by : Andrew Colvin, (207) 781-2330, ext. 241

acolvin@maineaudubon.org


NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.