Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario
Newsletter No. 3, January 2016
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Title image_BECO News
What's on the horizon for 2016

Happy 2016! Thank you for all of your support in 2015 and for being part of our efforts to improve bird conservation in Ontario.

It's just two weeks into the new year and we're already gearing up for a busy field season. Read on to find out about some of the projects we're working on.
BECO gets a boost from the Ontario Trillium Foundation

We're thrilled to announce that BECO will be launching a new program this year, with support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

BECO's new research program will focus on bird species at risk in agricultural landscapes. A large proportion of land in southern Ontario is used for agriculture and these areas provide essential habitat for birds whose populations are declining. Bobolink, shown above, frequently breed in hayfields, pastures, and other grassland-like environments created by agriculture. They were listed as a species at risk in Ontario in 2010. Our goal is to work with the agricultural community and other stakeholders to gather new ecological data that can help to address challenging conservation issues for farmland birds at risk.

Our pilot project begins in March. Stay tuned for updates throughout the year!
Improving bird survey methods for more effective conservation

Each year, countless biologists and citizen scientists head out into the field to count birds. The information gathered is used, among other things, to track population size, distribution, and habitat use.

Counting birds and tracking population size may seem like a simple task - it isn't. There are many different sampling methods and survey designs that can be used and they all come with advantages and disadvantages, assumptions, and limitations. When you're dealing with a rare species, designing an effective survey of the population is even more challenging. Use of new technologies, such as acoustic recorders that are deployed in the field and then analyzed back in a laboratory, are also becoming more common. These types of new technologies present a whole new set of opportunities, questions, and challenges when it comes to gathering data on birds.

We're working with the Canadian Wildlife Service to analyze recently collected bird survey data for the purpose of improving survey methods. More effective surveys can lead to better information about bird populations and trends, better-planned conservation, and ultimately, more effective recovery of declining populations.
Surveying for Prairie Warblers
Continuing our quest to find Prairie Warblers

Ontario's Prairie Warbler population is small, currently estimated at no more than 320 pairs. The majority of Ontario's Prairie Warblers are found along the southeastern shore of Georgian Bay. Scattered records also exist in the transition zone between the Canadian Shield and the St. Lawrence Lowlands, from Georgian Bay to the Frontenac Arch. This area, known as the Land Between, has been gaining increasing attention as a unique and ecologically significant region of Ontario. The Land Between includes many areas of rock barrens with shrubby vegetation, conditions that are similar to areas along the Georgian Bay shoreline where Prairie Warblers are found. The Land Between has never been systematically surveyed for Prairie Warblers, leaving a critical knowledge gap regarding the species' distribution in this region.

In 2015, we conducted preliminary surveys for Prairie Warblers to begin addressing this knowledge gap. This year, we'll be returning to the Land Between to conduct further surveys and find out more about this rare songbird. Our Prairie Warbler Project is supported in part by the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation at Toronto Foundation.
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