This page contains choice articles and information from past issues of BBA News, a newsletter published about six times per year for atlas volunteers. Scroll down this page or go directly to issue number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9
Number 1, May 1997
(Why Black Mesa is not in a random block, and other questions)
Many volunteers have already inquired as to how the 583 blocks were chosen, and why some seemingly obvious areas of unique or important habitat have not been included in the blocks. The answer lies in the objectives and scale of the project. Although atlasing is somewhat less rigid in its requirements than other projects such as Breeding Bird Surveys in terms of the dates and times it can be completed, there are conventions which need to be followed in order to maximize the credibility and usefulness of the information that is collected.
Two primary objectives of atlas projects are: 1) to provide more detailed information on the breeding distribution of birds within a defined geographic area, such as the state of Oklahoma, than is currently available; and 2) to provide baseline information on species distribution in the late 20th century, which can be compared in a statistically meaningful way with the future species distribution as measured by a repeat atlas project 25 or 30 years in the future. The ability to detect such changes in a scientifically credible way will provide an important tool for prioritizing and implementing conservation measures to counter the pressures faced by wildlife as human populations increase and place more demands on habitat and natural resources.
When determining the number, size, and placement of survey blocks for an atlas project, several important considerations must be assessed. These include the land area to be surveyed, the number of volunteers available for surveying, and how best to achieve the two primary objectives listed above.
While a reasonably intensive atlas survey is a big undertaking anywhere, there is an obvious difference in scale between atlasing Vermont and atlasing Oklahoma, for example. Not only does Oklahoma have a much larger land area, but it also has fewer resident birders per unit of land area, making the same intensity of coverage impossible in both states.
In deciding on Oklahoma’s intensity of coverage, we settled on a plan that we felt offered a suitable compromise between land area and birder population. Most U.S. atlas projects have been based on U.S.G.S. 7.5 minute topographic maps. Some smaller and more populated states have attempted total coverage of the whole state. Others have chosen one-sixth of every 7.5 minute quad map (about 9 square miles) as an area to be surveyed, while other (usually large and sparsely populated) states have only sampled within one out of four of these quad maps. We have chosen to sample one-sixth of every-other quad map, resulting in less intensive coverage than Missouri, for example, but more intensive coverage than Nebraska or South Dakota.
Block locations were thus picked randomly throughout the state, although always within the area covered by every two 7.5 minute quad maps. Hand picking block locations based on known areas of unique habitat would not provide a credible picture of either the distribution of Oklahoma’s breeding birds or the changes in species distribution taking place over time, because the vast majority of species and of individual birds are breeding outside of these unique areas—that is to say, on the 95% of Oklahoma that is private land.
It is only by systematically surveying all of these areas that we can glean the truest picture of Oklahoma’s breeding bird distribution and discern the impacts that habitat changes and other factors are having on population distributions. What is collectively occurring to affect bird distribution across the Oklahoma landscape is best measured by the 583 random blocks chosen for coverage.
Enough of science for a moment. What does the use of random blocks mean for the atlaser and for the birder in all of us? It means that most of the blocks to be surveyed are uncharted territory in terms of Oklahoma birding. The prospect of finding potential new birding hotspots exists. Species will no doubt be discovered breeding farther north, south, east, or west than is currently known. The pleasant surprise of finding even a fairly common species breeding in a new location is rewarding.
Of course, in order to obtain as complete a picture as possible of Oklahoma’s breeding birds, special efforts will be required to record the presence of some species. The Safe Dates List in the atlasing handbook and the Species List Form that each volunteer has includes asterisks for species we would like information on regardless of whether or not the observation occurred in a survey block. Click here to view Special Interest Species.
In later years of the atlas project (when we achieve coverage of the random blocks), we will also be making an effort to survey in some hand picked areas of special interest (such as Black Mesa) around the state, but these results will be used separately from the random block data which form the core of the project.
How to Tackle Your Block(s)
Although the stack of data forms, maps, and the handbook you received may at first make atlasing your block seem a little overwhelming, the atlasing process is really quite simple. The following suggestions may make getting started a little easier.
- Read the handbook (twice is better).
- Review the data forms and the sample forms in the handbook.
- Contact the coordinator with any questions.
- Assess your block. Drive the public roads within it (you can actually get many species Tackle … from the road) and take note of residences which may be the landowners’. Get a feel for the habitats your block contains.
- You may find it helpful to draw your own map of the block on an 81/2″ X 11″ or larger sheet of paper showing roads and residences as well as different habitats within the block. You can then mark off areas which you have covered, note landowners you have spoken to, etc.
- Ask permission to go birding on the property of landowners within the block. Not everyone will cooperate, but most people won’t mind as long as you are polite, careful to leave gates as you found them, and do not damage crops, frighten livestock, or leave ruts in soft roads. Many landowners may know of things like hawk or owl nests on their property. This information can be helpful to you.
- Go birding! Try to visit all of the habitats in the block, and remember to carefully record all of your observations on the provided forms.
- Send in your information by August 30.
Number 2, June 1997
Resources for Atlasers
Although all you really need for atlasing are binoculars, your atlasing handbook, data forms, and lunch, there are some references available that may increase both your enjoyment and effectiveness as an atlaser. Any good bookstore should carry (or be able to order) the following books:
The Birder’s Handbook by Paul R. Ehrlich et al. published in 1988 by Fireside (Simon and Schuster). This amazing 785-page volume contains a wealth of information valuable to atlasers. Descriptions of nest type and location, eggs, incubation periods, courtship, diet and many other details are provided for all North American species, along with hundreds of essays on a variety of ornithological topics. It is also priced right, at under $20.
A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds by Paul J. Baicich and Colin J.O. Harrison, from Academic Press. Contains color plates of most eggs and many nestlings of North American birds. Text accounts for each species give descriptions of nests, eggs, nestlings, nesting habitat, nesting season, and incubation periods.
Western Birds’ Nests by Hal H. Harrison, published by Houghton Mifflin as part of the Peterson Field Guide series (#25). This guide contains photos of nests and eggs in addition to useful text descriptions of habitat, nests, and eggs of each species west of the Mississippi River.
A Guide to Bird Behavior volumes 1, 2, and 3 by Donald and Lillian Stokes, published by Little, Brown, and Company. Each volume contains twenty-five chapters, one species per chapter, which provide fascinating insight into visual and auditory displays, territorial and courtship behavior, nest-building, egg-laying, incubation, nestling, and fledgling periods for each species. These books are truly an eye-opener, even for common species you may feel quite familiar with. They will help you understand the meaning of the behaviors you observe.
Tools for Atlasers
Although not necessary for atlasing, one item you may enjoy having is an extending mirror pole, which allows you to observe the contents of nests located too high to otherwise see into. To construct a mirror pole you will need the following (from Wal Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.): 1) An aluminum or fiberglass extension pole (normally used for painting ceilings or washing windows). These poles come in 2-section and 3-section lengths up to a total of 15 feet or more. Longer is better. 2) A paint roller attachment which screws onto the end of the pole 3) an auto vanity mirror or other mirror about 4×6 inches in size. 4) duct tape (of course!)
To construct the device: Remove the spinning wire frame from the roller attachment and bend the remaining heavy central wire of the attachment into a rough square to hold the mirror. Then bend the square down so as to exceed the angle of a dental mirror. Securely duct tape the mirror to the roller attachment, which can then be attached to the pole.
Now you are ready to check nests! As always when visiting nests, be quick and use caution. If you are not careful, you could damage a nest or cause undo disturbance to the birds. If birds are nearing fledging age, you could cause them to leave prematurely. Keeping the mirror well above the nest can help minimize this possibility.
Special Interest Species
Although coverage of the random blocks forms the core of the atlas project, we are also interested in information on certain species regardless of their location in the state. If you see any of the following species between the last week of May and the end of July, or if you find any evidence of these species nesting at other times, please fill out a Special Interest Species Form. Be as specific as possible when providing location information on these forms.
|Special Interest Birds|
|American Bittern||Least Bittern|
|White-faced Ibis||Northern Pintail|
|Northern Shoveler||Cinnamon Teal|
|Hooded Merganser||King Rail|
|Purple Gallinule||Common Moorhen|
|Black-necked Stilt||Snowy Plover|
|Mountain Plover||Long-billed Curlew|
|Least Tern||Golden Eagle|
|Bald Eagle||White-tailed Kite|
|Short-eared Owl||Long-eared Owl|
|Western Screech Owl||Black-chinned Hummingbird|
|Lewis' Woodpecker||Say's Phoebe|
|Vermilion Flycatcher||Tree Swallow|
|Sedge Wren||Cedar Waxwing|
|Black-capped VIreo||Cerulean Warbler|
|Swainson's Warbler||Rose-breasted Grosbeak|
|Eastern Towhee||Henslow's Sparrow|
|Backman's Sparrow||Yellow-headed Blackbird|
|Lesser Goldfinch||and any notably rare nesting species in Oklahoma|
Number 3, July 1997
A Day in the Life of an Atlaser
Atlasing takes me to all corners of this state. On May 30th, I made an initial survey of a block in Cimarron County. It had been many years since I had seen western birds (Texas, 1985), so the first morning was like a new birding experience. As I describe my experience, I’ll note the codes I used to record my atlasing observations.
I arrived on the block just as the sun cleared the horizon. The first bird I saw was a male Ring-necked Pheasant ducking for cover along the roadside edge of an old grass field (S). Western Meadowlarks were singing on the fence posts (X). Grasshopper Sparrows were buzzing in the grass (X). I found a spot to park the truck and took a walk up a short rise between two sage/grass pastures. Singing Cassin’s Sparrows were abundant (X). Many males were performing their soaring courtship flights (C). A Scaled Quail was calling from a fence post (S). Moments later, I observed a family of Scaled Quail totter onto the road some distance ahead (FL). Lark Buntings, some local people call them “Cop Birds,” were everywhere I turned. Seven males were singing (M), and pairs were forming.
As I drove farther along the road, I observed two Chihuahuan Ravens resting on the fence wire (S). They took off as I approached and flew over a nearby grain field. A Long-billed Curlew flew up from the grain field to harry the ravens (A; SIS-Special Interest Species Observation Form). The curlew returned to the pasture across from the grain field where another curlew was loafing. No nest was apparent. On another side road, I drove between a stubble field on one side and old grass field on another. Horned Larks were singing in the stubble field (X) and chasing each other (T), and a juvenile was feeding on the road (FL). Ring-necked Pheasants were calling in the old grass field (X), and several Grasshopper Sparrows were singing (M).
Another road led past some isolated trees where two Western Kingbirds were agitated by my approach (A). As I backed away, they resumed their activity, undisturbed by my presence. One bird would disappear into a dense portion of the tree’s foliage for a time, while the other watched me. As I watched, they switched roles. Although I could not see the nest from below, I concluded that the pair was either in the egg-laying stage or incubating eggs (ON). Along that same road, I watched another Long-billed Curlew (SIS) fly up from a pasture to attack a soaring Swainson’s Hawk (O).
A farmhouse nearby had a grove of trees which was a magnet for birds. Lark Sparrows were singing on the fence (X). Male Bullock’s Orioles were chasing each other among the trees (T). An Ash-throated Flycatcher and Eastern Phoebe were calling in the yard (X). I saw two nest in a Cottonwood tree, but while I watched I saw no occupants. Mourning Doves were crooning from the treetops and wires (M). Barn Swallows were cruising in and out of the barn (V). An American Goldfinch was sitting on the fence wire (O). Swainson’s Thrushes were hopping in the understory along the fence row (O). Although some were singing, they were probably still migrating.
I spent four hours on this block, noting the names of landowners I needed to contact to further survey the block. It was a productive morning with 24 species recorded, of which 9 were possibly breeding, 8 were probably breeding, and 3 were confirmed breeders.
As I traveled from one block to another that same day, I birded along the way. A Prairie Falcon was sitting on a telephone pole. An extensive prairie dog town yielded, as I expected, several Burrowing Owls including a juvenile (too bad it wasn’t in a survey block!). Again, I spotted Long-billed Curlew (SIS). This time they were attacking the truck! You never know what you’ll see in a day of atlasing! I hope your atlasing adventures are just as fun.
Number 4, October 1997
Two Season Highlights
The intensive scrutiny of atlasing in parts of Oklahoma which may not normally receive much attention from birders has already resulted in some surprising discoveries. Just two of these are mentioned here.
Sebastian Patti of Chicago confirmed nesting of Short-eared Owls in Texas County. This is one of only a handful of known nests of this species in Oklahoma, and the others have been concentrated in the northeastern part of the state far from the Panhandle.
Lawrence Herbert of Joplin confirmed nesting of Cedar Waxwings in Ottawa County, again representing one of only a few reported nests of this species known for the state, this one much farther east than the other known nests.
A special thanks to all observers who sent in Special Interest Species Observation Forms this year. They are an important resource on Oklahoma bird life! (For a list of special interest species, scroll up to BBA News issue number 2 or go to the Special Interest Species page.)
News You Can Use
Missouri Breeding Bird Atlas has been published and is available for only $13 including shipping from: Brad Jacobs, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Make checks payable to the department.
A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds (Second Edition) by Paul J. Baicich and Colin J.O. Harrison has been published by Academic Press. It is available in bookstores or from the publisher at 1-800-321-5068.
A Field Guide to Warblers of North America by Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett is now available as part of the Peterson field guide series published by Houghton Mifflin.
Number 5, January 1998
A Confusing Subject
(New volunteers may want to skip this article until receiving and reading the project handbook.)
The atlasing data that were turned in for the 1997 season were very good. It was apparent, however, that the use of the Safe Dates code (code “S” in the POssible breeding status category) was not clearly understood by everyone. When you receive your 1998 atlasing packet (in late January), please review the Explanation of Safe Dates section on page 17 of the revised handbook, and the Safe Dates List itself starting on page 24.
In summary, the safe dates represent a time frame (which varies from species to species) during which the mere observation of that species is sufficient to record it as a POssible breeder rather than as an OBserved species. It is always better to look for evidence of breeding that would allow upgrading a species to the higher status of PRobable or COnfirmed breeder, but using safe dates will help you upgrade some species which would otherwise be relegated to the OBserved category.
Because using the safe dates code requires the use of the Safe Dates List in the back of the handbook, it may be most practical to sit down at home and review those species you recorded as OBserved that day to deter-mine if any of them qualify for upgrading to POssible status. It is best to do this each time you go atlasing, because it is necessary to record the date of your observation on the Species List Form when using the “S” code.
If you have any questions about using this code, please ask the atlas coordinator. Otherwise, just keep up the good work!
Hierarchy of Codes
Atlasers know that the four breeding status categories (OBserved, POssible, PRobable, and COnfirmed) are ranked from least certain as a breeder to most certain as a breeder, respectively.
What was never made clear last year is that within each status category, the codes are also listed in roughly the same order (i.e.code “A” ranks higher than “T”). This distinction is not critical in terms of the final publication (all COnfirmations, for example, will appear identically whether they were code “PE” or “AY”), but we encourage you to upgrade to the highest code possible within each category if you do make additional observations of any species that would qualify for a higher code. However, you need not lose any sleep over this issue if it becomes too much trouble. Finding more species is a better way to spend your time!
Number 6, March 1998
Announcing the Oklahoma Birds Listserv: OKbirds
Number 7, June 1998
The Black Mesa blocks were “Busted”!
On May 30th and 31st, we had a very successful blockbusting weekend in the Black Mesa region. Starting around 7 AM on Saturday May 30th, Dan Reinking and I, along with two volunteers, Janet Duerr and Steve Schafer, worked the atlas block between the north entrance to the state park and the Easter Pageant Road. We recorded a whopping 48 species as status Possible or higher, and an impressive 21 of these species were Confirmed in 11.25 hours of atlasing!
We found nests of Mississippi Kite, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds, Cliff Swallow, Rock Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Red-winged Blackbird and Bullock’s Oriole, located fledglings of Killdeer and Loggerhead Shrike, and watched nest attending (code AY) in American Kestrel, Eastern Phoebe, Common Raven, Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Western Meadowlark. Two Special Interest Species(SIS) were also recorded, Pinyon Jay and Lewis’ Woodpecker. The most unusual find was a Sora responding to a taped call. Soras are listed in the Date Guide to the Occurrence of Oklahoma Birds as rare in the Panhandle and are generally not found in the state past May 20th.
The Sunday blockbusting was just as successful as the previous day. The block was located on the southern slopes of the Mesa canyons. We recorded 46 species, 17 of which were COnfirmed in 10.1 hours of atlasing. We found nests of Mourning Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird (a SIS), Northern Flicker, Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds, Eastern Phoebe, Cliff Swallow, American Robin, Curve-billed Thrasher, Lark Sparrow and Bullock’s Oriole, fledglings of Say’s Phoebe (also an SIS), and parents attending young (code AY) of Northern Rough-winged Swallow, American Crow, Rock Wren, Northern Mockingbird, and Red-winged Blackbird.
The weekend atlasing was so successful that the atlas blocks were deemed finished, or “busted”. I look forward to as much success on our return trip to the blocks in the Ouachita National Forest later this month, June 16th and 17th (see the back page of this issue). I hope you can join us! View trip pictures
Blockbusting near Black Mesa: A Rewarding Experience
The species listed on the preceding page as being confirmed nesters in the two blocks we covered on May 30 and 31 give you some idea of what our weekend was like, but the experience was so much more than our list.
Being from the northeastern part of the state, I had been trying to acclimate to the unseasonably warm and humid weather we had been having. Atlasing and camping at a higher elevation just a few miles from New Mexico was a pleasant change. The weather was quite warm, but the low humidity rendered the heat much less oppressive, and the cool nighttime air provided a delicious contrast.
Although our group was small, Janet, Steve, Jeanette, and I had a productive two days of atlasing. We began shortly after dawn on both days, when long sleeves were almost a necessity. As is usually the case, the morning hours were the most productive time for atlasing, although we continued to get confirmations into the afternoon.
One interesting event was finding a Rock Wren nest in a “cave,” smaller than a tennis ball in diameter, that went about ten inches back into a sheer rock cliff. If you haven’t seen a Rock Wren nest before, this is not an unusual location for one, but what makes Rock Wren nests even more interesting is the trail they make leading into the nest.
Using small stones, or in this case irregular coin-sized flakes of rock, the male and female together pave a path leading from the crevice entrance all the way back into the nest. Hungry nestlings begged for food at the end of this “trail” when we peered into the opening. Nearby was another similar crevice, devoid of activity except for a paved path of rocks, that may have been an old nest.
Another thing that I found interesting, as I always do when birding in desert areas during the nesting season, is the tendency for several bird species to nest in cholla cacti. This makes sense from the standpoint of preventing nest predation; few predators are going to rob a nest in a cholla! But it must result in some awful pokes to the adult birds while building the nest and coming and going with food for nestlings. And think of the rude introduction to the real world the fledglings will have when they leave the nest!
The Curve-billed Thrasher account in the Birds of North America series states that cactus spines that interfere with the nest are “broken off with a vigorous twist of the head while being held in the bill.” Any sort of “vigorous twist” in a cholla is a brave act!
We found two Curve-billed Thrasher nests and a Northern Mockingbird nest in cholla on this trip. Canyon Towhees also use cholla for nesting. Consider this to be a good nest finding tip when you are atlasing where chollas are present!
The above examples are only a fraction of the many interesting “mini-discoveries” we made in two short days of atlasing. I’m sure all of you are making similar interesting discoveries in your own atlas blocks. I hope Janet and Steve will be back for future blockbusting trips and that many more of you will join us as we conduct several such trips to different parts of Oklahoma in each of the next three summers.
Number 8, July 1998
Assorted Observations on Atlasing
On carrying a camera:
A camera and lenses add considerable bulk and weight to your daypack. If you take them along, you are almost certain not to have occasion to use them. All the best photo ops happen when you have decided to “go light.”
Coolers, as the name implies, are marvelous little inventions which keep your perishables slightly cooler than, say, if you left them on the dash of your car.
On pre-packaged meals:
Several of these teeter precipitously on the threshold of edibility. Exercise caution when throwing out the remains—one careless act could sterilize several square feet of otherwise productive agricultural land.
On atlasing breakfasts:
Breakfast is a necessary evil for most atlasers. On the one hand, nobody wants to be stirring raisins in their oatmeal while birds are flying around with beaks full of whatever it takes to make little birds grow big and strong. On the other hand, the noon hour takes much too long to arrive if you faithfully began your atlasing a half-hour before sunrise. I have found that bagels provide sustenance with a minimum of preparation. One side effect to note, however: After three consecutive breakfasts of bagels from the same bag, you become about cantankerous enough to hop a fence into the next pasture and wrestle a bull for rights to the nearest water tank.
Owling with human company is infinitely more enjoyable than owling by yourself. It would be more enjoyable yet if owls ever showed up, but I doubt this ever happens. Most frequently, people find owls by dumb luck. In my experience tapes, squeaking, and imitation of their calls all fail equally well.
Most of us who have been atlasing for a few days look, and smell, a little like mountain men. This makes one understandably reticent to go into restaurants. Fortunately, however, most restaurants outside of suburbia seem pretty understanding so long as you don’t act like a mountain man.
On unplanned adventures:
A measure of angst accompanies breaking your binocular strap on the first day of a three-day trip. Once one ponders the inconvenience of keeping a hand permanently affixed to the optics, however, there exists sufficient motivation to find a way to jerry-rig a solution. Baling twine works nicely (keep it outside of your shirt’s collar!) if the mishap occurs in the right vicinity.
On water bottles and lip balm:
Has anyone else ever noticed that the greasy stuff you apply to your lips to protect them from the wind and sun leaves a disgusting taste around the rim of your water bottle?
On amorous (?) nighthawks:
The booming flight of the Common Nighthawk is well known and is said to be a courtship flight. Judging by the number of times I’ve been boomed, I must look pretty good to the male of the species. Really now, isn’t there a better explanation for this behavior—perhaps that they find a perverse sort of pleasure in terrorizing unsuspecting atlasers?
On Great-tailed Grackles:
There exists no middle ground of opinion regarding these birds. People either love them or hate them—even people with little familiarity with birds. If, per chance, you hear a wolf whistle behind you while atlasing, you must consider one of two alternatives: either you are fairly attractive and need to be a bit more careful about your person in this vicinity or you should add Great-tailed Grackle to your block list.
On surveying rural blocks:
When traveling in rural blocks, it’s not a bad idea to check in with the local authorities. Also, stop to chat with any locals you meet. In cattle country, “suspicious activity” by unknown persons (atlasing definitely falls under this category) represents sufficient cause for these well-meaning folks to mistake you for a cattle mutilator or some other miscreant. If you have strong feelings against the cattle industry, it is best to work blocks where your opinions carry little likelihood of getting you into arguments.
On crossing (fording) watercourses:
Half-way across a creek or river, when you realize your car is pushing water, is not the time to decide you should have scouted the shallowest path first.
On Killdeer and kingbirds:
In the avian world, surely only Killdeer and kingbirds die of heart attacks. No other species so desperately require an understanding of the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Alan lives in Colorado Springs and commutes to his Oklahoma atlas blocks. A special thanks to him and all of our out of state atlasers!
You are Invited!
All past, present, and future Oklahoma atlasers are invited to a wine and cheese reception from 4-6 pm on October 24 in Ada at the fall meeting of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society. Join us in celebrating the close of our second successful season. All contributing 1998 volunteers are also eligible for door prizes, even if you are not present.
July is still a good month for observing fledglings, but the 1998 atlasing season is fast coming to a close. Our season officially ends on August 15, and data should be sent in by August 31. It is very important that we receive your data by the deadline (or sooner!) because we need to review and enter all of the data into a computer and still have time to analyze it before the fall OOS meeting, where we want to share the results with you.
Here is a checklist you can follow when organizing your data for submission:
- Be sure the information requested at the top of each page is filled out.
- Improve any obvious legibility problems (you may be able to read your writing better than we can!)
- You may want to photocopy your forms in case they are lost in the mail, or in case you would like to refer to them again in the future. Be sure to submit the originals.
- Send your completed Block Visitation Forms, Species List Forms, Block Upgrade Forms (if used), and Special Interest Species Forms (if used) to the Atlas Coordinator (see the next column for the address).
- Keep your atlasing handbook in a safe place for use next year. No major revisions are planned.
Number 9, December 1998
Progress to Date
Thanks to your efforts in 1998, about 225 blocks have now been visited, about 200 of which are considered complete. We gained considerable momentum in 1998 compared to 1997. If we can get a bit more done in 1999 than we did this year, we will be on track to meet our goal of finishing in five years!
Jeanette Bider, our seasonal Field Coordinator, was able to do about 30 blocks this year! With help like that and the outstanding achievements of the dedicated volunteers from around Oklahoma and five other states, I think finishing in three more years is still a reasonable goal. Please see the sign-up information in the next article and on the enclosed sheet if you have not yet signed up for blocks to survey in 1999.
New! See Available Blocks
At the start of the atlas project last year, all 583 blocks were available for surveying. This meant that nearly all volunteers could pick with some precision where in the state they would like to survey. After two completed seasons of atlasing, blocks in many parts of the state are now finished. To help you choose from the (many!) remaining blocks, maps showing the locations of available blocks are now posted on the Internet at the Sutton Center’s web site. On the Breeding Bird Atlas Project page at www.suttoncenter.org you will find a link to a clickable Oklahoma map, divided into nine regions. Clicking on the region of your choice will bring up an enlarged map showing the locations of blocks, along with county lines, main highways, and chosen towns. An online sign-up form makes it easy to sign up for your blocks. We will try to keep these maps up-to-date as people sign up.
Some parts of the state, such as the northeastern region, are well on their way to being completed. Other areas, particularly the southeast and northwest, have a long ways to go. If you are willing to travel to these areas it would really be appreciated! Choctaw, Coal, Cotton, Garfield, Major, Pittsburg, LeFlore, and Dewey counties are especially underrepresented at this point.
Atlas Reception Held in Ada
A wine and cheese reception was held for atlas volunteers in conjunction with the fall meeting of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society in Ada on October 24. Both the weather and the company were terrific. Special thanks to Bill Carter for hosting the reception at his house, set amidst his many birdy acres. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher seen by Bonnie Gall was a late sighting indeed!
Later, at the banquet, an atlasers’ prize drawing was held. Bill Carter and JimmyWoodard each won a copy of Ravens in Winter. Patti Muzny and Jeff Cox each won a copy of A Stillness in the Pines. Melynda Hickman and Gene & Kaye Jenkins each won a 1999 songbirds calender. Aline Romero and Olen Thomas each won a set of hummingbird waterstone coasters. Congratulations to our lucky prize winners and thank you to all who volunteered for the atlas project this year.