The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Division of Fish and Wildlife is seeking additional volunteers to participate in the 2nd Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas, a five-year project in which volunteers document where a wide variety of bird species are making nests, laying eggs, and raising young throughout the First State.


   The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife is seeking additional volunteers to participate in the 2nd Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas, a five-year project in which volunteers document where a wide variety of bird species are making nests, laying eggs, and raising young throughout the First State.
    “As a volunteer citizen science project on a grand scale, the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas is open to anyone who would like to contribute. Although basic knowledge of birds and bird identification is helpful, atlasing is also a great way to learn bird identification and experience the diverse avian community Delaware has to offer,” said Anthony Gonzon, Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator.
   Free training on atlasing methods will be provided at two upcoming seminars, both from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Saturday, May 2 at the Brandywine Creek State Park Nature Center in Wilmington and Sunday, May 3 at Cape Henlopen State Park’s Biden Center in Lewes. Both will begin with an indoor lecture and conclude following a short field trip walk around the area. Participants are asked to pre-register due to space limitations.
    In 2008, more than 80 active volunteers spent more than 2,000 hours in the field observing birds and recording their behaviors using breeding codes. During 2008, 169 different bird species were recorded, with 124 confirmed to be nesting here in the First State. Twenty-three more species were considered likely breeders, but could not be confirmed. In total, more than 20,000 individual observations were reported for 2008, from 179 of the atlas’s 265 10-square-mile blocks into which the state is divided.
     By mapping the distribution of breeding birds, the atlas will provide a current snapshot reference of bird populations to be used by biologists, birders, educators, students and anyone interested in Delaware’s avian inhabitants. Also, at the conclusion of the project in 2012, the results can be compared to the first Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas conducted from 1983-1987 to show change over time. The information also will assist the Division of Fish and Wildlife in addressing significant population changes and new conservation needs, especially for declining species.
    These records are already beginning to tell a story of change in Delaware. For example, tree swallows have shown a population increase. Volunteers recorded probable or confirmed evidence of breeding tree swallows in 45 blocks, three more than the first atlas – likely due to the increased use of nest boxes and nest box programs initially intended for Eastern bluebirds.
   Some species not known to breed in Delaware during the first atlas have expanded their range into Delaware since 1987 and have been reported with varying degrees of breeding evidence in 2008. These species include sharp-shinned hawk (first confirmed pair in 2007) and cliff swallows (confirmed after the first atlas and still present). In addition, dickcissel, bobolink, and pine siskin all had breeding evidence observed in 2008.
   “In 2009, we intend to confirm those species for which we have probable evidence, if possible,” Gonzon said, adding that volunteers are continuing to discover and examine nest boxes and other nesting sites.
   Lastly, the Northern bobwhite had confirmed or probable breeding evidence in 210 blocks during the first atlas. However, similar evidence was recorded from only 18 blocks in 2008. This species is highly detectable by the typical male “bob-white” call, but these records coincide with the regional trend in bobwhite populations. 
    “Although the first year of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas was very successful in launching the five-year survey, 2009 brings new challenges and the need for more volunteers. In 2009, the goal is to adequately cover even more of the First State, especially in western Kent and Sussex counties. Also, in 2009, additional surveys are being planned to locate and collect information about some species that are simply hard to find,” Gonzon said.
    There is no fee to attend the volunteer training seminars, but state park entrance fees are in effect. For more information or to register, please contact Anthony Gonzon, Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas project coordinator, at 302-653-2880.
    Project partners in the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas are the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife, Delaware Audubon, the Delaware Museum of Natural History, the Delaware Nature Society, the Delmarva Ornithological Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.