Bird Studies Canada
Getting Our Feet Wet: Surveying Freshwater, Coastal and Forested Wetlands on Prince Edward Island
The long-term goal of the Marsh Monitoring Program is to monitor secretive wetland-dependent birds that are not well detected by other survey methods and for which we have little knowledge on population dynamics. These data are important for assessing species population trends, which ultimately provides a window into wetland health. In 2016, we re-surveyed 3 sites on PEI using point count and automated recording devices, detecting four of the program’s nine target wetland species, and an additional 60 other bird species using wetland habitats. These data provide necessary baseline data to begin to assess marsh health on the Island while providing important species population indices for a guild of birds not well detected by other survey methods (e.g. Breeding Bird Surveys) and likely in decline (as determined by The State of Canada’s Birds 2012).
The project goals revisited:
- Contact local watershed and conservation groups to assess interest in using protocols on lands. Due to proximity to one of the existing sites, the Kensington North Watershed Association was contacted and was eager to participate. A survey kit (playback speaker and mp3 player, data sheets, protocol etc.) were provided to the Association.
- Support volunteer “Citizen Scientists” in the collection of wetland bird data at randomly selected marshes on PEI. Two volunteers with the Kensington North Watershed Association completed three surveys at Indian River pond. These surveys detected two of our target species (Sora and Pied-billed Grebe), and a variety of other secondary species (e.g. Bank Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Yellowthroat).
- Complete pilot surveys for forested wetland bird species (several of which are Species at Risk) at randomly selected sites on PEI. Due to a delay in the selection of forested wetland patches, sites were not able to be surveyed in 2016; however, these patches have been vetted and will be surveyed in 2017. Bird Studies Canada technicians did complete surveys on PEI this spring/summer; at a coastal and a freshwater site established in 2015 (with funding from PEI WCF that year also), providing a second year of baseline data at these 2 sites. These two years of surveying help build the necessary annual baseline information to draw conclusions on species trends in subsequent years.
- Analyze collected data and report findings to project funders and partners. We are currently synthesizing a final report summarizing all data collected from the Maritimes Marsh Monitoring Program to provide partners and federal and provincial biologists. In short, mean species richness varied at the three sites surveyed in 2016, with highest species richness at Larkin’s Pond (the freshwater site), followed by Dunk River (coastal site), and Indian River Pond (freshwater site). Target species, Nelson’s Sparrow, Pied Billed Grebe, Sora and American Bittern were detected at one or more PEI wetland sites. Subsequent analysis with all data collected by the Marsh Monitoring Program will allow us to begin to investigate the species-habitat relationships for particular habitat categories.