Written by: Jeanette Kelly, Citizen Science Director at Beaver Creek Reserve
In 2003, a group of committed bird loving citizen scientists started an intensive monitoring and banding program called MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity & Survivorship). The purpose of MAPS is to annually assess the nesting success and population of breeding birds. The data we collect is combined with regional and national MAPS stations and contributes to larger studies.
Every time we visit Henke Acres it is exciting to know that each day is different and something new may appear. We track every species we observe, along with every bird trapped and banded. We have observed 123 species, trapped over 2,000 birds and banded 65 different species.
The best part of a summer bird program is that along with birds being dressed for success in their showy breeding plumage, many of the birds are returning from migration and are only seen here during the summer. We see flashes of the rainbow as Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, American Goldfinches and Indigo Buntings flit through the trees. We work together to decipher the mysterious calls of the Golden-winged (species of special concern), Chestnut-sided, and Yellow Warblers.
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The birds and the research are significant in providing information to make management decisions for the property. Our efforts have also helped secure funding for the restoration of Henke Acres.
Henke Acres is a fantastic piece of land full of mosquitoes, ticks, wet grass, uneven ground and many surprises. But what I find most amazing about my time at Henke Acres is the commitment by the citizen scientists. When I asked them why, year after year, they wake up early to endure such hardships, these are the responses I received: Learning something new every single time. The camaraderie of working side by side with a fantastic, fun, dedicated group of people. One of the most intimate ways that a human can “connect with nature”. Improving my skills. Learning from each other. Pride. My tiny direct contribution to saving the planet. The diversity, there is always something new. Hope. Studying birds who have traveled from tropical regions. The anticipation. The exhaustion of a great morning done. Contributing to the larger world of science. Knowing that someday other, younger folks will walk these same paths completing this same, important work.
Henke Acres is 240 acres in eastern Eau Claire County owned by Beaver Creek Reserve and protected in perpetuity through Landmark Conservancy. This conservation easement will allow for a long future of bird monitoring and protection.