I can report that we are off to a great start in Muskoka but there is still a lot to be done. I would like to thank you all for your efforts so far and hope that you can continue to the end of the project. Last year breeding evidence was submitted for 37 of our 49 squares and at least one point count was done in 13 squares. We still have 15 squares that have not been assigned, mostly in the north of the region, but also some easily accessible near Huntsville, Rosseau, and Kahshe Lake. I have asked the atlas office for help in completing the northern squares.
Breeding evidence collection for 4 squares is now considered complete with more than 20 hours of atlasing done and greater than 75% of species expected found. In Muskoka Region I am using 80 species as the 75% figure. In all of Muskoka in 2001, breeding evidence for 148 species was found. Some of the good finds were Sandhill Crane, Least Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Sedge Wren, and Brewer's Blackbird. For a complete species list go to 2001 species list. For a list of square statistics go to 2001 square statistics.
This year I expect that several more squares will be completed and many of the squares with no data will be started. If your square is complete you should consider taking on one of the other squares still unassigned. You should also be trying to upgrade the breeding evidence of species in your square and looking for species that are more difficult to find, mainly owls and rails. To help with this the Atlas has produced some CD's and tapes and a survey protocol for owls. You can read about this in the April 2002 Atlas newsletter. The CD also has recordings of marsh birds, rails, Least Bittern etc. I have some copies of these so let me know if you would like one.
We also need to get started on point counts as the atlas has set a goal of completing 33% of the required point counts by the end of this breeding season. We are off to a good start and feedback I received recently suggests that we will meet the target. In Muskoka we are aiming at 25% coverage i.e. only 25% of the squares need to have the 25 point counts completed. The priority squares are highlighted in yellow on the Muskoka square statistics web page and if you are planning on doing some counts you should try to do some of these. Please contact me if you need to know where point counts are needed. I would like to caution you that you should NOT do point counts if, when you are counting, there is more than one song at any point that you can not identify or you have a hearing impairment which prevents you from hearing some species e.g. Brown Creeper. The reason is that these counts will be used to estimate abundance and must be done with the same degree of accuracy across the province. If you can not do point counts and your square is a priority, someone else will be assigned to do it for you.
Need some help with bird calls? The atlas office has released another CD called "Bluebird" which installs on your computer and gives you a photo of each bird and a recording of its song. You can select a list of species which is found in our area and run a quiz to help you learn. I have tested it and found that it works quite well. I have some copies so let me know if you would like one.
You should keep a master card for each square you are working on and also start a new card for each year's data. At the end of the breeding season transcribe the new data onto your master and submit only the new card. You need only record visit numbers on the new card for species you have not recorded previously. Also you are encouraged to use the casual observation cards to submit data from other squares where you observed breeding evidence but were not doing atlasing.
The main problems with last year's data were cards that were difficult to scan because the codes were not written neatly inside the boxes and many of the Rare/Colonial forms that were required by the atlas protocol were not submitted. Please review the articles on these topics in the April 2002 Atlas Newsletter.
R/C forms are required for any species marked as Rare (provincially or regionally), any species not listed, or any species marked as colonial on the species summary sheets. If you need a Muskoka species summary sheet you can print one for any Muskoka square by going to the atlas web site or contact me and I will send you one. You should also note that some changes were made to the Muskoka species list.
R/C forms are NOT required for:
R/C forms are NOW required for:
Another problem with the data last year was H and S breeding evidence records for species seen on dates before their normal breeding season. These birds were likely migrants and should not have been entered on the card. The breeding dates for each species is recorded on the species summary sheet and should be referred to if there is any question that a bird is a migrant.
Finally I recommend that you read (and re-read) the atlas manual and newsletters carefully and refer to them if you are not sure of anything. You should also look at the Muskoka specific notes I prepared on atlassing certain species. These should help answer questions on what codes to use for some problem species and give you tips on what species to look for and where to find them.
Al Sinclair, firstname.lastname@example.org, 705-645-2848