Flight Log 7, Summer 1998
Partnerships for Stewardship: Vandenberg AFB Leads the Way by Daniel Evans
Establishment of Migration Monitoring Networks by C.J. Ralph
New Sites Added to Riparian Conservation Project by Grant Ballard
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Point Reyes Bird Observatory
California Partners in Flight organizations will have significant opportunities over the next six months to influence and participate in the CALFED Bay-Delta Program. Public scrutiny of the Bay-Delta Program is currently focused on the selection of one of three alternatives for securing CaliforniaÕs water supply, each of which includes significant new water storage and diversions. The Riparian Habitat Joint Venture (RHJV) and Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) are, however, limiting our focus to the Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP), one of six common elements proposed as part of the Bay-Delta solution. Despite its emphasis on anadromous fish, the ERP will clearly have profound impacts on CaliforniaÕs bird populations. Over the next 20 to 30 years, CALFEDÕs restoration expenditures are expected to top $1 billion. Already over $32 million have been granted for riparian protection and restoration projects in the Central Valley, and an additional $900,000 for wetland restoration in the Delta and north Bay. Proposed ecosystem restoration goals include increasing riparian habitat in the Central Valley by up to 24,000 acres, and increasing tidal/saline emergent marsh in the Delta and Suisun Bays by up to 13,500 acres.
The first round of public comment on the Environmental Impact Report/Environmental
Impact Statement for the Bay Delta Program closed on July 1, 1998. Both
the RHJV and PRBO submitted comments. Our focus was (1) the need for greater
integration of the CALFED program with the RHJVÕs Riparian Bird
Conservation Plan and (2) the utility of bird monitoring in facilitating
adaptive management. A copy of the comments submitted may be obtained from
the PRBO or RHJV websites (see below). Another round of public comment
on the preferred alternative for the Bay-Delta is scheduled to occur later
in the year (12/98).
The RHJV and PRBO have been following the unfolding of the ERP and its adaptive management component. We are seeking to ensure proper restoration and management of habitats to benefit birds and other terrestrial species by working with three aspects of CALFEDÕs developing monitoring program, all of which are proceeding collaboratively on parallel tracks. They are (1) the Comprehensive Monitoring, Assessment and Research Program (CMARP), (2) the Indicators Group, and (3) CALFEDÕs Strategic Plan for Ecosystem Restoration.
The CMARP will be CALFEDÕs vehicle for adaptive management of ecosystem restoration and management actions. In addition, it will also most likely be the program used by California Dept. of Fish & Game, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to monitor the effects of Bay-Delta projects and mitigation actions on listed and sensitive species.
The Indicators Group is a group of experts which includes CALFED staff, agency staff and stakeholders. The Indicators Group is developing a list of appropriate indicators of ecosystem function and habitat health, which will then be incorporated into CMARP.
CALFED is developing the Strategic Plan for Ecosystem Restoration in place of their originally proposed adaptive management program (Volume 3 of the Ecosystem Restoration Program Plan released in summer of 1997). CALFED staff, working closely with a Òcore teamÓ of scientific advisors, is drafting the plan which is scheduled for release and public comment in August 1998. The Strategic Plan will incorporate elements of the CMARP and the Indicators Group, as well as the framework for a Bay-Delta Science Program.
As initially defined in 1997, the ERP adaptive management plan overlooked
the extensive amount of bird data that California Partners in Flight participants
had collected in riparian habitats of the Central Valley. Bird monitoring
was also neglected as a technique for assessing the success of restoration
projects. For example, opportunities to benefit neotropical migratory bird
habitats were to be identified simply by using aerial photographs.
The Riparian Habitat Joint Venture (RHJV) Implementation Board held their spring meeting March 31, 1998 in Sacramento, California. The Board, led by outgoing chair Daniel Taylor of Audubon-California, was impressed by a multimedia presentation on the Riparian Bird Conservation planning process and other recent undertakings of the RHJV Technical Committee and expressed unanimous support for this innovative conservation planning approach.
Featured speakers at the meeting provided the context for RHJV planning efforts. Peter Stangel, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Director of Migratory Bird Conservation Initiative, presented an overview of the history of Partners in Flight (PIF), and the current impetus to create a national Bird Conservation Plan. Geoff Geupel, Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) and California PIF co-chair, elaborated on the California Flight Plan as a model for habitat driven bird conservation activities. Then, RHJV Coordinator Lyann Comrack provided the history and current status of the RHJV.
The heart of the program centered on the Riparian Bird Conservation Plan (BCP) - theory and application (see FLIGHT LOG #5, #6 for background of BCPs). Greg Elliot, NFWF & PRBO, explained that this process was designed to look at the needs of a complete range of riparian species and their habitats statewide. Through examination of riparian bird species information, experts were able to extract the commonalities and differences of the individual species requirements. Further synthesis of this information will lead to an Action Plan Summary. Here, key recommendations will be developed in the following categories: target populations and locations, habitat acquisition and restoration, management recommendations, and monitoring and research. These recommendations will be offered to guide the conservation efforts statewide. A draft of the BCP is expected in late July, 1998.
Biologists and planners have already discovered the value of bird conservation planning. Using the San Joaquin River Bioregional Plan as an example, Grant Ballard, PRBO and Paula Landis, Bureau of Reclamation, demonstrated how the bird models do have a real-world application. The San Joaquin River Bioregional Plan proponents are using current riparian habitat and the RHJV bird data to create a predictive model which will guide that proposed restoration project. RHJV further plans to provide these data to other bioregional groups to assist in local planning efforts and also to improve their quality by incorporating information from local sources.
Two new members to the RHJV were welcomed, California Department of Water Resources and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, bringing the total membership to eighteen cooperating agencies and organizations. In addition to the new members, representatives from many of the other cooperators were in attendance: Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Fish and Game, California State Lands Commission, National Audubon Society, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Resources Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Service, and Wildlife Conservation Board.
At the close of the meeting, Dan Evans, PRBO, graciously accepted the challenge to guide the RHJV through the next year of change as the new Chair of the Implementation Board. He scheduled the next Board meeting for October, 1998 at which time the completed Bird Conservation Plan will be revealed.
With all the negative news these days of global warming, increased pollution, declining species, and alien invasions, do you ever wonder if there is any good news from the natural world? Take heart; I am happy to report that the national Partners In Flight program is promoting some innovative conservation solutions. A key to that success has been creation of partnerships for better stewardship.
One example of a unique partnership -- a relatively new one -- involves the Department of Defense. That's right, the DOD has recently adopted a policy to "promote and support the protection and conservation of neotropical migratory birds and their habitat by protecting vital habitat, enhancing biodiversity, and maintaining healthy, productive natural systems on their lands." So how does this translate into action? DOD natural resource staff are becoming more involved with PIF and now include bird components in their land management programs.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the DOD has all the ingredients for creative conservation. Take Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California as a model. All the key components are there -- an extensive land base to work with, institutional goals, and dedicated people to make it happen. Created in the early 1940s as an army tank and artillery training area, Vandenberg now supports a wide range of military, NASA, and commercial missile launch programs under the Air Force. This year I had the opportunity to visit and tour the base, situated in the transitional zone where vegetation types from northern and southern California overlap. I was struck by the beauty and great habitat diversity of the area. One of its most impressive features is an expansive 35 mile stretch of undeveloped coastline with rocky cliffs and long sandy beaches. Abundant sea otters, Snowy Plovers, and Least Terns in their nesting colonies clearly show a marine and coastal paradise. More importantly for neotropical migrants are the 98,000 acres of highly varied terrain. Three of California's most threatened habitats are well represented: coastal scrub, riparian stretches, and oak woodlands. With my experience concentrated in the Central Valley, where riparian areas are patchy and generally uninspiring, Vandenberg AFB gave me a new perspective. Extensive, nearly impenetrable willow, cottonwood and box elder jungles provide unbroken expanses of ideal nesting habitat. No wonder ten of California's priority riparian species commonly breed at Vandenberg.
Throughout the state, improving land stewardship means bucking historic grazing practices. Vandenberg AFB has created a new and improved model, which is being implemented by range manager Craig Nathe; grazing has been reduced from over 60,000 to about 23,000 acres. With these changes, grazing has become a management tool to enhance the competitive advantage of native plants, especially perennial grasses. Sensitive wetland areas are protected by fencing. Because of the controlled grazing policy, Vandenberg's extensive oak woodlands provide a unique opportunity to study how grazing and fire affect oak regeneration and wildlife diversity.
In the true spirit of partnership, Vandenberg AFB relies on many other cooperators. The Nature Conservancy wrote the base's range management plans, providing recommendations to improve cattle management in native habitats. Point Reyes Bird Observatory and others are conducting bird surveys. The Predatory Bird Research Group of UC Santa Cruz has reestablished a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons along the coast. Additional studies are conducted through nearby UC Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
I am happy to say that the efforts at Vandenberg AFB have not gone unnoticed. The DOD's highest achievement honors have been given to both Allan Naydol, Chief of Natural Resources, and Nancy Read, Wildlife Biologist. Al received the DOD's highest recognition in natural resources management, the Thomas D. White award three times as an individual and four times for the entire base. Nancy recently has been named as top natural resource manager for 1995 - 1996. As a result of the dedicated efforts of the Natural Resources staff, Vandenberg was also recognized as the top base in their command for natural resource management from 1996 - 1997. Vandenberg AFB also received the highest award offered by the Air Force in 1993 and the second highest award in the entire Department of Defense.
Never satisfied that they have done enough, Al, Nancy, and the base botanist, Chris Gillespie, have special projects underway to control exotic plants, particularly pampas grass, and to remove old buildings that occupy potentially valuable habitat or unnaturally increase predator populations. Native Monterey pines are being planted to reestablish natural forest habitat. PRBO is also working with the base to monitor nesting Snowy Plovers, the highest concentration of Snowy Plovers anywhere in the state.
The conservation and stewardship model established at Vandenberg AFB sets a standard for all public and private lands. Military and commercial uses have been integrated with natural resource programs to enhance and protect biodiversity in an array of threatened habitat types. As California's population continues to increase, we must constantly seek creative solutions like these. To achieve the national Partners In Flight goal of keeping common birds common, we must make every inch of habitat as wildlife friendly as possible. If the DOD can do it in their backyard, why can't we follow their example in other areas?
Note: Vandenberg AFB is a military installation, with restricted public access. However, the Ocean Beach and Santa Ynez River estuary provide excellent opportunities for public birding: For more information call 805-734-8232 ext. 6-6804.
Bird conservation in California is limited by the number of trained individuals who can accurately monitor bird populations and numbers throughout the state. Audubon-California is in an ideal position to address this problem. We have 53 chapters throughout the state and a membership totaling over 60,000 individuals. These individuals are avid bird watchers and lovers; and Audubon members are some of the best at species identification in California. If our members could be trained in standardized monitoring techniques, and are provided the tools to monitor birds such that their data could be readily analyzed by biologist, the current shortage of sufficiently trained personnel would be eliminated. California would be able to build and extensive statewide database on its diverse avifaunal resources and fully develop the state Important Bird Areas (IBA) program.
With this in mind, Audubon-California, Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) and th Riparian Habitat Joint Venture (RHJV) with funding from California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), held the first annual Standardized Bird Monitoring Techniques Training Workshop for Audubon-California chapter members at PRBO's Palomarin Station April 20 - 24, 1998. Audubon members were given full scholarships to attend this week long field training session. Volunteers from Napa-Solano, Tulare County, North Cuesta, Sacramento, Ohlone, Yolo and Marin Audubon Societies were trained in various monitoring techniques such as point counts, area searches, spot mapping, nest monitoring, mist netting, and vegetation assessment. The training session included a classroom setting where members received introductions and detailed descriptions of each monitoring technique. Afterwards, they were taken into the field to apply their new knowledge and gain the hands on experience the workshop was designed for. Participants were also educated in protocols and uses of census and demographic data, design and implementation of programs, training of volunteers, and data management. This is a great opportunity for our chapters to learn these techniques and the skills to analyze their data,announced Dan Taylor, Executive Director for Audubon-California. I would like to see chapter enrollment increase for next year.
Sacramento Audubon Society manages BobElaine Sanctuary just south of Yuba City. Sanctuary Manager John Ranlett found the training very useful for providing background into various bird census techniques that could provide useful information for management decisions and activities in the sanctuary. We would like to conduct an integrated sanctuary-wide bird censusing program here at BobElaine, he reported. We want to incorporate point counts and vegetation assessments with our ongoing MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship), mist-netting, and area searches for a more detailed description of the avian community at the sanctuary. By using these techniques, we may be able to determine how habitat quality relates to population trends and thus, use this knowledge in management applications.Barbara Hopkins from Tulare County Audubon Society also added, I appreciate the generous sharing of appropriate literature and monitoring handbook.
The class provided a tremendous amount of useful and applicable information.
We are undertaking bird research at three sites of riparian restoration, pending or active. In the Upper Stony Creek Watershed, near Elk Creek, crew leader Hilary Cooke and field assistants are investigating the response of birds to changes in grazing activity by local ranchers, who have acted in collaboration with Dennis Nay of the NRCS. The effect of those changes in grazing are dramatic: previously annual streams are now perennial, native perennial grasses have increased, as have willow shoots, and the ranchers feel the quality and quantity of forage has improved. Early results reveal similar improvement in the bird community's abundance and diversity patterns.
A second year of monitoring by Hilary and her crew is underway at nearby East Park Reservoir, and the surrounding riparian habitat on BOR land. East Park Reservoir is one of the few sites in the Sacramento Valley where Song Sparrows still breed successfully, and is well known for its Tricolored Blackbird populations.
The last site of our collaborative activities is on the headwaters of the Fall River north of Burney, where a private land owner is attempting to restore stream function by rechanneling a heavily incised stream. We are hoping to evaluate how effective these different restoration activities are in restoring riparian bird communities, and, in turn, how different riparian bird species may indicate different aspects of proper functioning conditions of streams.
During the meeting of the Monitoring Working Group of Partners in Flight at the St. Louis meetings (April 1998) a meeting was held of those folks interested in establishing or contributing to one or more Migration Monitoring Networks in the United States and elsewhere. In the past couple of years, a joint U.S. and Canada working group (The Migration Monitoring Council) has established methods for census monitoring on a wide scale (Dunn and Butcher), and also for single locations, such as observatories (Hussell and Ralph) that would make up a network. These two documents are available on the web at the Monitoring Working Group's web page: http://www.rsl.psw.fs.fed.us/pif/. This past year, the Canadians have established such a network under the auspices of Bird Studies Canada (Long Point Bird Observatory), details of which are available from the web: http://www.bsc-eoc.org/cmmn.html.
The objective of Migration Monitoring Networks is to establish and coordinate
a series of landbird monitoring stations, using netting and census, across
North America. The Canadians have formalized this into an organization.
In a meeting in April, they went forward in establishing criteria for a
station's inclusion in their network and set standards for operation of
the "Canadian Migration Monitoring Network." The minutes of this
very interesting meeting are available from Charles
M. Francis (email@example.com) at Bird Studies Canada (P.O. Box
160, Port Rowan, Ontario N0E 1M0; 519-586-3531). Principal conclusions
were as follows:
2. A standard period of netting, continued through the seasons and over years is essential.
3. A protocol for each station's effort should be written and updated.
4. The draft criteria for designation of a station to be in the Network were discussed.
5. Suggestions for fund-raising and possible national cooperative funding were outlined.
6. Potential cooperative projects were outlined.
7. The problems of habitat change at a station were discussed.
8. Bander training and ethics, volunteer recruitment, and ageing and sexing were also topics of groups.
2. Maintain a database of stations monitoring migration in the United States.
3. Develop a dialogue on the advantages and disadvantages of the various standards and methods for monitoring migration.
4. Determine if any organization(s) would be willing, at least in an interim basis, to volunteer to be a coordinator for one of the Networks, whether it be a regional or multi-state one.
5. By communication via e-mail, establish a draft of the role of a local, regional, or national Network, that could include training and communication, as well as providing data entry, data management, editing, and repositories.
6. Hold a meeting in the early winter (ca. November) to organize and discuss the formation and maintenance of Networks.
I think it is safe to say that all of those involved to date consider the above, as well as the protocol, as being discussion drafts only. While there are many advantages to cooperative efforts, it will be up to the individual stations to determine its role in the study of migration.
in Flight Meeting:
¥Shorebird and Migrant Monitoring on Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge
¥San Diego Breeding Bird Atlas Project Update
¥Least Bell's Vireo and Cowbird Control
¥Bird Monitoring as a Component of Land Stewardship
¥Audubon Important Bird Area Program
¥Natural Community Conservation Program (NCCP) Update.
Accurate, precise, and consistent aging of after-hatch-year birds has far-reaching conservation and management implications since it is necessary for estimating recruitment rates of SY and ASY birds. These data, in turn, will allow inferences to be made regarding immigration and emigration rates and first-year survival rates. Information on these parameters are very difficult to obtain by any other means. IBP encourages all MAPS cooperators to participate in this study by providing the requested data on as many AHY birds as possible, including recaptures. Check your maps manual (pp. 28-29 ) on methods for collecting these data.
Guide to North
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California Dept. of Fish & Game: www.dfg.ca.gov
Coyote Creek Riparian Station: members.aol.com/NEOBIRD/index.html
Flight Log Online: www.prbo.orgcalpif/flightlog/flightlog.htm
The Information Center for the Environment (ICE): ice.ucdavis.edu
Institute for Bird Populations: www.birdpop.org/
La Tangara Online: www.rsl.psw.fs.fed.us/pif/news.html
National Audubon Society: www.audubon.org/
National Partners In Flight Home Page: www.pwrc.nbs.gov/pif/
Point Reyes Bird Observatory: www.prbo.org
USDA Forest Service, Redwood Sciences Laboratory (also home of the Monitoring & Working Group and International Working Group pages): www.rsl.psw.fs.fed.us/pif/index.html
Flight Log Number 7, Summer 1998 was edited by Grant Ballard, Mike Lynes and Geoff Geupel. Designed by Grant Ballard and Mike Lynes. Web design by Mike Lynes
We would like to thank the following sponsors: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the Winifred and Harry B. Allen Foundation, Chevron Corporation, and the Shell Oil Company Foundation.
Point Reyes Bird Observatory