A Sydney Bliss, an M.Sc candidate, at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS contacted me recently and needs the help of Georgia birders visiting our beaches from October through May. He is working with researchers at Dalhousie and Acadia Universities in eastern Canada on Ipswich Sparrows. One aspect of this research is a long-term demographic study. They have banded 263 sparrows with color bands as part of this study, and are now asking birders down the eastern US coast to keep their eyes peeled for their banded birds, and to report sightings of them over the winter (October-May)! Sydney has a poster (a PDF file) explaining the project and how to report sightings of banded Ipswich Sparrows. They are a small team and recruiting citizen scientists to help with this project is essential. This struck a chord with me as I remember that Max Medley and I once saw the Ipswich many years ago walking the dune path out to Jekyll Island South Beach!
Here is Sydney's write-up of the project and guidance for helping out:
The Ipswich Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps) is a subspecies of Savannah Sparrow that breeds on Sable Island, Nova Scotia. In the fall, Ipswich Sparrows migrate to the NS mainland, then to their wintering grounds in the eastern U.S. They winter anywhere from Massachusetts to Georgia, but are found in the highest densities in New Jersey and Virginia. In the spring, they return to Sable Island.
To better understand these birds, researchers in eastern Canada have begun a long-term demographic study. 263 sparrows have been banded on Sable Island with unique combinations of colored bands, which allow individual birds to be identified. Our sparrows have one colored band on the right leg and three colored bands on the left leg. From the proportion of birds that are seen again (or re-sighted), we can estimate how many survive at each stage of their migration. The results of this study will help us better understand the structure of the Ipswich Sparrow population.
A big challenge is finding the color-banded birds after they have dispersed from Sable Island. With so many beaches occupied by Ipswich Sparrows, we need help looking for them! Look for Ipswich Sparrows on the eastern U.S. coastline in winter (primarily November to April), especially in sandy beach dune habitat. If you see a banded Ipswich Sparrow, please report it! Tell us where you saw the bird, its band colors (from top to bottom on each leg), and the date. Please include photos if possible! If you find a sparrow but could not see all of its bands, please report that as well.
Reports can be submitted via email (<ipswichsparrows...>), eBird (include color band combinations in checklist comments), or Facebook. Project updates and more information can be found on Facebook, and on our promotional poster: