Date: 6/28/19 2:01 pm
From: Alex Rinkert <arinkert12...>
Subject: [MBBIRDS] atlas update
Atlasers and others interested,



The Santa Cruz County Breeding Bird Atlas II is moving along. We are now
well through the third year of field work out of five years anticipated.
This puts the project over the half way mark! Good progress is being made in
areas of Santa Cruz County where there was little atlasing in previous years
and many new and rare observations are improving the knowledge of our
breeding birds.



The atlasing season began in March and since then atlasers have spent over
1,100 hours in the field-wow! The project is truly powered by the many
atlasers that are participating. There have been many highlights through
early June, some of which are below.



Extensive atlasing in the Pajaro Hills east of Watsonville have found some
rare species are breeding more widely than was previously known. Numerous
pairs of Blue Grosbeaks and Western Kingbirds, as well as Lark Sparrow are
among those whose breeding status and distribution is changing as a result
of atlasing in areas rarely visited. Other nice finds so far include a
Hermit Warbler nest at Big Basin State Park and an American Bittern nest at
Pinto Lake. Very few nests of these species have previously been found in
the county.



For some species such as Western Bluebird, atlasers are documenting the
continued recovery of the local breeding population. Atlasers are revealing
just how widespread this species really is now as new breeding locations
continue to be discovered, the latest being at Arana Gulch where they
immediately took to the new nest boxes placed there earlier in spring. Other
species such as the Tricolored Blackbird are still on the decline as
apparent from atlasers noting most recently active colonies are vacant.



In addition to longer term population changes, atlasers are documenting
annual fluctuations for some breeding species such as colonial waterbirds.
Pelagic Cormorants are doing poorly this year compared to 2018; there are
about 65% fewer active nests than last year, and half the colonies in the
county have been abandoned. While not as dramatic of a drop, there are also
about 25% fewer Great Blue Heron nests than last year.



We are also learning more about the phenology of many species-when the nest
building, nesting, and fledgling periods are in the year. The many
observations from backyards where breeding activity is frequently and easily
observable greatly contribute to understanding the phenology of our breeding
species.



There are still about six weeks left of the atlasing season and there is no
better time to go look for breeding activity than now. Most species are
still breeding and can be seen carrying food and tending to recently fledged
young. My thanks to the atlasers for contributing so many observations and
the many supporters whose donations keep the project moving forward. I look
forward to sharing cumulative results in the atlas annual report and more
highlights in the Albatross later this year.



Alex Rinkert

Atlas Director

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