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Community Science

Research Oregon wildlife as a citizen scientist

Black-headed Grosbeak - Scott Carpenter
Audubon volunteers regularly encounter male Black-headed Grosbeaks like this during point counts - Scott Carpenter

The Audubon Society of Portland has long been a pioneer in getting citizens involved in wildlife research. Our community science projects (sometimes referred to as “citizen science”) span the urban environment here in Portland to projects statewide including on the Oregon coast. We engage members of the public to help us better understand  the ecology, biology, and natural history of birds and other wildlife so we can more effectively accomplish our conservation efforts. 

These efforts play an invaluable role in helping us track, understand and manage wildlife populations, as well as help influence public policy. Participation in these projects is a great way to have fun, learn about the natural world, and make a difference for wildlife. Oregon hosts 486 species of birds – making it the fifth richest in avian diversity in the nation. If you have a  desire to learn, a love of birds and the patience to observe the natural world, consider joining one or more of the projects listed below.

For more information about the community science projects listed below, contact Joe Liebezeit at jliebezeit@audubonportland.org.

Black Oystercatcher Monitoring – May Through August
Portland Audubon is monitoring Black Oystercatchers on the coast to help better understand this species’ use of rocky intertidal habitats in/near the recently designated network of Oregon’s marine reserves/protected areas. We are partnering on this project with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, building on their long-term annual monitoring efforts for this unique species of conservation concern. View the abundance survey protocol and abundance data sheet, and nest monitoring protocol and nest monitoring data sheet. View the report from our monitoring in 2015. View the report from our monitoring in 2016.

Cape Perpetua BioBlitz
Portland Audubon is partnering with a number of groups on the central coast (including U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Parks, academic researchers) leading a “BioBlitz” to develop a database of species presence in the Cape Perpetua greater area along Oregon’s central coast. This area has been designated a ‘Globally Significant Important Bird Area’ for the Marbled Murrelet.  Field observations are entered directly into iNaturalist – an easy to use database platform.  Click here for more information.

 

Christmas Bird Count
The Christmas Bird Count is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society. It's an early-winter bird census in which volunteers follow routes through designated 15-mile diameter circles, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally — all individual birds are counted, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. The data collected by observers over the past century allows researchers and conservation biologists to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. Learn more about the Portland Christmas Bird Count.

Fernhill Wetlands Bird Surveys – All Year, Starting in Spring 2015
Fernhill Wetlands is an important birding location in the Portland metro region and has been officially designated as an Important Bird Area. Audubon is partnering with Clean Water Services to monitor bird response to an ambitious effort to enhance wetland habitat while at the same time improving wastewater treatment. Audubon is coordinating birders to perform year-round bird surveys at the site with data entered directly into eBird. More intensive point count surveys will also be performed. View the Fernhill bird survey protocol. View the Preliminary Report. 

Great Backyard Bird Count
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual, four-day event in February that asks bird watchers nationwide to count birds. Anyone can participate, from beginners to experts. You can count for as little as 15 minutes for just a single day, or you can count for as long as you like for all four days. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s easy. Participants count birds anywhere they wish during the four day period. Then, they record the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report a count, just fill out the online checklist at the GBBC website or mail in the paper version.

Hayden Island Cat Project – Fall Surveys (other opportunities throughout the year)
The Audubon Society of Portland is conducting free-roaming cat surveys on Hayden Island. The survey information will be used to develop a population estimate of feral cats on the island. We will then work with our partners, including the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon, to minimize the feral cat population using a variety of humane methods that will include increasing spay/neuter efforts, an education campaign, and other methods to limit the impact of cats on wildlife – all while ensuring cats are cared for. View project brochure | View field sampling protocol. | View 2015 Report Results

Marbled Murrelet Training and Survey - Every July
This annual event in Yachats, Ore., starts with an evening program about Marbled Murrelet biology and conservation, followed by a predawn on-the-ground survey the next morning! This is a unique opportunity to learn from top murrelet researchers in the state, to witness murrelets in flight during nest exchange, and to see murrelets foraging in nearshore waters. Generally takes place in July. Learn more.

Pacific Brown Pelican survey – Spring and Fall Survey
Portland Audubon is teaming up with Audubon California, Audubon Washington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to conduct West Coast-wide biannual Brown Pelican surveys. In recent years this species has suffered huge nest failures on its breeding grounds off southern & Baja California which is thought to be tied to declines in their forage fish (primarily anchovies). These surveys will help us define the distribution and abundance of Brown Pelicans and track shifts in population structure to help us better protect this majestic bird. Click here for more information and a report. Click here for the protocol. 

Sauvie Island Grassland Bird Surveys – April Through July
Audubon is working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to monitor for grassland bird species at four sites on Sauvie Island that have recently been restored to grassland prairie. Monitoring will measure changes in bird species composition and density over time. Particular attention will be paid to identifying grassland bird species of conservation concern including the Western Meadowlark and Streaked Horned Lark. View our field sampling protocol and data formClick here to view the 2015 findings.

Seabird Colony Monitoring – May Through August
Portland Audubon is monitoring seabird nesting colonies adjacent to the Cape Perpetua and Cape Falcon Marine Reserves to track nesting success. This effort provides baseline information on Oregon’s seabird population as well as increasing awareness of Oregon’s recently designated marine reserves. We are partnering with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon State University, local business Sea Lion Caves, and others. View our Pigeon Guillemot and Rhinoceros Auklet survey protocol, seabird nest monitor protocol2014 report2015 report, and 2016 report.

Swift Watch Counts - Every Fall
Since 2009, the Audubon Society of Portland has been counting Vaux's Swifts at Chapman Elementary School and at a number of other sites in the Portland-metro region. These counts contribute toward a larger Pacific Coast-wide effort to keep track of the swift population. View the Swift roost monitoring protocol and the survey data sheet. Learn more about Swift Watch | Read a report of Swift Watch count results from 2009-2013.

Past Projects

Great Blue Heron Monitoring | 2009-2014
The Great Blue Heron is an iconic species in the Northwest and is Portland's official city bird. We celebrate herons' gracious presence every spring during Great Blue Heron Week. The Audubon Society of Portland monitored Great Blue Heron rookeries (nesting colonies) in the Portland metro area from 2009 to 2014. Our 6-year effort indicated that heron populations in our region are stable. We have a solid baseline of information and can reinstate this effort if there is renewed concern about our local population of Great Blue Herons. View the 2009-14 report | View our field sampling protocol.

Ecoroof Monitoring | 2012-2014
Audubon worked with the City of Portland to evaluate migratory bird use of ecoroof habitat. Bird surveys were conducted three times per season during the spring and fall bird migration. Three study areas were monitored; each study area contained an ecoroof, a nearby traditional roof, and a nearby ground-level greenspace. Preliminary results indicate bird usage of ecoroofs is much higher than on traditional roofs and is similar to that of ground-level greenspaces. A final report is forthcoming. View the spring 2013 report. View the final report.

Mount Tabor - Winter and Spring Through 2016
Audubon is monitoring the bird community on Mt. Tabor in conjunction with a multi-year habitat restoration project that is underway at the site. The City of Portland is removing invasive species and planting native species in an effort to re-establish a native forest environment and to improve watershed health. Bird response to such activities can help us assess the success of these restoration efforts. Audubon conducts winter area-search surveys and standardized point counts during both spring and fall migration. View the latest report on this projectView the Mount Tabor project protocol. View the final report.

Racetrack Lake Shorebird Surveys – Fall 2014-2015
Audubon is working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in restoring shorebird habitat at Racetrack Lake on Sauvie Island. We are monitoring to see how shorebirds are responding to these restoration efforts during fall migration. View our field sampling protocoldata form and 2014 report.

Ross Island Migratory Bird Surveys | 2011-2013
Audubon conducted point count surveys to document the fall migratory bird community at Ross Island. This project provides a baseline for future assessment of bird community response to the current habitat restoration efforts underway on the island. This project was conducted in partnership with Willamette Riverkeeper and Portland Parks and Recreation. View the final report.

Willamette Oak Bird Surveys – Spring 2014-2016
Audubon is working with the City of Portland to document bird use in the most intact oak habitats along the Willamette River. This effort will inform eventual restoration activities to meet the particular needs of oak-associated wildlife. To complete this work, we are conducting standardized point counts during the spring migration and breeding season period at five oak habitat sites along the Willamette River. Download the sampling protocol and download the data form.

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