The Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), a partner of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) and an organization aimed at conserving the playas, prairies and landscapes of the western Great Plains, has joined a region-wide bird monitoring effort called Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR). Through this program, PLJV will greatly increase its ability to focus and evaluate habitat work and support proactive, targeted conservation action. Researchers will begin seeking permission for access to private lands this March so that field technicians can conduct surveys in late April through June.
Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, a PLJV Management Board member, will execute most aspects of the program from hiring field workers to posting summary results at the Rocky Mountain Avian Data Center, which will be available to all partners. This data will allow PLJV and its partners to better understand bird use of rivers, playas and prairies in the region, which will help in the creation of better conservation plans.
A unique feature of the IMBCR program is that the sample sites are randomly selected, unlike other large monitoring programs that sample along roadsides (e.g., Breeding Bird Survey). Researchers use a computer program to randomly select square kilometer survey locations, which include private lands. Since 97 percent of the land within the PLJV region is privately owned, landowner participation is critical for getting an accurate picture of bird populations and conducting successful, voluntary conservation programs.
After survey sites are selected, public records obtained from county assessor offices are matched to the sample locations and landowners are contacted for permission to survey on their land. The landowner information is not used in any other way or shared; in fact, landowner contact information is kept in a separate database from the data collected at the sample sites.
Bird Conservancy of the Rockies contacts landowners or managers in the survey areas by mail early in the year. The correspondence includes a permission request letter and provides information about the IMBCR program, a map showing the exact survey locations on the property and a self-addressed stamped return card. The return card provides a quick and easy way for the landowner to provide information about the survey location, and most importantly, give their consent to access the property. If a return card is not received, Bird Conservancy staff attempt to contact landowners by phone to seek permission.
After obtaining landowner permission to access a survey location, one or two scientists visit the site once a year for a few hours in the morning. They walk to specific points within the survey location, collect habitat data, count birds and record those numbers for analysis and comparison with previous years’ data. A follow-up letter that includes a list of every bird species observed at the survey location is sent to each landowner.
For more information on this program, or to participate, contact PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter at (303) 926-0777.