Scientific Research

Strolling for Ceruleans

Recently Kent Land Trust’s Skiff Mountain South Preserve and the Audrey and Bob Tobin Preserve were identified as critical habitat for birds in Connecticut. Strolling for Ceruleans is a student-driven science project, designed to raise awareness and increase the number of Cerulean Warbler sightings in Kent, Connecticut. The project will utilize teams comprised of local community members (young and old), led by experienced birders, to survey for Cerulean Warblers, as well as other bird species, in select locations in Kent during the last week of May, 2016 and the first two weeks in June, 2016.

Background Information

The Cerulean Warbler’s beauty is seen by few but loved by many. The Cerulean Warbler, (Setophaga cerulea), is currently listed as a Species of Special Concern in the state by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists this bird as a Vulnerable Species. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds, the “Cerulean Warbler is one of the species of highest concern in the eastern United States because of a small total population size and significant declines throughout its range.”

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The Cerulean Warbler is attracted to mature deciduous and riparian forests with tall trees and broken canopies. Since 1960 this species has only been banded nineteen times in the state of Connecticut. Five of these 19 banding events have occurred since 2012 on Kent Land Trust’s Skiff Mountain South Preserve as part of Marvelwood School’s Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) banding research for the Institute for Bird Populations. Four of the five cerulean warblers were captured during the first two weeks in June between the 2012 and 2014 banding seasons and were along the edges of a recently reclaimed field, surround by forest. The fifth cerulean, a hatch year male, was captured the end of July of 2014 along a wetland edge habitat.

According to eBird. Cerulean Warblers have historically been well documented along River Road in Kent (see Figure 1). However, many areas of Cerulean Warbler activity, including the above mentioned banded Ceruleans, have not yet been reported and recorded in eBird (see Figure 2). Additionally, there are several large tracts of property that have yet to be surveyed for Ceruleans or other avian species in Kent. These areas are primarily nature preserves owned and managed by local land trusts. The lack of birding on these properties by the public, including the birding community, is primarily due to the fact that the community is not familiar with these birding locations in the town Kent.

Project Information

Recently Kent Land Trust’s Skiff Mountain South Preserve and the Audrey and Bob Tobin Preserve were identified as critical habitat for birds in Connecticut. “Strolling for Ceruleans” is a high school, student driven science project, designed to raise awareness and increase the number of Cerulean Warbler sightings in Kent, Connecticut. The project will utilize teams comprised of local community members (young and old), led by experienced birders, to survey for Cerulean Warblers (and other bird species) in selected locations in Kent during the last week in May and first two weeks in June of 2016. Banding efforts, via the deployment of extra mist nets in known and suspected breeding areas both during normal MAPS operation periods and outside of the MAPS program will also be increased efforts during the summer of 2016.

The Cerulean Warbler will also be used as an avian ambassador to increase the awareness of all bird species within the town of Kent, especially those of conservation priority such as the Wood Thrush. This project will also make the public aware of land trust properties in town, particularly the two new state IBA’s, which are open to the public for birding, hiking and other passive use activities.

During the months of April and May, excitement about Cerulean Warblers in the community will be generated via presentations about the birds currently identified on Kent Land Trust preserves, the history and function of IBA’s, as well as conservation concerns regarding Cerulean Warblers. Copies of

Cerulean Blues: A Personal Search for a Vanishing Songbird by Katie Fallon, are available at the Kent Memorial Libraryfor the Kent community to read. Katie Fallon will speak about her book and experiences conserving Cerulean Warblers. Finally, a training program will be prepared for the community and data collection resources will also be made available on both The Marvelwood School and Kent Land Trust’s web sites. This project is supported by Audubon Connecticut.