Frequently Asked Questions
I'm new to birding and still learning bird calls. Am I qualified to adopt and monitor a nightjar route?
Even relatively "fledgling" birders can quickly become qualified to monitor nightjars and other birds in Maine as part of this project. Spending some time listening to recordings to hone your auditory identification skills and then practicing in the field is the best way to improve you skills. Using the bird profiles (complete with recordings) and quiz on this site is a great place to start. Many volunteers find that sunset surveys, a time when more daytime birds are still active, are more challenging than moonrise surveys.
How much time do volunteers spend monitoring nightjars each year?
This is one of our most common questions and the answer is "it depends". Volunteers that adopt and monitor one of our routes run the routes at least three times: once to make notes about the habitat at each point, once at sunset to listen for birds active at dusk, and once on a moonlit night to listen for whip-poor-wills. This amounts to about 3.5 hours each year. Volunteers who make local observations of nightjars and other birds set their own timeframes for listening, but we ask that they spend at least thirty minutes listening each summer. That said, volunteers can log as much time as they like listening in their local area and reporting the birds they hear in eBird.
How are monitoring routes created?
Nightjar monitoring routes are created along roadways in nightjar habitat using a 3-tiered approach. This consists of dividing the state up into 7.5-minute quadrangles, mapping the breeding range of whip-poor-wills in Maine, and assessing suitable habitat using the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map and Google Earth imaging. Routes are positioned throughout the state and designed to pass through areas of suitable whip-poor-will habitat. Although routes may cross quadrangle boundaries, no one quadrangles contains points from more than one route. This is done to decrease the likelihood of any two volunteers counting the same individual birds.
My route contains points in urban and/or suburban areas. Is this a mistake? Should I still listen for birds?
As described above, route creation is a complex process. While the goal is to design routes which pass through areas of suitable nightjar habitat and limit the number of routes in noisy, heavily trafficked areas, busy urban/suburban points are unavoidable. If you should find yourself at such a point, do your best to look and listen for whatever birds you can hear over the noise. Birds like Chimney Swifts, Northern Mockingbirds, and American Robins frequently breed in developed areas and are quite conspicuous. Nighthawks historically nest and forage in urban areas (nesting on gravel rooftops). Make the best of your time spent in these areas and know that other points will be in less developed areas.
I don't think I will have enough time to complete part or all of my survey this year. Can I skip a year of monitoring?
No. It is important that important that each route be completed every season for the duration of the project to ensure changes in the population can be detected. If you think that you will be unable to complete part or all of your monitoring route in a given season, it is important that you contact the project coordinator, Logan Parker, as soon as possible to ensure the route is covered for the season.
I didn't detect any nightjars at any of the points along my route. Is my data still valuable?
Yes, even if you don't observe any nightjars on your monitoring route, the data you collect is highly valuable. The monitoring routes are designed to pass through areas of suitable nightjar habitat. It is just as valuable to know where birds are not as it is to know where they are.
I've run my sunset and moonrise surveys. How do I submit my data?
At present, there are two options for submitting your data sheets: email or regular mail. Scans of your data sheets can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Physical copies can be mailed to Logan Parker at 316 Chisholm Pond Road, Palermo, ME 04354. In both cases, it is important that you scan and/or make copies of your data sheets. You have worked hard and the data you have collected is valuable. Scanning and/or making copies of your data is a best practice and can come in handy should data sheet become lost in the mail.