• Logan Parker

Maine's Nightjar Monitors: meet some of the citizen scientists powering our efforts


The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project is a volunteer-powered citizen science effort. What started as a crew of just 2 volunteers in 2017 has blossomed into a corps of dedicated individuals who care enough about Maine's wildlife to sacrifice a few of their finest summer evenings and swat some mosquitoes for the sake of conservation science. From retirees with decades of birding experience to young naturalists just beginning their exploration of the biosphere, Maine's nightjar monitors are a groups of varied backgrounds.


Earlier this winter, we asked a handful of volunteers a couple questions to get to know them better and understand what it is that drives them to take part in projects like ours. Here are their thoughts and reflections from the fields.

Stephen Dunham (Joined the Project in 2017)


What inspired you to take part in the Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project?


"I participated in nightjar surveys in 2009 and 2010 at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

(NWR) on the only two active routes in the state. Later in grad school, I heard nighthawks

flying over the Penobscot and I remembered those routes and found a way to get

involved again."

What is your favorite memory (or memories) while participating in this project?


"Watching the moon rise while listening to all of the crepuscular and nocturnal species. Also, the deafening choruses of bullfrogs in Greenbush were always impressive."

Tell us more about you and your general interests in birds, nature, and conservation.


"I became interested in birds while working with American woodcock at Moosehorn NWR.

I went on to study Spruce grouse for my M.S. and try to stay involved in bird projects as a

biologist with MDIFW."

Have you worked on other citizen science projects? If yes, what other projects have you contributed to?


"I have participated in the annual loon survey twice and helped with the Maine

Bird Atlas (mostly on the winter bird atlas portion)."

Anything else about your experiences with the project that you would like to share?


"I have enjoyed being a part of this project and I would like to meet some of the other

people involved. COVID has made an in-person event impossible, but some sort of virtual

gathering could be enjoyable."

Kshanti Greene (Joined the Project in 2020)


What inspired you to take part in the Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project?


"My desire to help birds in the wild however I can, which at this point generally means

volunteering my time. I didn't know much about nightjars and this seemed like a good

opportunity to learn more."

What is your favorite memory (or memories) while participating in this project?


"At one point we were driving one of our routes on a particularly pretty evening in farm

country. Rounding a corner we heard the call of a nighthawk in an area we didn't really

expect to see one. We stopped and listened to it for several minutes in a very interesting,

kind of bog-like area."

Tell us more about you and your general interests in birds, nature, and conservation.


"I have always been interested in wildlife, but birds captured my attention after moving to

Maine about 5 years ago. We live in a field where bobolinks and meadowlarks nest. I do

whatever I can to work in bird conservation, even though I am coming from it as an

outsider. I volunteered at a rehabber for a while. Recently, my husband and I started a

project to help monitor nesting grassland birds. I also do bird/wildlife photography and

sculpture."

Have you worked on other citizen science projects? If yes, what other projects have you contributed to?


"I contribute to eBird. I have developed other human computation projects (of which

citizen science is a branch)."

Dana Little (Joined the Project in 2018)


What inspired you to take part in the Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project?


"I have been bird-watching for as long as I can remember and I especially enjoy going out

with a productive goal which this project provided for me."


What is your favorite memory (or memories) while participating in this project?


"Standing out in the middle of a field watching the full moon rise above the horizon with commencement of a Barred Owl calling followed by a Saw-whet Owl."



Tell us more about you and your general interests in birds, nature, and conservation.


"I am the volunteer steward for Androscoggin Land Trust responsible for overseeing the

permanent protection of over 5,000 acres. The lands I protect provide habitat for many

plants and animals that are endangered. I love being out-of-doors and am interested in

all living things. Birds were my first love, then I discovered ferns, followed by flowering

plants, and most recently insects and spiders."


Have you worked on other citizen science projects? If yes, what other projects have you contributed to?


"My first citizen science project involved invasive plant mapping over 10 years ago with a

researcher from U. Conn. Currently, I actively contribute lists to eBird several times a

week year-around and iNaturalist several times a week mostly during the warmer

months."

Anything else about your experiences with the project that you would like to share?


"The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project, along with Maine Bird Atlas' Marshbird Project and

the larger Maine Bird Atlas project have all motivated me to get out to some fantastic

locations at all hours of the day and have enhanced my knowledge and experience with

Maine birds."

Barbara Buerger (Joined the project in 2018)


What inspired you to take part in the Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project?


"Nightjars were birds that I had very little experience with and I was interested in learning

more. Also, I have enjoyed birding with friends and family for years. When I retired, this

seemed like a good way to pay that forward."


What is your favorite memory (or memories) while participating in this project?


"The night I got out of the car to listen and a whip-poor-will started calling directly above my head! My husband and I had a good laugh filling out the part of the form that asks in what direction did you hear the call. I don’t know... absolute north? Ground zero??"


Tell us more about you and your general interests in birds, nature, and conservation.


"I believe that we are as much a species in need of saving as any other creature out there.

We may think that nature is something we use or enjoy outside of our daily lives, but in

fact it is our habitat and its health is crucial to our own. Protecting and preserving what

we have is not just a lovely thought, but an imperative."


Have you worked on other citizen science projects? If yes, what other projects have you contributed to?


"I volunteered with the original Maine owl project, ME Bird Atlas, Marsh bird surveys, owl

playback surveys, frog/vernal pool surveys, Cornell feeder watch, and various Zooniverse

data projects".

The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project is grateful to these and all the other project volunteers who have supported this effort over the years. Without their hard work, we could not gathered of the essential data all that we have since the project's initiation. Our hats are off to you all!


Want to become a Maine Nightjar Monitor? Visit the routes page to look for a route available for adoption this season! Once you've found one, visit our sign-up page to become an annual route monitor! No routes available nearby? Consider helping us look for nightjars and other nocturnal species as part of the ongoing Maine Bird Atlas!

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© 2020 Logan Parker

The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project is operated by the Maine Natural History Observatory