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Are Northern Saw-Whet Owls breeding in the spruce forests of Southwest Virginia Martin, Jay.. Blue Ridge Discovery Center, 14 Jan 2019. Experiment
Predetermined survey points have been established for this study. All effort will be carried out within and adjacent to three sites containing appropriate spruce-fir forest - Pine Mountain, Whitetop Mountain, and Mount Rogers. Some of the survey points will be conducted along State and Forest Service roads while other routes will be only accessible on foot (see attached map of proposed survey locations). A broadly used standardized Pennsylvania Protocol for NSWO playback surveys will be utilized to allow consistency across a larger geographic area. Since the protocol uses playback, a digital audio player is required for this survey. A Saw-whet Owl Survey audio recording will be played at each point. The equipment will be able to produce a volume that is sufficient for saw-whets to hear at a distance of at least 500 feet. To withstand the harsh conditions of the field surveys, self contained weather resistant audio devices are well suited for the project. Throughout the 11 minute recording which includes periods of silence, the observer will listen and watch for birds and record the number of each species for each point on the data sheet.
Due to the extent and remote nature of the habitat within the area, it will be challenging to effectively cover all of the habitat a number of times within the relatively brief breeding season. The ability to outfit two survey crews simultaneously with identical playback equipment will allow for more survey points to be conducted over a shorter period of time. Due to this efficiency, detection rates are likely to increase through the season by repeating surveys of the points and will likely lead to the discovery of additional breeding territories of this elusive owl.
Surveys will be conducted throughout the breeding season to increase detection rates of Northern Saw-whet Owls. After detection, individual territories will be further investigated for delineation and breeding conformation. After the breeding season, physical and biological assessments will be conducted within the territories and data collected will be utilized to build a predictive model of breeding habitat of NSWO in southwest Virginia.
This project has not yet shared any protocols.