Monitoring Bird Migration on Monomoy Island

Raised of $3,400 Goal
Funded on 8/18/18
Successfully Funded
  • $3,402
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 8/18/18



South Monomoy Fall Migration Monitoring Protocol

I. Station Protocol

(1) Dates of Operation  

August 15 to October 31

(2) Banding Station

Standardized songbird banding for 6 hours every morning

(3) Daily Census

Standardized visual count of migrants at 3 locations:

- Powder Hole- tidal mudflat- shorebirds and terns

- Lighthouse Beach- Atlantic Ocean mussel beds- seaducks and seabirds

- Big Station Pond- freshwater pond- ducks, geese and herons

(4) General Observations

Total count of all individuals observed outside Banding and Census

II. Songbird Banding

(1) Opening Procedures

Nets are opened 30 minutes before sunrise, starting with one team opening from F to D and a second team opening from C to A.  These early opening times are meant to target early-departing migrants and mitigate rising coastal winds as the morning progresses.

(2) Mist Net Types

All nets are 12X2.5m, 32mm Polish made Ecotone nets.

(3) Weather Conditions

In general, nets are not operated under the following conditions:

- Temperatures over 75-80° in direct sun, as birds can become overheated

- Temperatures below 40°F

-  Steady rain heavier than a light mist/drizzle

- Sustained strong winds or intermittent gusty winds that repeatedly blow the nets into nearby brush or endanger birds caught in net

(4) Net Checks

Nets are checked every 40 minutes, unless conditions warrant more frequent net checks.

(5) Net Extractions

Extractions are only performed by trained personnel with the utmost care, using techniques approved by the North American Banding Council (Council. 2001).

(6) Bags and Clips

Once extracted, birds are placed in small or medium cloth bags and the capture net recorded.

(7) At the Banding Station

Banders apply bands, take all measurements and fully process each capture in the order they were extracted, scoring appropriate data using MAPS codes. After processing, birds are released from the banding site. The condition of all the birds is carefully monitored, with appropriate steps ranging from reduction in data collected to the release of all the birds unbanded if necessary to ensure their safety.

(8) Data Sheets

(a) Capture Data Recorded

- Bander’s initials

- Band number

- Species alpha code

- Age

- How aged

- Sex

- How sexed

- Fat score

- Breast muscle score

- Skull ossification score

- Wing chord

- Mass

- Date

- Net run time

- Net number

- Disposition

- Note

(b)  Daily Journal:

- Number of nets operated

- Time each net opened

- Time each net closed

- Temperature at open, mid-morning, and closing

- Cloud cover at opening, mid-morning, and closing

- Wind strength (in mph) and direction at opening, mid-morning, and closing

- Wind strength and direction over previous night

-  Personnel and/or visitors present

(9) Closing the Station

-  Nets are closed, in the order opened, six hours after opening or under the adverse conditions described above.

- Closed nets are furled, secured and left on poles at net lanes.

- All captured birds are returned to the banding station and processed normally.

- Daily Journal and Daily Estimated Totals are filled out and equipment stored.

- Oral affirmation for each net closed is completed by responsible personnel.

III. Census

One or more observers conducted a standardized check of one of three key migrant locations daily when on site: Powder Hole (41.555 N, 70.008 W), Lighthouse Beach (41.560 N, 69.990 W) and Big Station Pond (41.5503 N, 70.008 W). Observers stand in a predetermined and consistent location at each site and, using an Alpen 20-60x80 Angled Spotting Scope and personal binoculars supplied by each participant, count every bird within the census location boundaries.

1) Census Location Descriptions

- Powder Hole - Any bird identifiable to species (by sight or sound) on the water, land or air from tip of small peninsula on south shore between the two pools.

- Lighthouse Beach - Any bird identifiable to species (by sight or sound) on the water, land or air from the seaward edge of the largest dune overlooking the beach along the trail from the Monomoy Lighthouse, BUT NO FURTHER then bay formed by the curving beach 1000m to the North, the outer edge of the rough water formed by the shoal approximately 1000m offshore.

- Big Station - Any bird identifiable to species (by sight or sound) on the water, land or air from small hill next to the two bird boxes directly east of Big Station/Little Station Pond Intersection.

2) Census Schedule

Census is split into two portions, Early Season (peak shorebird migration) and Late Season (peak seabird migration). During the Early Season (August 15 – September 30), Powder Hole is surveyed every other day and Lighthouse Beach every fourth day. During the Late Season (October 18- November 10), Lighthouse Beach is surveyed every other day and Powder Hole every fourth day. Big Station is surveyed every fourth day throughout both periods.

3) Census conditions 

 recorded during each census to document local conditions                                   

(1) Location (Powder Hole, Lighthouse Beach, Big Station)

(2) Personnel

(3) Start Time

(4) End Time

(5) Cloud Cover (%)

(6) Perspiration (Described)

(7) Wind (speed/direction)

(8) Tide (1-Low, 2-Mid, 3-High)

(9) Disturbance (0-None, 1-Low, 2-Med, 3-High)

(10) Disturbance Description

(11) Visibility (1-Poor, 2-Fair, 3-Good, 4-Excellent)

(12) Wave Height (in feet)

(13) Note

IV. Daily Estimated Totals

At the end of each day, after the completion of banding and census and the end of the observable light, the totals for each species is added up on the DET sheet. Any birds observed by personnel outside of census and banding are added to the list and the total number of individuals on site is estimated in the General Observations.

- Date

- Number of individual banded per species

- Number of individuals per species observed during Census

- Number of individuals per species observed during General Observations

- Daily Estimated Total- all individuals for each species counted daily


This is a well established study and most challenges are related to harsh weather limiting our ability to access the site and collect data. We plan on being both flexible in working around weather and focused on working through the weather when possible. 

Too high of a capture rate is always a possible challenge on Monomoy and we will continue to deal with this as we have in the past, by closing nets and reducing the amount of data taken on each bird to age and sex until the backlog has been addressed.

Pre Analysis Plan

Final Report

At the conclusion of each season all data will be analyzed and compiled in a migration season report, which will be available online. The report details all species observed, peaks of migration for various groups and well as any rare or noteworthy captures and observations. Data are compared to previous seasons and differences are noted and analyzed for significance.

Social Media and Outreach

Connecting with the public is a key part of our mission and each day we post updates on the birds migrating through the island. Our social media is focused on providing information on the seasonality birds of the island while attracting visitors to the refuge.

-  eBird Daily Census is uploaded upon completion, providing daily online updates of migrants on the refuge

-  Instagram an image of the bird of the day along with personalized information about its migration status, behavior or life history fact.

-  Twitter an image of the bird of the day with personalized information about the capture


Browse the protocols that are part of the experimental methods.