Even though fires are an important part of maintaining the species and habitats that we are working to protect in the Everglades ecosystem, often when there are fires in the park we can’t go out to do our sparrow research. A small wind-shift or a stray ember could potentially put us in a dangerous situation. Although the Long Pine Key fire has kept us from getting into the park, it has been important for us to continue working and practicing our skills. Part of our work consists of doing point counts for the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows. To do these, we go to a GPS designated area and record every sparrow we see or hear for seven minutes.
One of the ways that we stay on top of our point count procedures and techniques is by using other species to do point counts as practice. It is also a great way to get acquainted with some of the other bird species we encounter in the park.
Eastern Meadowlarks, a beautiful yellow-bellied bird that has a musical song, is one of our filler species we track when we can’t get to the sparrows. They are also present in large numbers in spaces that sparrows won’t nest in. This makes them a perfect practice species for us. Their song is clear, distinctive and loud, and there are often several of them singing at one time. Trying to keep track of the multitudes of meadowlarks is excellent practice for when we have to record the much quieter and smaller in number Cape Sable seaside sparrows.
Working around logistic problems in the field is a component of any research technician job, and it’s great to think up creative ways to ensure that we do the best we possibly can when collecting data