Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.

Curlews, Citizen Science, and Cellphones?

During the 2018 Long-billed Curlew survey season (April 15th – May 31st), volunteers conducted surveys in the Helena, Mission, and Blackfoot Valleys. In the Helena Valley, 38 volunteers recorded 101 curlew sightings during 38 surveys. In the Mission Valley, 12 volunteers recorded 86 curlew sightings during 25 surveys, and in the Blackfoot Valley, 9 new volunteers recorded 33 curlew sightings along 7 new routes. Volunteers recorded thirty-five incidental species sightings, including of Northern Goshawk, Downey Woodpecker, Killdeer, Wilson’s Snipe, Red-tailed Hawks, and recorded a total of 55 Sandhill Crane sightings. There were 57 “incidental” sightings of Curlew’s as well, or curlews that were seen between survey points, or before/after survey routes were completed.

In 2018, after six years of counting Long-billed Curlews at hundreds of road-side stops using clipboards and paper flapping at the whim of the wind, the curlew survey was adapted for smartphones and smart-devices by the Montana Natural Heritage Program (MNHP). After Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and we at Montana Audubon did some trouble shooting, volunteers hit the road with the app, recording dozens of curlews, and saving many data-entry hours behind the scenes. The application also produces a handy map to quickly visualize the seasons’ efforts. In just the first year of the application’s use, surveys were submitted for 778 different locations! With just a little more ironing-out, who knows how many curlews we will count next year.

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