Worm-eating Warbler RESEARCH
In Tennessee, the Worm-eating Warbler, which breeds on the Gorge's steepest slopes, is listed as a "species of concern". How can we protect this fragile population?
Birds are an indicator species, which means if they're not healthy, there's a lot more that's not healthy!
With a generous grant from Benwood Foundation, the Trust conducted research in the Tennessee River Gorge from May 2014 through May 2016, focusing on Worm-eating Warblers. The focus of this survey was both population numbers as well as post-fledgling foraging habitat needs, i.e. what the young birds need when they come off the nest. The Trust will use the data gathered in this project to determine best management practices for stewarding our forests to promote productivity and survivorship for these at-risk birds.
SUMMARY AND RESULTS: Fledgling Worm-eating Warblers in the Gorge were tracked daily via radio telemetry. Their exact locations were observed and marked, and habitat assessments were carried out (such as measuring shrub layer density, leaf litter depth, slope, etc.) at each site. Analyses were conducted on which, if any, microhabitat characteristics play a determining factor in where the juvenile birds spend such a crucial time of their life cycle. Leaf litter depth and slope both appeared to be important factors, followed by shrub layer density and herbaceous cover. The metrics were gathered from a small sample size, and future studies on postfledging habitat would add greatly to the strength of the results. From a forest management perspective, the study indicates that maintaining sloped areas with well-vegetated understories could benefit young Worm-eatings during their juvenile stage.
Holland Youngman, Researcher
Holland is a native of the South Carolina coast, and a graduate of Clemson University. She has enjoyed working environmental conservation jobs in Wyoming, Mississippi and Texas; and recently left her position with the SC Department of Natural Resources in Charleston to move to Chattanooga. She is thrilled to be here, where she will pursue her Masters of Environmental Science degree at UTC while working with the TRGT conducting Worm-eating Warbler research.
Bird News at the Trust
The 2017 bird banding season has come to a close, marking yet another year of avian research conducted at the Bird Observatory!
Southeast Conservation Corps has been camping out at the Bird Observatory this week cutting trails to aid in bird-banding operations!
The Trust bird lab has its very own logo! Designed by our Cerulean Warbler Researcher Holland Youngman, the logo features a Scarlet Tanager, a common nester in the Tennessee River Gorge. We'll be getting official Bird Observatory shirts with corresponding logo for all of our researchers!
Yesterday, the Trust purchased a radio telemetry receiver for use in our Cerulean Warbler 2-Year Survey with a grant from the Tennessee Ornithological Society.
This season, researcher Holland Youngman will be using radio telemetry to track the foraging habits of Cerulean Warblers in the Gorge.
Yesterday, a crew of 15 met at Velo Coffee Roaster's parking lot to carpool to the Trust's new bird lab. We parked, hiked in, and Velo's John Fentress made coffee for the group while bird-banders Lizzie Goodrick and John Diener educated the group on all aspects of bird-banding. We caught some great birds!
We got local photographer Kevin Livingood out to the bird-banding lab to take photos. Here are the beautiful shots he came up with!
The Trust partnered with Olive Bean Natural Grocery & Cafe to host a dinner in celebration of the bird research the Trust has recently conducted. April, owner of Olive Bean, served Colombian black beans & rice with spiced briscuit, sweet fried plantains, and pineapple polenta cake. We had a great turnout, as you can see. We plan to have more collaborative events in the future, so stay tuned to our event page!
Holland Youngman, the UTC Graduate Student conducting our Cerulean Warbler research, has been out in the field since mid-May conducting point counts. Her protocol includes visiting set locations every single day and listening for birds for ten minutes at each stop. We have not heard any Ceruleans yet, but we are not giving up! We'll be adjusting Holland's protocol to determine presence/absence of the bird in a different way.
Ceruleans were last recorded in the Gorge in the late 1990s, when the last thorough bird survey was completed. If Ceruleans have left our forests in the past decade, we need to know WHY. Because Ceruleans are an indicator species, their leaving tells us that our forests are not healthy and our forest management plans need to be reworked.
Come out to The Farmer's Daughter on Tuesday, June 17th to try the new Cerulean Warbler coffee that Velo Coffee Roasters has sourced from the Cerulean Warbler's wintering grounds in Colombia! Read more on the coffee here!
After a week of building, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust's Bird-Banding Lab is COMPLETE!
This lab will serve as the home base for bird-banders John Diener and Lizzie Goodrick to conduct longterm bird monitorings in the Gorge. Soon, we will know exactly which birds pass through the Gorge during migration and which stay here to breed! We anticipate that our bird inventorying process will continue for at least ten to fifteen years. After the first few years of inventorying, the Trust will use the data to better manage our forests to promote the survivorship of our birds.