News & Events

Jefferson Land Trust Awarded Cornell Grant for New Bird Monitoring Study

Author: Lilly Schneider | 06/22/23

Three people in the forest

Great Peninsula Conservancy staff members trained Jefferson Land Trust stewardship team members to use AudioMoth recording devices at one of our preserves earlier this month.

This summer, with the support of a $25,000 Cornell University grant and in collaboration with Kitsap County’s Great Peninsula Conservancy (GPC), we’re excited to launch a new monitoring study on our nature preserves in which we’ll be recording and analyzing birdsong. 

Bird on dead tree

Red-breasted Sapsucker in a standing snag.

Mapping the presence of certain indicator bird species will help us determine whether our forest management activities are succeeding in creating the habitat conditions that birds and other local wildlife need to thrive.

“We want to always be checking to make sure that the ways we’re caring for the land are leading to the results we want — and monitoring is the way to do that,” says Carrie Clendaniel, Jefferson Land Trust’s Preserve Manager. “We saw an opportunity with this grant to use birds as indicators of how our forests are doing, both initially and in response to our forest management activities.”

These forest management activities include selective tree thinning and the creation of key habitat features that are currently lacking in our landscape, such as standing snags, habitat piles, and downed logs.

We were awarded the grant, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative, in collaboration with our good neighbors from GPC. Because this is their second consecutive year of receiving this grant funding for a parallel bird monitoring project on the lands they manage, GPC’s fantastic staff members worked with our stewardship team to help us adapt their field-tested protocol for our preserves. For this first recording session, GPC will be loaning us their tools while we place an order for our own recorders for use in the long run. They’ll also train our staff and volunteers to use the recorders as well as the advanced analysis software program that helps interpret the recordings — an incredible time-saving resource for a localized conservation organization like ours.

Two birds on branch

Goldfinches on Chimacum Ridge. Photo by Tim Lawson.

In addition to supporting training and the purchase of audio devices and software, the Cornell grant covers a portion of staff field time, and allows us to engage an ornithologist to help us analyze the hundreds of hours of birdsong we’ll record.

In early June — in time to catch the end of birds’ mating season — Jefferson Land Trust staff installed the recording devices in areas with one of three conditions: places where forest health and/or diversity is below our desired level and where we plan to undertake forest management activities; places where we have already undertaken forest health improvement activities; and places that currently represent a diverse forest with plenty of standing snags and downed logs. Our initial monitoring sites include Duckabush Riparian Forest, Thorndyke Forest, Valley View Forest, Lower Chimacum Creek North Preserve, Snow Creek Forest Preserve, and Brinnon Forest. 

We’re grateful to have received this grant, and count ourselves lucky to have such engaged friends and neighbors at GPC. We’re very excited to learn about our birds and our lands (and from our Kitsap colleagues) on this unique project.

Group photo

Jefferson Land Trust and Great Peninsula Conservancy staff hanging out at Finnriver Farm & Cidery.