Let the Atlasing Begin!

From Wendy Tocci and Anne Swaim, Regional Coordinators, Hudson region

The third New York State Breeding Bird Atlas has officially begun! We hope that you will join thousands of other birders in documenting the state’s breeding species over the next five years!

Working together with the Atlas Steering Committee, Atlas Project Coordinator Julie Hart, and a team of regional coordinators, Anne Swaim and I will be coordinating Atlas activities in the Hudson region. I will be the point of contact for Columbia, Ulster, Dutchess, Sullivan and Northern Orange Counties. Anne will be taking responsibility for Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Southern Orange County.

If you’re interested in learning more you can attend the Breeding Bird Atlas Workshop being held at Hasbrouck Park in Kingston, NY, on Thursday, January 16 from 6 to 8 pm (details here). All are welcome! Because the breeding season of many species starts later in the spring, there will be more Atlas training workshops and other opportunities to learn more about Atlas goals and how atlasing works. *

In the meantime the New York Breeding Bird Atlas III website contains a lot of great information about the Atlas, and we encourage you to explore the many resources on the site. If you are unable to attend the Kingston workshop or are eager to get started, here are a few key points. 

All of the data entry for the project will be via a dedicated eBird portal for New York Breeding Bird Atlas III. eBird offers real-time data entry and outputs, so you’ll be able to follow along with results throughout the breeding season and across the entire project period.

For this Atlas, New York State has been divided into 5,710 blocks, each roughly 3 miles by 3 miles in size. From these 5,710 blocks covering the entire state, the Atlas Team has selected a subset of *priority blocks* that are evenly distributed across the state to ensure broad coverage. To complete the Atlas, we need to adequately survey all of the priority blocks, which make up 1/3 of all Atlas blocks. Priority blocks contain many popular birding spots and great breeding habitats in our region, and are where the focus should be. But if your backyard or favorite birding destination does not fall within a priority block, you are encouraged to submit your breeding observations for those areas, too.

This map allows you to search for priority blocks near you and download detailed block maps. This is also where you will be able to sign up for blocks starting January 1, 2020. Anybody can atlas in any Atlas block, so it is not necessary to sign up for a block. But if you are especially interested in atlasing in a certain block, signing up for that block is a great way to indicate your interest in documenting the breeding birds in that block.

Although the Atlas starts on January 1, only a very small number of species in our region might be demonstrating signs of breeding behavior in January. For the Hudson Valley this includes Great Horned and Barn Owls. This great chart provides very detailed information about when species are breeding in New York. In general, breeding codes should only be used for a species if the species is in the “E” or “B” portion of its breeding calendar.

We realize that for some of you, either atlasing or using eBird will be new for you, but don’t worry—there are lots of resources to help you learn more! The Atlas III website is a great place to start.In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at nybba3.hudson@gmail.com.

*Note that the Mearns Club may also host a workshop if there is enough interest. If so, details will be posted here.