by Joanna Reuter
At the January meeting, ~40 attendees were treated to an informative and enjoyable presentation from MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick, who discussed three major topics:
You’ve probably heard news about bird populations declining. It’s really important to have a solid understanding about which birds are declining and why, as well as which birds are most vulnerable to threats, and what to do about the issue. Enter the Missouri Bird Conservation Plan, an interagency, statewide document that identifies our state’s most threatened birds, provides “Missouri concern scores” based on data and expert opinion, summarizes the state of knowledge that led to inclusion on the list, and provides broad management guidelines for both public and private land managers. The Technical Section of the Missouri Bird Conservation Plan is available online and it is well worth perusing.
Motus receivers are going up in Missouri! These receivers, which are part of a global network, allow for the detection of birds, bats, and insects (outfitted with radio-transmitting nanotags) that approach within ~15 kilometers of the receiver. If you’re not familiar with Motus, learn more from Sarah’s “Flight Tracker” article in the Missouri Conservationist.
The current plan calls for two lines of receivers across Missouri, one southern and one northern. Coordination with surrounding states is intended to extend these lines, creating a series of latitudinal “digital fences” that should be able to detect birds (or other Motus-tagged animals) as they pass through a multi-state region, providing really exciting data about movements through our region’s major migratory Mississippi Flyway. Sarah’s role in this plan is significant, as she leads the Telemetry Working Group for the Midwest Migration Network.
A receiver in Jefferson City (separate from the two main lines) has been active since October 2018, detecting a Semipalmated Sandpiper and several Swainson’s Thrushes during May 2019; a full listing of detections for this station is available on the Motus site. Eight more receivers, mostly in southern Missouri, are now active. Equipment has been ordered for seven more that will hopefully be up and running in northern Missouri in time for spring migration.
Brown-headed Nuthatches were historically present in Missouri and extirpated (possibly in the early 1900s) as a result of habitat destruction related to the removal of over two million acres of shortleaf pine before intense logging denuded the Missouri Ozarks overall. Although swaths of the pine woodland they need have since been rehabilitated in Missouri due to landscape-scale efforts by the U.S. Forest Service over the last decade, these habitats are isolated from the nearest populations in Arkansas. Because Brown-headed Nuthatches are non-migratory and weak fliers, and because there are no corridors of suitable habitat that would lead Arkansas Brown-headed Nuthatches to Missouri, the probability of natural, sustainable recolonization is extremely low. Therefore, after extensive cooperation and work among various agencies over the last two years, a plan exists to re-introduce Brown-headed Nuthatches to Missouri starting in 2020! Much work by partners at the University of Missouri and the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station went into assessing source population health, potential impact on the source population, suitability of pine woodland habitat in Missouri, and more. The plan includes moving 50 birds per year in 2020 and 2021 from the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas to appropriate fire-managed pine woodlands in the Mark Twain National Forest of southeast Missouri as part of continued efforts to restore the state’s shortleaf pine woodland ecosystems. Birders are excitedly anticipating the return of the Brown-headed Nuthatch’s distinct rubber-ducky-like squeak to Missouri: