Trumpeter Watch does not seek to record empirical science. It is a program that allows citizens to contribute to our understanding of trends in habitat use and behavior as Trumpeter Swan populations expand, to provide eyes in the field for busy managers that, once alerted to activity, can follow up as needed. Swan enthusiasts can become valuable allies and constituents, making Trumpeters more secure - the mission of The Trumpeter Swan Society, www.trumpeterswansociety.org.
To discern patterns in the wintering distribution of Trumpeter Swans south of the 40th parallel, volunteer observers report to us through a variety of ways. Some register directly with Trumpeter Watch and send us regular reports by mail or email. We also search records made by the public at large. Public data sources we search include:
- Personal Field Notes and Journals: Any person that has kept records over the years, during the winter season in states south of the 40th parallel, that has not contributed those lists to a public source such as eBird or their state Listserv, is encouraged to share their sightings for us, for Trumpeter Swans. If you are willing to tally your records, it is extremely helpful. Several individuals have done so for us to date, and several of these have recorded marked and color-banded birds.
- State Birding Listservs: The states we are following in Trumpeter Watch each have a bird-oriented Mailing List, known as a Listserv. An organization such as a University, Museum or Ornithological Society hosts the Listserv, an Editor reviews content (to keep it relevant to bird subjects), and registered participants contribute and comment on sightings. To participate or monitor the list regularly you must sign in and have an account (free, follow instructions once on the site). Some allow you to browse archives as public records. Many Listserv contributors are keen observers with frequent hours in the field. To date this has been our most valuable source of information for finding data on the timing, distribution and abundance of wintering swans. More on Listservs and TTSS here. Of note: the American Birding Association lists the links for all state and area Listservs.
- Building the Network: Our professional colleagues, working on state and federal lands and for institutions and non-profit organizations are invaluable. See how is active helping us now, and helps us Build the Network.
- eBird ~ Website: This popular online checklist program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, launched in 2002 and now in its third revision, encourages the birding community to report sightings from field trips and outings as complete checklists. This provides a rich data source that can be used to assess bird abundance and distribution. We look at reports in states of interest, and compare these sightings with other to map distribution by county, and to note locations. More on eBird and TTSS.
- Christmas Bird Counts: Christmas Bird Counts, conducted mid-winter around the Christmas season, are very helpful to us to follow trends. The database can be accessed through the National Audubon Society's website, where you can search Christmas Bird Count Historical Results.
- Photography Groups such as Flickr's "Birds with Field Readable Markers: Bands, Collars, Rings & Tags" ~ Website: Wildlife photographers are often out in winter wetlands. Monticello, Minnesota, is perhaps the most well-known site to photograph wintering swans. We are regularly receiving some wonderful images from Heber Springs, Arkansas, as well. Photographers often find collared birds and post these on Flickr, a popular photo-sharing site for professionals and amateurs. As of October 29, 2011, here are currently 209 members. We contact those with Trumpeter or Tundra images via the mail option in Flickr to get further details. Several from this group have generously shared their images and findings with TTSS.
- Missouri Cache Sparks Database: This is a checklist project with Citizen Science input for state lands of Missouri. It is highly organized and easy to search. CACHE = State Conservation Areas Checklists / SPARKS = State Parks and State Historic Sites. More on Missouri Cache Sparks Database and TTSS here.
- Kansas Checklists Project: The Kansas Checklist Project started in 2001, just as Trumpeters were making regular appearances during winter months in the state. The project has resulted in checklists being available for all 105 counties. Chuck Otte, President of the Kansas Ornithological Society, serves as Coordinator. More on Kansas Checklist Project and TTSS here.
As we continue our efforts, we will be on the lookout for other helpful Tools of the Trade.