Tracking Birds with Transmitters

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Written by Jim Wortham
Friday, August 29, 2014

Photo of Jim Wortham.This month we are flying telemetry for birds fitted with radio transmitters. We are tracking common and roseate terns along with some oystercatchers that frequent Cape Cod and the Islands of Massachusetts. We have repeatedly covered the waters from Block Island, Rhode Island to Provincetown, Mass. And up to about 25 miles offshore.

This project is important because little information is available on the movement paths of common terns and other priority bird species across the Atlantic continental shelf waters, and this information is needed for siting and monitoring of proposed offshore and coastal wind energy facilities in areas that minimize adverse effects to birds migrating through the area.

During this work, we were able to take advantage of the hospitality of the Cape Cod Coast Guard Air Station who graciously loaned us hangar space and facilities to maintain the aircraft. It’s very interesting to interact with these guys, also professional aviators, but who put their butts on the line in much more dangerous circumstances than us.

These birds will begin moving southward as September blow in, but will soon be replaced with other migrants coming through. These new transients occupying the Nantucket sound may also be affected by wind development, and we will be there to monitor their use of these waters.

Flying over Monomoy Point, Massachusetts.

Flying over Monomoy Point, Massachusetts. Photo by Wayne Davis

Pre-flight rituals on the U.S. Coast Guard ramp.

Pre-flight rituals on the U.S. Coast Guard ramp. Photo by Jim Wortham, USFWS

Installing tracking antennas on the Kodiak.

Installing tracking antennas on the Kodiak. Photo by Pam Loring