• Atlas progress update: Another milestone, top confirmations
  • April targets: Owls, stick nesters, accipiters, and other early breeders
  • April challenge: Nocturnal checklists
  • You can help: Finish blocks with a little nocturnal atlasing
  • Species Spotlight: Horned Lark
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April 2022

We’ve hit a new record–300,000 checklists submitted to the Atlas by over 2600 atlasers! Check out the statewide stats. Thank you for making the Atlas possible.

April has some great atlasing, with early breeders already actively nesting, including many nocturnal birds—critical species to complete blocks. Nights are a bit warmer, the snow has melted making it possible to park on the side of roads, most of the owls are busy nesting at one stage or another, and woodcock and snipe are busy doing their spectacular courtship displays. 

So far this year, we’ve added lots of new confirmed nesting locations. The top species confirmed breeding in the most new atlas blocks in 2022 are:

  • American Crow (50 new blocks)
  • Bald Eagle (45)
  • Red-tailed Hawk (40) 
  • Common Raven (24)
  • Wild Turkey (19)
  • Great Horned Owl (15)
  • House Sparrow (12)
  • Eastern Bluebird (10)
  • House Finch (10)
April Targets
Great Blue Heron rookery © Alan Wells/Macaulay Library (ML333561471)

While April may seem early, there are many species that have already started nesting. Be on the lookout for:

  • Owls. April is one of the best months to go owling. Great Horned and some Barred Owls are already on their nests; Eastern Screech-, Northern Saw-whet, and Long-eared Owls are just getting started; and Short-eared aren’t far behind. Check out our guide to nocturnal atlasing and species profile for Great Horned Owl for tips. 
  • Stick nesters. Before the trees leaf out is a good time to watch for stick nesters. Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Blue Heron, and American Crow are prime targets. This is likely the last chance to confirm Common Ravens as they finish nesting early.
  • Accipiter hawks. In addition to looking for their stick nests, all three species (Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Northern Goshawk) should be regularly doing their display flights over their territories, especially early in the morning. Watch for males to flap with slow, steady, and deep wingbeats with undertail coverts flared. This flight is much different than the typical direct flight these birds are known for. 
  • Other early season nesters. Many other species are beginning to establish territories. These include many resident and short-distance migrants common in backyards and urban areas such as various woodpeckers, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Cardinals, and White-breasted Nuthatch. Many of these early breeding species will become more difficult to detect later in the year. Don’t forget that the drumming of woodpeckers and Ruffed Grouse counts as “singing” (S), and the display flight of American Woodcock counts as courtship (C).

April Challenge - Nocturnal Atlasing

Fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owl © John C. Mittermeier/Macaulay Library (ML247203961)

In the April challenge we ask you to do some nocturnal atlasing. Every nocturnal checklist you submit gives you a chance to win this month’s prize—some swag from the Atlas store! Nocturnal checklists in eBird have a start time of more than 20 minutes after sunset or more than 40 minutes before sunrise.

Use the nocturnal atlasing guide to get started!

In 2021, there were 531 entries and John Roosenberg II submitted more than anyone else with 53 nocturnal checklists—wow!

Crossbill Extravaganza Continues
White-winged Crossbill © R M/Macaulay Library (ML411605491).

This year is likely to be the best year for getting out and documenting both species of crossbills for the Atlas.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to find crossbills, the search will get you out early in the season at the best time to confirm some other early breeding species. This is the easiest time of year to find owls, woodpeckers, nuthatches, corvids, and some hawks.

Learn more about crossbills and early breeders. See the upcoming events below for a trip near you.
Finish blocks with a little nocturnal atlasing
Great Horned Owl nest with young © Scott Stoner Naturelogues 2022

Many priority blocks are nearing ‘completion’ but are missing the two required hours of night-time atlasing.

The Atlas Team has developed a set of guidelines that help us determine when a priority block has been adequately surveyed. These guidelines include two hours of nocturnal atlasing. In order to find a priority block near you in need of a little night work (which is nearly all priority blocks!): 

  • Go to the Atlas Effort Map
  • Toggle the map from “diurnal” to “nocturnal” effort hours (dropdown menu at upper left corner of the map)
  • Any priority block that has a yellow or green fill or is transparent needs help
  • Zoom in and click on a priority block near you to see how many nocturnal hours there are
  • See how many priority blocks you can complete with a couple targeted trips this month 
Remember that eBird counts checklists as nocturnal if they begin in the period 20 minutes after sunset to 40 minutes before sunrise. Your entire checklist will be classified as day or night based on the start time. 

A good strategy for keeping separate day and night checklists is to make short (5-10 minute) checklists. Go out at dusk (perhaps to areas where you suspect American Woodcock) and then stay out for another hour after dark to listen for owls. Start a new checklist at each stop along your route so you don’t need to worry about whether it’s technically day or night.

Learn more about how to assess if a block is complete. If you think you’ve finished a block, contact your regional coordinator so they can review it. 

Species Spotlight - Horned Lark
Fledgling Horned Lark © Benjamin Hack/Macaulay Library (ML330740301).

Horned Larks are among the earliest songbirds to breed in NY. They often settle down in sparse agricultural fields before the snow is gone. Their tinkling song and dramatic courtship displays are harbingers of spring. While it can be difficult to spot these well-camouflaged birds during the breeding season, you can improve your odds with a few tricks up your sleeve.

Top tips are to look for them early (now!), scan the croplands with a scope, and listen for their courtship flights. Read more

Atlaser Story:
Discovering new patches while atlasing

Excerpt from a guest article by Stacy Robinson

With the third NYS Breeding Bird Atlas in full swing the opportunity to find a patch of your own has been simplified. Last spring, I signed up for a priority block twenty minutes from my home. Atlasing this block has been a truly wonderful experience and a new patch within the block has emerged. I find myself returning to my newfound patch hoping to glean a new species and to observe breeding successes. This isn’t an isolated experience. In every block I’ve visited inevitably there is an appealing patch deserving of a dedicated patch birder.

So, here’s a suggestion: if you haven’t yet submitted a checklist for the Breeding Bird Atlas we have three full years left to do so. It’s easy, fun, and rewarding! 

Read the full article

Upcoming Events

Atlasing season has started! Check out the Atlas Events Calendar for details on how to participate in upcoming Atlas events, from chats to trainings to in-person walks! Monthly Town Halls run on the third Thursday of the month from March through July.

  • April 9: Field trip in Chenango County for crossbills (7 am)
  • April 13: Field trip to western Adirondacks for crossbills (7 am)
  • April 13: Talk for Chenango Bird Club (7 pm)
  • April 13: Talk for North Country Bird Club (7 pm)
  • April 16: Field trip in St Lawrence County for crossbills (8 am)
  • April 21: April Town Hall with a focus on nocturnal atlasing (7 pm)
  • April 22: Field trip in the Catskills for crossbills (7 am)
  • April 23: Field trip in Albany County for crossbills (7:30 am)
  • April 23: eBird workshop for John Burroughs Natural History Society (1 pm)
  • April 24: Talk for Kirkland Bird Club (2:30 pm)
  • April 25: Talk for Waterman Bird Club on breeding behavior codes (7 pm)
And lots more events coming in May!
Get your swag on!
  • Visit our online store to purchase atlas-themed items. A percentage of the proceeds go to the Atlas. Look official while supporting the atlas!
  • Sponsor a Species of your choosing and have your name featured in the final Atlas product! Together we've raised $38,900!
  • Donate directly to the atlas. Donations go toward supporting outreach events and data collection all in the name of conservation.
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