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Citizen scientist paddlers wanted for St. Louis River Estuary bird survey

Audubon and the Natural Resources Research Institute are teaming up to document bird diversity and improve habitat along the river.

canoeist on St. Louis River Estuary
People who like to paddle and watch birds are invited to participate in a bird survey along the St. Louis River Estuary in the Twin Ports. All you have to do is download eBird and start recording what you see.
Contributed / Audubon
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TWIN PORTS — If you like to paddle and are interested in birds, here’s a chance to get out on the water and help researchers document species along the St. Louis River Estuary.

Audubon Great Lakes is looking for citizen scientists to download eBird, the bird identification and location app from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and record what birds they see and hear, and where they are, along the river.

It's part of Audubon’s larger effort to pinpoint what areas of the estuary may need some habitat restoration work, where birds are not showing up where they should be, said Tom Prestby, Conservation Manager for Audubon Great Lakes, the conservation group

Did the 2012 flood make St. Louis River Estuary walleyes harder to catch? Or are there fewer of them?

The eBird app is free to download and easy to use, Prestby noted.

“If you are an avid birder, great. But just about anyone can be part of this research,’’ he said. The app can confirm any birds that participants aren’t sure of.

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“We’re looking for people to go out all year, but especially from April to October when we can see what birds are nesting there and what birds are migrating through," he said.

Experts already know the estuary is one of the best birding sites in the Upper Midwest, and Audubon has named it as one of the top nine most important birding areas along the Great Lakes that needs to be studied and protected.

There are significant concentrations of waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds, passerines and raptors during spring and fall migration. The wetlands and associated shrub habitats of the area include breeding populations of sedge and marsh wren, alder flycatcher, sora, Virginia rail, swamp sparrow, chestnut-sided warblers and yellow warblers.

A public meeting is set to remove another impairment from the river's infamous list of troubles.

More than 200 species regularly use the estuary throughout the year. But getting out into the river and its unique wetland habitats isn’t always easy. That's where you and your kayak or canoe come in.

Participants are asked to go out as often as you can, and regular visits to the same or nearby locations are highly encouraged. Each visit should last at least 10 minutes and record all species detected.

There’s no need to sign up or check-in with Audubon, just upload your findings to eBird and Audubon will be able to pull the results from that database.

Meanwhile researchers form the Natural Resources Research Institute and the University of Minnesota Duluth also are out studying birds in the estuary, including in Allouez Bay, where Audubon is conducting habitat improvement efforts. NRRI is trying to determine exactly what birds are using what areas and when.

While citizen scientist participants are welcome to record birds all along the estuary, Audubon is looking for specific information on birds in several locations, including Allouez Bay, Loons Foot Landing/Hog Island, the Pokegama River and Billings Park in Superior and Chambers Grove, Perch Lake and Boy Scout Landing in Duluth.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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