New BirdNet unit installed within Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory near Shaver Creek
On Tuesday afternoon, May 9, 2023, Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association board member and IT mind behind the new BirdNet project Doug Fessler and Riverkeeper John Zaktansky traveled to Penn State's Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) near the Shaver's Creek Environmental Center just south of State College to install the third in a series of watershed-wide BirdNet ID units.
Using money from a technology grant via the Keith Campbell Foundation, the association continues to create, install and put online BirdNet units along waterways that record, ID and upload common bird sounds to an interactive map.
The goal is to collect data to be analyzed by the Susquehanna University Freshwater Research Institute to observe correlations between various bird species and water quality with the goal of developing indicators that can then be used as another way to monitor waterways for changes in quality and potential pollution.
The CZO site is managed by Brandon Forsythe, Assistant Research Professor with Penn State University. The wooded site and small tributary to Shavers Creek has been studied via thousands of sensors and other equipment for a wide variety of data sets, including streamflow and discharge, groundwater attributes, soil moisture, land-atmosphere fluxes, sap flow, tree root density, ground-penetrating radar, wood deterioration and much, much more.
"I found the site fascinating -- it was basically a massive outdoor science lab where most any element of the landscape and small stream has been measured and data uploaded online for the public to check out," said Zaktansky. "Plus, they look at this data not just individually, but collaboratively, seeing the bigger picture of how such wooded sites interact together. It is definitely something more people should be aware of and check out. This sort of outdoor observatory offers an invaluable look at our waterways and it would be cool to see more of these sort of sites across our greater watershed."
You can check out all sorts of interesting data online at the CZO's website: http://www.czo.psu.edu
In less than 24 hours, the new BirdNet unit onsite uploaded 112 bird sound detections, identifying 11 species including the scarlet tanager, Louisiana waterthrush, Acadian flycatcher, northern waterthrush tufted titmouse and black-throated green warbler.
You can observe bird species uploads in real time and even listen to recordings from the site at https://app.birdweather.com/stations/1034
"It is great to see some of the diversity in species at this site, which is more wooded than some of the others. We are seeing some species here we haven't seen elsewhere so far," said Zaktansky. "Of particular interest for this project are species such as the waterthrushes which are linked directly to life along waterways."
For more about the BirdNet program, including a look at all three of our growing list of sites, visit http://www.middlesusquehannariverkeeper.org/birdnet.html
Some additional photos from the install and around the CZO taken during a hike to explore the area:
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John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.