Franklin Township Short-eared Owl Surveys

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So a group of Franklin Township birders have started an owl survey given the recent sighting(s) of Short-eared Owls in the area.
Here’s the email I posted to Jerseybirds with details on the surveys…

Hey Jerseybirders:

Thanks to Jimmy Lee for finding the “closest Short-eared Owls to my house” 🙂
Because of this finding, the willing participation of local birders, and because for the last 4 years I’ve driven around Franklin TWP thinking “dang- there must be some good birds around here with all these fields!”, I’ve finally gotten around to setting up an Owl (or whatever you want to survey) survey. I’ve made a Google Map with some locations that I, or others in the area, have seen as good vantage points for searching for Shorties, and come up with a protocol for recording and reporting your observations.

The goal is simply to determine the number and spatial distribution of Short-eared Owls wintering in Franklin Township.

Here is a link to our datasheet:

And here is a link to the Google Map:

If you’d like to participate in these surveys, email me and I’ll add you as a collaborator on the map and data sheet, which will allow you to edit the survey points (map) and data (data sheet), rather than just view it.

This is a rogue citizen science project, with no oversight and no planned use for the data. Use of the data is at your own risk. 🙂

Survey Protocols

Before the survey:

– access the map and choose a survey location you will attend.
– choose “edit” to begin editing the map
– “edit” the survey location so you can add the DATE and YOUR NAME in the description for the point (see point ID SR 0001 for example).

What you’ll need to bring with you to the survey:

– a watch

– something to write with and on

– preferably a print-out of the map zoomed to your location so you can sketch your “field of view” (we can add this later to the google map which will give us a better idea of total coverage, and let us know where we might need to revisit to cover more area)

– binoculars

– spotting scope (optional)

– patience!

– Please DO NOT use any playback devices to attract owls (this creates a serious bias between surveyors and disrupts owls)

During the Survey:

– Be in position at your location 1/2 hour before sunset, and remain there for at least 1/2 hour after sunset.

– Choose a location that provides you maximum view, and record your “field of view” on your print-out

– Record the following: Time Start; Time Finished; Wind Direction and Strength (general idea is fine); Precipitation (if any); time of owl seen (for each owl seen); total number of owls seen during survey, for each owl record your “certainty” of identification (use percentages, and ask yourself “would you eat it”, based on the mushroom hunter’s motto- don’t eat it unless you’re 100% certain what it is! (from Lifebirds by George Levine)

– There is no systematic protocol, just scan the area casually during the survey period

After the survey
– When you get a chance, please email your survey result information to me (and/or the group) and (if you’re not opposed to Google Maps) please add a polygon on the map depicting your field of view.

– Add “completed” next to where you originally put the date and your name for your survey on the placemark. Eventually each placemark should have several dates with “completed” next to them, indicating replicated surveys at each point.

If you have any questions, please feel free to send them along.

There have also been some concerns about safety, so feel free to email the group and arrange to travel in pairs. One person could take one side of the road, while the other takes the alternate, or both can spread out over a field. Either way, don’t put yourself in harms way- and if you don’t feel comfortable, leave the scene! We can always go out there some other night. Carry a cellphone with you as well.

Adding Survey Points
As a collaborator you may add as many survey points to the map as you deem fit. Please follow the naming convention already established:
XX 000X –> the two letter abbreviation for the nearest road (Suydam Rd. = SR; Canal Rd. = CR, etc.) + a space + 000 + the number in sequence, following the last named point along that road (if we go into double-digits, then it will be two leading zeroes ie. 0010 is the 10th point in that series).
Please be conservative when adding survey points- and email the group so we’re aware of the new location.

Good Owling!


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5 responses to “Franklin Township Short-eared Owl Surveys”

  1. I couldn’t read the maps. With all the zoom levels I tried it kept on showing the same message, the data cannot be shown at this zoom try changing it. Is there some mistake at my side…

  2. Just want tolet folks know that Maine has been conducting winter owl surveys for the past few years. They use citizen scientists and had a protocol to follow. It is a statewide census and could be duplicated in NJ. It might be something to look into. Especially since not not much is currently know about wintering owls.
    Here is the link:


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