WINTER HARBOR — In the Northeast, millions of songbirds migrate south every fall along the coastline. As they travel long distances to reach their southern destinations, they make stopovers where they can refuel on insects and fruit.
As the climate changes in the Downeast region, however, rising temperatures are causing those sources of sustenance to emerge earlier and spurring songbirds to migrate later in the fall. This shift has prompted the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park to partner with the National Phenology Network to track and record this phenomenon in the form of the Downeast Phenology Trail.
Phenology is the study of plant and animal life cycle events, including flowering and fruiting of plants, emergence of insects and migrations of birds. It is nature’s calendar.
The Downeast Phenology Trail is part of regional initiative seeking volunteer citizen trackers to determine if climate change is creating a phenological mismatch with fall migratory songbirds and their food sources. Volunteer citizen trackers are being sought as part of that quest.
In addition, Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Island Heritage Trust, Downeast Lakes Land Trust, Maine Audubon’s Fields Pond, Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge and Frenchman Bay Conservancy have formed Phenology Trackers of Maine (PhToM).
A network of phenology walks has been established on hiking trails managed by each of the partners. Along these walks are target plant species ranging from shrubs such as black huckleberry, to trees including red maple. The time berries emerge and other patterns will be monitored by citizen science volunteers using the Nature’s Notebook website or app. Besides plant phenology data, volunteers can use eBird and iNaturalist to collect data about the birds and insects.
The volunteer trackers’ findings become part of the National Phenology Network’s nationwide database used by researchers all over the world to answer scientific research questions and help set conservation and management goals.
To become a volunteer tracker, and learn more about the Downeast Phenology Trail and PhToM, call 288-1310, email [email protected] and visit www.schoodicinstitute.org.