Regular Morning Transects – Protocols

In the field

  • Begin the census at least one hour after local sunrise. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours, but may take up to 3 hours during busy migration times. Plan to finish before 12:00 noon EDT.
  • Before starting, record leader, number of observers, date, start time, which sanctuary you are in (either Cootes Paradise North Shore or Hendrie Valley), the route/transect name,  temperature (deg C), wind speed (Beaufort Scale), cloud cover (% cover in increments of 10%), visibility (poor, fair, good), background noise (Noise scale).
  • Follow the prescribed route steadily, noting your observations as you go. Stop to look and listen as needed, but do not stay at one place for prolonged periods. [Without disturbing habitat, it is okay to move laterally to confirm the identity of a bird seen or heard from the trail, but not to search for additional species or individuals.]
  • Count and record every identifiable individual bird seen or heard, including those flying over. If you can only make a partial identification (“plover sp.”, “warbler sp.”, Empidonax sp.”, etc.) include that information in your results. Don’t include anything you can’t identify. Record birds in your notebook in a manner that allows you to tally numbers easily when you are finished. [Suggestions for methods of counting in the field and an optional data sheet with a list of birds that may be encountered on the different transects.]
  • Do not stop and restart the census if you are interrupted for some reason for more than a few minutes. Either restart the census from the beginning or abandon it and report your partial results with an explanatory note. [Brief interruptions to outwait a passing shower, avoid RBG work activity, or allow a school group to pass are acceptable.]
  •  To estimate the size of large visible flocks, try counting a known fraction of the flock and  multiplying to get an estimate of the total flock.
  • Be conservative estimating the numbers of birds heard but not seen. Stand still for 30 seconds and try to estimate the number of birds calling from different directions. Change position and try again. Often this will give a reasonable estimate of numbers. [Partial counting can work for unseen birds. If 5 birds from a noisy, hidden flock on your left cross to your right, and a quarter of the calls now come from your right, you can estimate a flock of 20.]
  •  Although our routes are circular they are irregular in shape. Make a reasonable attempt not to count birds in the centre of the circle more than once from different positions. If there is reasonable doubt, however, it is better to count than to omit. [If you think you might be double counting an otherwise uncommon species, make a note in your report. Double counting a Mourning Warbler generates a significant error in the data; double counting common birds like American Robins or  Blue Jays does not.]
  •  Record any unusual or noteworthy observations (breeding evidence, banded birds, weather events, unusual behaviours, etc.) as comments.
  •  Record your finishing time when you return to your point of origin, and stop counting at that time.

Reporting Your Data

When you have finished a census, please tally and report your results as quickly as possible.

You can submit your report electronically or manually.

Electronic reporting (preferred).  Use Microsoft Excel, or a Google Sheets to record and submit your data electronically.  Click here for on-line reporting template.

  1.       If you’re using Google Sheets you must first create and name a new sheet from the Master D&D template. At top left Click ‘File’, then select “Make a Copy’.    A ‘Make a Copy’ box appears – rename the file as instructed in points 9 to 13 below. This new sheet is the one you use to report (leaving the template intact).
  2.       From your field notes, enter the initial data (route, observers, times, weather, etc.) then tally the number of individuals of each species observed during your walk.
  3.       Drag and drop or copy/paste the appropriate species names from the lists on the right into the column on the left of the sheet. All the species that might reasonably be expected on these transects are listed to the right on the template with the commonest species first.
  4.       Please alphabetize species by common name. You can do this by selecting the species alphabetically, or by completing your entire list and then performing a ‘data sort’ function.
  5.       Transcribe the number of individuals for each species from your field notes into the second column.
  6.       Add any comments specific to a species in the third column. (e.g. “carrying nest material”, “one bird banded on left leg”)
  7.       Add any partially identified species (e.g. Duck sp., Blackbird sp.) at the end of your alphabetized list.
  8.       Add any general notes (e.g. “10 cm of fresh snow on the ground”) in the “Comments” section at the bottom.
  9.       Save the file, naming it exactly as follows with underscores separating the :
  10.       Transect name code (CC for Captain Cootes, CH for Cherry Hill, GD for Grey Doe)
  11.       Date in reverse notation (YYYY_MM_DD)
  12.       The recorder’s unique code (a two or three letter code based on your initials)
  13.       Hence, if Andy R. Smith completed the Cherry Hill transect on September 14 2017 the name of the file would be CH 2017_09_14ARS

This style of naming is not arbitrary. It allows the files to be sorted very easily. This is important, as we are producing almost 180 files per year, and hope to keep doing it for many years!

  • If you’re using Google Sheets to compile your results, use the blue ‘SHARE’ button at top-right to distribute your completed form to our compiler and other team members.  You’ll need other team members’ email addresses to complete the sharing process and will receive the list confidentially.
  • If you’re using Excel, save the sheet and send it as an attachment to our compiler and other team members.  You’ll need their email addresses and will receive the list confidentially.
  • We will be compiling all the individual transects into a master spreadsheet for each route. If you feel competent to transcribe your data to the master spreadsheet, please ask for instructions. It takes 5-10 minutes to enter the data. Having individuals enter their own sightings will cut down on compiling time and allow each observer to review his or her own data, thus reducing the chance of transcription errors.

Manual reporting. If you feel more comfortable, scan a hand-completed form and send it to our compiler or drop off a hard copy to the attention of Lindsay Barr at RBG’s main offices on Plains Rd W.

  • From your field notes, tally the number of individuals of each species observed during your walk
  • Copy or manually create a version of the paper tally form included below OR create an email with the same information. Fill in the initial data at the top (route, observers, times, weather, etc.)
  • In the first column, list the species you observed. Please use the standardized common names for each species (e.g. American Black Duck, not Black Duck). Names should be capitalized as shown. Hyphens are important. The standard names are given in the list below. If at all possible, alphabetize the species by common name.
  • In the second column, record the number of each species seen or heard during your count.
  • In the third column, add any comments specific to that species.
  • Add any partially identified species (e.g. Duck sp., Blackbird sp.) at the end of your alphabetized list.
  • On the back of the sheet, or at the bottom, add any general comments about the day (environmental details, mass movements, etc.).
  • If you are creating a paper copy, either scan it and send it via email to our compiler and cc. it to other observers, or arrange to have a paper copy delivered in a timely manner to our compiler.

Please note that for willing and competent volunteers who have trouble with reporting requirements, we are happy to make additional accommodations as long as the observers can provide all of the relevant data and the task does not become too time consuming. Please ask if you need instruction or help.