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Bendire’s Thrasher Volunteer Surveys – Advanced Plot Search Protocol 2016-2017

2017 Information

Training Video on 2017 Area Search protocol


2016 Information

Bendire’s Thrashers need your help! Data shows this species is in steep decline and Arizona is a large part of their remaining range. Citizen-science volunteer point count surveys are established and we are looking for birders to help us do these surveys. You would adopt a route of three point count locations and do the survey on a morning of your choice before April 2016.

This is the page where all resources including data forms and training videos will be posted!

To Sign up for this Bendire’s Thrasher Citizen Science opportunity please visit:

Bendire's Thrasher by Bill Grossi

Bendire’s Thrasher by Bill Grossi

Background Information: Arizona Important Bird Areas, Tucson Audubon, Arizona Game and Fish and others are partnering with USFWS and University of New Mexico to help survey for Bendire’s Thrashers in Arizona. This species superficially looks very much like Curve-billed Thrashers but seems to have very different habitat needs, behaves very differently and is undergoing steep population declines in New Mexico and California. Arizona is the heart of this species range and we are helping the USFWS determine this species habitat needs by helping conduct point counts in different parts of Arizona. This is not going to be a normal survey effort for volunteers of the Arizona Important Bird Areas program – these are not group expeditions. Rather, you will sign up for a transect (with three point counts) location and go and survey it on a morning of your choosing. This will involve using call back (we have portable speakers to borrow) and GPS (either with a Garmin unit or smartphone) to find the correct location.

This is a very fun survey opportunity with potential real world conservation outcomes for a species that is potentially in steep decline. The information we help gather will be used to create a better management plan for this bird and hopefully help their population numbers to stabilize.

The Arizona surveys will be jointly coordinated by Jennie MacFarland of Tucson Audubon and Chrissy Kondrat-Smith of Arizona Game and Fish. Jennie will be running the southern half of the state (Pima, Pinal, Graham, Greenlee, Santa Cruz and Cochise Counties)   Chrissy will be coordinating the central/west part of the state (Maricopa, Yavapai, Mohave, La Paz and Yuma Counties)

Workshop Videos:

**NEW**Survey Directions Summary Video

This video is of Jennie MacFarland describing the survey protocol and different survey sheets and what they are used for in the field. We highly recommend you watch this 25 minute video before going out into the field!

Cody Bear Sutton came from New Mexico to Tucson, AZ to present on what this entire project is about and how the protocol works. Due to how spread out everyone is that is helping with this project his presentation was filmed and is here below for you to watch and learn about the project. Every attempt was made to also have questions from the audience audible using a second microphone and it mostly worked well with a few exceptions. The presentation is split into four videos and the last video is especially important.

Training Workshop Video #1 of 4

Training Workshop Video #2 of 4

Training Workshop Video #3 of 4

Training Workshop Video #4 of 4

GPS How-To Video

This video is for Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys from 2015 so the data sheet demonstrated is wrong but the GPS concepts are still very helpful.


Thrasher Identification Reference Sheet: THRASHER IDENTIFICATION CHART

To Sign up for a Bendire’s Thrasher transect of 3 point counts:

1) We have two ways you can view the available survey locations. The first is an online Google Map at this location: Online Google Map of Bendire’s Thrasher Locations

The online map above does seem to be the best way to view these locations by far!

You can also download the county specific map pdf of all counties of Arizona that have point count locations here:

2) Sign up for the Route you would like to survey

Important: You MUST sign up to join the Bendire’s Thrasher Citizen Science team at this link (it is the same as at top of this page and you may have already done this) before you sign up for a location. This is so we know who you are (your phone number etc.) We don’t want this info entered into an insecure Google Sheets doc and this system is secure and only the coordinators will have access to your information to contact you etc.

We put a lot of time and thought into how to best do this part of the process. What we settled on is using a Google Sheets document which is located here: Google Sheets Route Signup online

Please note that we have not done a signup process this way before so if there are problems please let us know. We have all the routes listed on the sheet and you can sign up as the primary surveyor or as an alternate in case the primary surveyor cannot complete the survey. Once you do a survey please come back to this sheet and fill in the date the survey was completed and whether a Bendire’s Thrasher was found.

3) Do the Survey 🙂

  • Thrasher Identification Reference Sheet: THRASHER IDENTIFICATION CHART
  • Audio File for playback: Download HERE
    (To download this mp3 file you want to right click on the link and select “Save Link As” and then save the file to your computer)
  • Here is a form to use when you find a Bendire’s Thrasher not on a point count. It can be used in any location that is not a point count if you are sure you have a Bendire’s Thrasher. Use this form and a Territory Mapping form (below) and your observations will be just as valuable as a positive point count detection.
    Species Observation Form: Download Here
  • This is the sheet you will use when you conduct a set point count survey.
    Point Count Form: Download Here
  • This is the form you will use if you find a Bendire’s Thrasher.
    Territory Mapping Data sheet: Download Here
  • This form is for a simple vegetation measurement that we would like you to do at your point counts. You only need one of these sheets for an entire transect – the veg for all three point counts can go one sheet.
    NEW (as of 3/8) Vegetation Data Sheet: Download Here
  • Here is the detailed protocol and directions on exactly how to conduct these surveys and how to use all the data forms above. Please be sure to read through this whole document carefully.
  • Final Protocol (was updated 3/8): Download Here

The above protocol is a final version and has a few notable updates including information on simple vegetation measurements we would like you to record during your point count (they are very simple) and an added on set of directions based on feedback from the volunteers who have already done surveys. This new information on what to do if you cannot reach the exact transect location are included in the new Protocol (link above) and also right here for your convenience.

 What to Do if You Encounter Barriers to Your Transect

Due to the large scale of these surveys these transects have not been ground truthed and though every effort possible has been made to place them in accessible areas, sometimes there are fences or gates that we are not aware of before you find them in person.

If this happens to you where you cannot access the exact location you adopted due to unforeseen barriers – don’t despair, you can still do the survey. You can create new random locations to replace the locations you are unable to reach. It is preferable that there new point count locations be within 3 km of the predetermined transect but not absolutely necessary. Your three new point count locations need to be at least 400 meters apart from each other and you need to be sure to document the UTM coordinates (in NAD 83) of the new location and why you moved it on your data form – this is very important! Then you can proceed through the protocol as normal.

Window Placard for you Car Download Here

If you need a gpx file (the type that would download into a Garmin device) email Jennie (contact info below) as the website will not let us post this type of file.

Reference Videos of Bendire’s Thrashers in action filmed by Chrissy Kondrat-Smith

Please Contact the appropriate coordinator prior to doing your survey

For Southern Arizona:
Jennie MacFarland
Tucson Audubon Society
(520) 209-1804

For the Phoenix area and north/western Arizona
Chrissy Kondrat-Smith
Arizona Game and Fish
(623) 236-7625