Climate Watch

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A community science program explores how North American birds are responding to climate change.

Want to use your birding skills to advance our understanding of climate change’s impact on birds? Then Climate Watch is for you.

This innovative community-science program enlists volunteer birders across North America to count certain bluebirds and nuthatches in the same place (or places) twice each year. By sticking to a scientific protocol and sharing their results, these community scientists help track whether birds are moving in accordance with projections from Audubon’s climate models.

This is a scientific effort, so following the protocol precisely is important. To that end, Audubon has recruited a network of Climate Watch Coordinators to help participants get the technical details right, including the selection of a survey plot and sharing results with Audubon’s climate scientists.

Survey Timing & Time Commitment

Climate Watch takes place during two distinct seasons: Winter, with surveys between January 15-February 15 and Summer, with surveys between May 15-June 15 each year.

Volunteers are generally able to complete one survey square in two to four hours (12 five-minute point counts per square). Surveys should either be started in the morning and completed before noon, or started in the afternoon and completed before sunset.

Target Species

The Seattle Audubon Climate Watch program will focus on counting red-breasted nuthatches.

Climate Watch focuses on these species: Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Western Bluebird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, Painted Bunting, Eastern Towhee, and Spotted Towhee. These birds are easy to identify, have an enthusiastic constituency, and Audubon’s climate models for these species offer strong predictions for range shifts for us to test. In future years, Climate Watch will include additional target species threatened by climate change covering a broader range of habitats and regional interests.

Location

Seattle Audubon Climate Watch survey points are located in the following parks: Boeing Creek Park and Hamlin Park in Shoreline, and Carkeek Park, Ravenna Park, and the Arboretum in Seattle. We will adding sites in West Seattle, Mercer Island, Renton, and Burien in the near future.

How the data will be used

Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report predicts that more than 300 North American bird species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080. For example, the beautiful Mountain Bluebird is climate-threatened because in the vast majority of its summer range, the climate conditions that this bird needs—temperature, amount of rainfall, and other environmental factors—will shift northward and eastward. This bird may be able to move into new areas over time, or it may struggle to adapt. To test the report’s predictions, Audubon has developed Climate Watch, which aims to document species’ responses to climate change and test Audubon’s climate models by having volunteers in the field look for birds where Audubon’s climate models predict they will be in the 2020s. This information helps Audubon target our conservation work to protect birds.