Avian Radar Units Provide Crucial Data To Guide
Wildlife Managers Along Great Lakes Shoreline
By Larry Dean
Using funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Midwest Region was able to acquire two Avian Radar Systems and put them to use collecting valuable Great Lakes shoreline migration data.
Since 2011, the units have been deployed for five seasons , during spring and fall migration, and are designed to locate and track flying birds and bats. That data will be of great use for managers as wind power projects expand along known flyways, and thus increase potential risks to wildlife sharing that path.
Acoustic monitor setup. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Jeff Gosse, Dan Nolfi, Nate Rathbun, Tim Bowden, Becky Horton, David Larson, and Erik Olson compose a team of seven biologists from Ecological Services who collect and analyze data from the avian radar units to provide support for the Service’s Wind Energy Guidelines.
"The purpose of the units is to help determine locations of migration corridors, timing of migration, and possibly stopover sites along the shores of the Great Lakes," said Jeff Gosse, Regional Energy Coordinator, "The ultimate intent is to help guide development, such as wind facilities and communication towers, away from areas with high bird or bat concentrations."
The Horizontal Scanning Radar used in the unit’s monitoring can capture the location and direction of moving targets on the landscape. Additionally, its Vertical Scanning Radar provides the altitude of passing targets and provides a count of those passing through.
"Data collected from these units will tell us the date, time, number, direction, and flight height of birds and bats passing through the area. It’s also particularly useful for showing us what is happening at night when all bats and most passerines (songbirds) migrate," Gosse said.
When in use the radar operates 24/7 and can cover up to six miles in diameter. Units have been deployed along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario during spring and fall migration and are currently on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin monitoring fall migration.
In addition to the avian radar units, project biologists have deployed over 30 acoustic monitors along the Great Lakes shorelines to increase our understanding of both bird and bat migration. Acoustic units provide additional insight to the radar data as they pick up specific calls of bats and nocturnal birds in the area monitored.
The use of the region’s Avian Radar Systems will have a major positive impact along the Great Lakes in terms of providing solid data to make the best decisions possible for managing the protection of native birds and bats while working toward the expansion of alternative energy sources like wind energy.
Additional information about the project is available at: www.fws.gov/radar
Locations of acoustic monitors, since 2011. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)