Winter waterfowl surveys are conducted in salt marsh habitats at Ninigret, Trustom Pond, Sachuest Point and the John H Chafee refuges. Although surveys have been conducted for over 10 years at three of the refuges, JHC surveys were first conducted in 2004. Surveys are initiated in November of each year and continue bi-weekly through February.
Banding and Nesting Success
In 2008 we were able to secure funding to implement additional monitoring for this species. A total of 118 sparrows were banded with 43 of those captured at Sachuest Point NWR (SPNWR) and 76 at the John H. Chafee NWR (JHC NWR)(Table 6). In addition, all suitable habitat (i.e. high marsh and fringe) was searched throughout the season for nests. Forty-three active nests were located and monitored 2-3 times per week to document success. Overall 74% of the nests successfully fledged at least one chick with a total of 106 chicks fledged (productivity = 2.47 chicks per nest) (Table 6). Nest success was much higher at JHC sites than Sachuest due to extreme nest flooding following rain events during the summer.
Blood Mercury Data
Beginning in 2004 we have participated in an investigation of blood Mercury levels in saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrows on NWRs along the North Atlantic Coast. We have been able to collect and analyze samples during four year at the JHC NWR and during 2004 and 2008 at SPNWR. A total of 74 samples have been analyzed by scientists at the Biodiversity Research Institute, with a total of 20 sparrows sampled during July of 2008 at the two sites.
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This songbird relies on the high salt marsh meadow habitat for cover and nest building. Often, it scurries through the grass like a mouse or vole. When sharp-tailed sparrow nests are damaged by high tides, the most successful sparrows rebuild them. Look for this species in the spring through the summer.