Mountain BirdWatch, the A.T., and Citizen ScienceSince the year 2000, hundreds of tenacious trekkers have found a way to combine their passion for birds with their love of the mountains by becoming citizen scientists for the Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ (VCE), Mountain Birdwatch (MBW) program. These dedicated volunteers rise before first light and hike to designated points along trails to count 10 high-elevation mountain bird species. Mountain birds, a specific category of breeding birds, are a primary interest of the NPS Northeast Temperate Network’s (NETN) Appalachian National Scenic Trail’s (APPA) resource managers. These birds are particularly dependent upon mountain-clinging spruce-fir forests: an uncommon and restricted habitat type in northern New England. Regionally rare as it may be, it is actually the dominant forest type along almost 140 miles of the Trail in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The MBW program demonstrates how APPA plays a key role in supporting regional species conservation through habitat protection and by supporting access for citizen science activities, and is a great example of a regional monitoring effort that combines APPA interests with those of the public and adjacent lands. This is critically important for management of APPA because activities and actions that happen on nearby lands have a major influence on the relatively narrow ribbon of land that surrounds the trail. VCE’s MBW is the only region-wide source of population information on high-elevation breeding birds in the region - including the rare and secretive Bicknell’s Thrush.