Creating a Northeastern Interior Motus Array
Phase I - Completed September 2017
Thanks to generous donors, and with funding from Pennsylvania DCNR, we installed a line of 20 Motus towers from southeastern Pennsylvania to Lake Erie, which were operational by September 1, 2017. This array, maintained by a variety of partner NGOs, educational institutions and agencies, has already intercepted migrants moving out of eastern Canada and New England along the Piedmont, Appalachian ridge-and-valley system, Allegheny Front and Appalachian Plateau.
We aim to expand the statewide Pennsylvania network, totaling roughly 40 towers, by the end of 2018. This would link with a line of towers to be installed across western Maryland and with a rapidly increasing network around the south shore of Lake Erie. It would also tie in with a local cluster of towers operated by Powdermill Nature Center in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The final phase, scheduled for 2019, would see the installation of more than 30 additional towers in New York and New England, creating a more diffuse network across the Northeast inland region. In all, these steps would represent a dramatic expansion of the Motus project both geographically and in terms of its research and conservation potential. As we have done with the Pennsylvania cross-state line, we propose working with a variety of researchers, agencies and institutions throughout the Northeast who will agree to take on responsibility, for a set period of time, for the ongoing maintenance and data management of their individual towers or tower clusters.
Land trusts and environmental nonprofits tend to have strong education and outreach efforts, as well as extensive networks of nature centers and preserves where receiver stations—and the data produced by migrant birds and bats —could easily be incorporated into their educational programs. Motus is already moving to make much of its data, network-wide, available to the public in near-real time via the internet, making such educational opportunities even richer.
Although our goal in creating a Northeast inland Motus network is to greatly enhance ongoing work in studying a wide range of migratory species at the hemispheric scale, all three organizations in the Northeast Motus Collaboration have a particular, long-term interest in the migration of northern saw-whet owls, the smallest owl in the East. Once a minimum threshold of stations within the overall network has been achieved, we will begin to deploy nanotags on nesting and migrant northern sawwhet owls at Project Owlnet cooperator stations in New England and eastern Canada, allowing us for the first time to track their movements in real time across continental scales. By lengthening the pulse rate of the nanotags, it is possible for the transmitters to enjoy more than a year's battery life, permitting us to capture full annual-cycle movements.
Bird Studies Canada would continue to provide all of the infrastructure support, including Motus web presence, data management and system technical development.