Meeting Date:

April 19, 2004



Staff Contact:

Thomas Christensen

Program/Line Item No.:2.1.3-B



Cost Estimate:$15,600


General Counsel Approval:N/A

Committee Recommendation:The Administrative Committee reviewed this item on April 13, 2004 and recommended approval pending receipt of additional information from staff.

CEQA Compliance:N/A


SUMMARY: The Board will consider authorizing staff to retain the Ventana Wilderness Society (VWS) to continue the Districtís avian (bird) habitat monitoring program on the Carmel River during calendar year 2004. This work will continue the monitoring of bird life along the river conducted since 1992, including the collection of data on the use of the Carmel River riparian corridor during bird migration and breeding seasons. Work will be as shown in Exhibit 4-A.

RECOMMENDATION:Authorize the General Manager to enter into a contract with the Ventana Wilderness Society for avian habitat monitoring work along the Carmel River at a cost not to exceed $15,600.The Administrative Committee considered this matter at its April 13, 2004 meeting and recommended approval pending receipt of additional information from staff.


IMPACTS ON STAFF AND RESOURCES:Funds to conduct the Districtís 2004 wildlife monitoring program are proposed to be included in the draft FY 2004-2005 budget under Project Expenditures for Program 2.1 (Riparian Habitat Mitigations, Wildlife monitoring).Estimated costs for the scope of work as shown in Exhibit 4-A total $15,600.Mileage expenses are included in this not-to-exceed amount. This work will be performed under the direction of the Districtís Riparian Projects Coordinator.


BACKGROUND:Avian (bird) use of riparian habitat provides an excellent indicator of wildlife habitat value.In 1992, the District established permanent sampling locations for avian species monitoring at several sites along the Carmel River.The purpose of this program is tomeasure bird use at the monitoring sites, thus providing an indication of changing patterns of habitat values in the Districtís restoration project areas.Information on bird populations and avian species diversity collected as part of the Districtís Mitigation Program has assisted in documenting trends in the response of wildlife populations to habitat enhancements implemented by the District.Locations of the monitoring sites are shown in Exhibit 4-B. An example of the data collected from 1992 through 2003 at the Schulte Restoration Project is shown in Exhibit 4-C.The two major dips in bird counts that can be seen in the graphs are likely the result of the reduction and disturbance of riparian habitat caused by the high river flows and erosion in 1995 and 1998.The higher bird counts following the two dips indicate a recovery of the extent and health of the riparian habitat.The Districtís riparian vegetation planting and irrigation activities promote growth and health of riparian vegetation, and are a likely reason for the higher bird counts.


In addition to continuing the bird counts and avian species diversity index monitoring protocols established in 1992, the VWS will continue monitoring a series of mist netting sites within District riparian habitat enhancement areas.The VWS sampling will span the spring, summer and fall migration and breeding seasons for a comprehensive look at patterns of wildlife use in District planting areas.Long-term monitoring of the same sampling locations provides an indication of the overall changes in wildlife habitat values resulting from the Districtís planting, irrigation, and erosion protection efforts.


Administrative Committee Requests and Responses


Requests:At the April 13, 2004 Administrative Committee meeting, the Committee members requested responses to three questions:

  1. Who is conducting the avian monitoring and what are their credentials?
  2. Could the District hire biology graduate students to do the work?
  3. What are the pros and cons of conducting the avian monitoring surveys every two years rather than every year?


Response to Question 1.Exhibit 4-D includes the names and qualifications of the Ventana Wilderness Society avian biologists who will perform the work.


Response to Question 2.Avian survey and census techniques, such as mist-netting and banding passerines (the majority of bird species) and conducting area searches, require highly trained individuals and a crew of two to three people.Crew leaders typically have a minimum of 2 years of mist-netting and banding experience, and it is preferred that the individual has previously been in a mist-netting and banding supervisory role.The individuals must be adept at following MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) protocols, handling birds according to the Banderís Code of Ethics, and identifying, aging, and sexing all North American passerines to a high degree of accuracy using the book, The Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part I, by Peter Pyle.Individuals must also be able to identify all Western birds by sight and sound and record observational data on a standard area search data sheet.


The specialized background required to conduct the monitoring and reporting would make it difficult for the District to recruit two to three qualified graduate students and coordinate their schedules so that they could work as a team.The monitoring protocols are time-sensitive, with the spring surveys commencing each year on about May 1, and a second set of surveys done in late summer/early fall.The field activity is followed each year by the preparation of a detailed report of the results.It would require significant amounts of District staff time to recruit, hire and supervise a team of graduate students to perform the required surveys and prepare the summary report.The VWS already has the staff trained for this work and is familiar with the Districtís monitoring program.

Response to Question 3.There are a number of reasons why it is important to conduct avian surveys on an annual basis, rather than every other year.Neotropical and other migrants who breed in this area can be strongly affected by weather patterns both in wintering areas and on their breeding grounds.If the District were to operate MAPS stations and survey along transects only every other year, we could miss crucial information about the impact of events such as the El Nino/La Nina and Southern Oscillation weather effects.Similarly, the full effects of natural and human-caused disasters such as floods, habitat degradation, droughts, fires, groundwater pumping, pollutant spills, etc. might be missed if staff were to reduce the avian monitoring efforts to every other year.One of the primary goals of the MAPS program is to detect long-term trends in breeding bird populations; these trends are more difficult to detect with precision when data is not collected every year.


The District already has the foundation in place for a strong data set, with 12 years conducting the Avian Guild Species Diversity Program (based on visual and sound detection of birds at specified locations), and three years conducting the Carmel River Avian Monitoring Program (includes mist net surveys).The avian guild project tracks species diversity, abundance, and richness along the western expanse of the Carmel River from deDampierre Park to the Carmel River Lagoon at the mouth of the river.Analyses in 2003 revealed a positive trend in species diversity at the Districtís Schulte Restoration Project site, where restoration efforts have proven fruitful since its completion in 1987.The continuation of this monitoring effort is paramount in forecasting future wildlife and vegetation interactions, as they relate to the Districtís recent riparian habitat restoration efforts. Operating MAPS stations in conjunction with conducting area searches provides: (a) annual indices of adult population size and post-fledgling productivity; and (b) annual estimates of adult survival rate, adult population size, proportion of residents in the adult population, and recruitment into the adult population, in addition to determining bird/habitat relationships over time.Monitoring once every two years would save money but would be detrimental to the clear and precise collection of Carmel River avian species data and would diminish the efforts that have been made in the past.


Copies of the two reports prepared by VWS for last yearís monitoring results are being provided to the Board members under separate cover.The reports are titled ďCarmel River Avian Monitoring Program, Summer 2003Ē and ď2003 Analysis of Avian Guild Species Diversity in the Carmel River Riparian CorridorĒ.