Anyone with a love for the great outdoors and an adventuresome spirit should get ready to grab their binoculars.
Local volunteers are sought to help count birds of prey and monitor their nests in Tooele County’s outback this spring for the Raptor Inventory Nest Survey (RINS) and the Bureau of Land Management.
Information gathered during the annual survey on nesting falcons, eagles, hawks and owls is used for making important decisions regarding wildlife.
“We use the data for wildlife management,” said Robyn MacDuff, director of RINS. “The BLM has a lot of federal lands, so they use our data when there are wildfires. They can identify where the nests are and which ones are active and which species live there. If there’s a fire, they can try tactics to get the fire to move away from the active nests.”
The data is also used when new construction projects are proposed to determine the proximity to raptor nests. “We use it to avoid and minimize impacts,” MacDuff said. “We have electrical power lines coming through Tooele County, like the new Mona-to-Oquirrh power line project, and we’ve been involved with those. With any new construction, companies usually check with us.”
She added nests are monitored all over northern Utah. Volunteers are particularly needed to monitor areas in the west desert, including Rush Valley, Skull Valley and Dugway.
Participation does not require special experience or education. The only prerequisites are a love for the outdoors, especially the west desert area, and a sincere desire to help birds of prey, noted MacDuff.
“Interest is huge,” she said. “General life skills like being detail oriented or loving to be outdoors are great skills to have. The biggest piece is just being interested in the birds or wildlife in general.”
Science credentials aren’t necessary to be a RINS volunteer. Interested individuals don’t need to know how to discover a nest, or identify a raptor, because the BLM provides complete training, including map reading and navigation using a GPS, and field safety procedures.
Training workshops will be held Feb. 23 and March 2 from noon to 4 p.m. at the BLM’s Salt Lake Field Office at 2370 S. 2300 West in Salt Lake City.
MacDuff requested that persons who plan to attend the trainings to call her at (801) 554-0807 or send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is recommended that volunteers own a pair of binoculars, a GPS unit and have an email address. Volunteers are asked to spend a total of 10 days during the nesting season, which is March through July, at their assigned area. That averages out to about two days a month.
“We’re really a hands-off kind of organization,” she said. “We use spotting scopes and binoculars to do our monitoring.
If we feel like we’re bothering the birds, we’ll leave. Leaving them alone is a key component to their success, because they’re pretty intolerant to humans.”
According to MacDuff, raptors likely to be seen in Tooele County include ferruginous hawks, redtailed hawks, Swainson’s hawks, owls, falcons and eagles. Last year, RINS had 103 volunteers who found over 300 new raptor nests. Volunteers monitor close to 1,500 nests annually.
RINS was formed by volunteer Dawn Sebesta in 2000. Sebesta died in a plane crash in 2003 while surveying with another volunteer for raptor nests in the west desert. For more information, visit www.rins.org or call (801) 977-4300.