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Birds Buzz New Tower at Valentine

Barbara Murphy, development director at Mahoosuc Land Trust, explains the new bird migration tracking town at Valentine Farm.

By Julie Reiff

A walk toward the river, through the lower meadow, at Mahoosuc Land Trust's Valentine Farm property now leads visitors past a strange-looking new landmark. The tall metal tower is a tracking station that will provide migration data to help wildlife managers across North America better conserve a range of wildlife species from woodcock to bats and songbirds to monarch butterflies.

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is a global network of automated telemetry receiving stations coordinated by Bird Studies Canada. Stations detect unique, Morse code-like signals from tiny radio tags that all transmit on the same frequency and can be deployed on birds, bats, and even large insects. This new technology makes it possible to identify migration routes, stopover areas, and wintering locations for small animals whose travels have been impossible to study at a landscape scale.

“Adding a MOTUS Tower is just one more way Mahoosuc Land Trust is working to better understand and protect our critical forests and waters,” says MLT volunteer James Reddoch, who leads frequent bird walks on the property. “The western Maine Mountains form a gateway to critical nesting habitat for birds that come here from as far away as South America. Most make the annual journey unseen—until now.”

Scientists estimate that one-third of native wildlife species in the U.S. face increased risk of becoming extinct. Effective conservation strategies depend on an understanding of a species’ ecology throughout its life cycle. This data makes it possible to link geographic areas that a migratory population uses throughout the year, identify threats at different seasons, and protect key habitats at each stage of the annual cycle.

The Motus network includes hundreds of stations around the world. Biologists equip thousands of migrant animals each year with tiny radio tags weighing as little 1/140th of an ounce! A tagged animal can be detected if it passes within about 10 miles of the receiver and the data are sent to researchers.

The station at Valentine Farm is part of a global receiver array on every continent except Antartica under the direction of Birds Canada. The Northeast Motus Collaboration, which maintains the Bethel site, is partnering with private landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal resource agencies to create a regional network of more than 150 sites in the mid-Atlantic and New England. To learn what tagged species have passed through Bethel, or to see a map of other receiver locations, visit

Mahoosuc Land Trust is an accredited land trust that has conserved more than 20,000 acres to benefit the communities of the Mahoosuc Region. MLT welcomes visitors at Valentine Farm Conservation Center, 13 preserves, and four Androscoggin River boat landings, and engages hundreds of volunteers each year to care for these sites. FMI,

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