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Song Meter Project Comes to Western Maine

A New Research Project is Launched! 

By James Reddoch 



Mahoosuc Land Trust’s (MLT) properties and easements are attracting a growing number of research and data collection projects. Volunteers:

  • tag monarch butterflies as they migrate south to Mexico as a part of Monarch Watch.

  • collect research data with iNaturalist on insects observed in the Habitat For All Garden.

  • document bird sightings through eBird — over 130 species of birds at Valentine Farm. 

  • monitor nesting peregrine falcons at Bucks Ledge Community Forest.


Other research projects include a radio tower placed at Valentine Farm by the New England Motus Collaboration. This tower detects radio signals from birds tagged and tracked by researchers across the U.S. and Canada. Birds from 10 different research studies have been detected so far. Bucks Ledge Community Forest hosts remote monitoring devices that have documented six different bat species. Now, the McCoy-Chapman Forest on North Road has been selected to participate in a new Song Meter Project. 


A song meter is an electronic device that can be used to detect and record bird songs. Devices like these allow researchers to reach deeper into remote areas and collect more consistent data. In addition, sound identification programs like the one that comes with The Cornell Lab’s free Merlin app have gotten better and better at identifying bird songs. Technology like this means that rather than having a human sit in the woods for a week at a time – something that is usually not possible – a small song meter can be placed to collect data continuously. 


In 2019, Maine Audubon tested using song meters to see if the technology could help determine how forestry practices recommended through its Forestry for Maine Birds (FFMB) program might impact breeding bird populations. It worked and now Maine Audubon and the New England Forestry Foundation are expanding the project. 

Maine Audubon uses song meters to help determine how forestry practices might impact breeding bird populations

Tracy Hart of Maine Audubon writes that song meters help “…determine the importance of various habitat features to forest breeding birds and particularly 20 species of conservation concern.” 


MLT’s McCoy-Chapman Forest has been participating in the FFMB program, and now five sites on the preserve have been selected for song meters that will be deployed in May and June of 2024. MLT’s conservation partner Inland Woods and Trails is also participating with 6 locations in the Bethel Community Forest selected for song meters this spring. 


Spenser Williams, MLT Land Steward, says this project is important because it allows MLT with its “growing conservation footprint in a globally important forest…to examine and verify the outcomes of our ongoing forest management.” 


The Song Meter Project also provides another benefit to its volunteers who welcome the opportunity to get their hands “dirty” with conservation projects.


“This project engages volunteers with citizen science initiatives to support [our] habitat restoration goals,” says Williams.


It will be exciting to see what we discover about birds, their habitat preferences, and the effectiveness of MLT’s conservation plans. If you are interested in volunteering for the Song Meter Project or other MLT citizen science projects, contact me by emailing jamesreddoch@comcast.net


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