Plum Island Ecosystems LTER Database

Acceptance and utilization of LTER data requires that:

(1) The Principal Investigator be sent a notice stating reasons for acquiring any data and a description of the publication intentions.
(2) The Principal Investigator of the data set be sent a copy of the report or manuscript prior to submission and be adequately cited in any resultant publications.
(3) A copy of any resultant publications should be sent to:

Principal Investigator
Ecosystems Center
Marine Biological Laboratory
7 MBL St.
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Dataset URLs:METADATA: HTML, Rich Text, XML(EML compliant)
DATA: Comma Delimited, Excel file with Metadata and data
Dataset ID:HTL-MAR-WadingBirds.01
Dataset Title:Surveys of salt marsh wading birds and shorebirds at Plum Island Sound and portions of Essex Bay
Investigator 1: 
First Name:Robert
Last Name:Buchsbaum
Address line 1:Mass Audubon Society
Address line 2:346 Grapevine Road
Address line 3:
Zip Code:01984
Associate Investigators:
Keywords:PIE LTER, population dynamics, Plum Island, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Mass Audubon, wading birds, egrets, herons, shorebirds, salt marsh birds
Abstract:This data set is part of a study of how wading birds, primarily Great and Snowy Egrets are using different estuarine habitats at Plum Island Sound. It contains the results of count surveys of wading birds in the salt marshes of the Plum Island Estuary and parts of adjacent Essex Bay. Surveys were carried out from May to October in 2012 and 2013. One additional sampling occurred in July 2014. Bird counts took place from 37 observation points around the bay and documented species, estimated distance from observer, habitat of each individual bird counted and its behavior (feeding, resting, etc.).
Contact: Plum Island Ecosystems LTER Information Manager
The Ecosystems Center
Marine Biological Lab
7 MBL St
Woods Hole, MA 02543
Phone (508) 289 7485
Online URL:
Data File URL
Data File Name HTL-MAR-WadingBirds.xls
Beginning Date 5/25/2012
End Date 7/15/2014
Number of Data Records 3548
Other Files to Reference
Availability Status 1
Quality Control Information Typically two observers to identify and count birds. Data entered into spreadsheet and then edited for accuracy
Maintenance Description Data collection ended in 2014
Log of Changes: Version 01: January 7, 2015, new data and metadata to comply with importation to Drupal and LTER PASTA. Used MarcrosExportEML_HTML (working)pie_excel2007.xlsm 6/30/14 11:33 AM for QA/QC to EML 2.1.0
Geographic Description Surveys encompass observation points distributed along the entirety of Plum Island Sound and a few additional observation points in the western section of Essex Bay.  
Location Bounding Box    
West Bounding Coordinate -70.858  
East Bounding Coordinate -70.769  
North Bounding Coordinate 42.795  
South Bounding Coordinate 42.655  
OR if single point location    
Taxonomic Protocols Birds identified to species by experienced Mass Audubon and volunteer birders. Sibley used as taxonomic reference.
Organisms studied Accipiter cooperii,Agelaius phoeniceus,Ammodramus caudacutus,Ammodramus maritimus,Anas platyrhynchos,Anas strepera,Anas rubripes,Ardea alba,Ardea herodias,Aves sp.,Baeolophus bicolor,Bombycilla cedrorum,Branta canadensis,Buteo jamaicensis,Butorides virescens,Calidris minutilla,Cardinalis cardinalis,Carduelis tristis,Carpodacus mexicanus,Cathartes aura,Catharus fuscescens,Ceryle alcyon,Chaetura pelagica,Charadrius vociferus,Cistothorus palustris,Coccyzus erythropthalmus,Colaptes auratus,Contopus virens,Corvus brachyrhynchos,Corvus ossifragus,Cyanocitta cristata,Cygnus olor,Dendroica petechia,Dolichonyx oryzivorus,Dumetella carolinensis,Egretta thula,Empidonax traillii,Gallinago delicata,Geothlypis trichas,Hirundo rustica,Hylocichla mustelina,Icterus galbula,Icterus spurius,Larus argentatus,Larus marinus,Melanerpes carolinus,Meleagris gallopavo,Melospiza melodia,Mimus polyglottos,Molothrus ater,Myiarchus crinitus,Pandion haliaetus,Passer domesticus,Phalacrocorax auritus,Phasianus colchicus,Picadae sp.,Picoides pubescens,Picoides villosus,Pipilo erythrophthalmus,Piranga olivacea,Plegadis falcinellus,Poecile atricapillus,Quiscalus quiscula,Rallus limicola,Sayornis phoebe,Seiurus aurocapilla,Setophaga ruticilla,Sialia sialis,Sitta carolinensis,Spizella passerina,Sterna hirundo,Sternula antillarum,Sturnus vulgaris,Tachycineta bicolor,Thryothorus ludovicianus,Toxostoma rufum,Tringa semipalmata,Troglodytes aedon,Turdus migratorius,Tyrannus tyrannus,Vireo olivaceus,Vireo gilvus,Zenaida macroura
Methods:37 observataion points were set up in different locations throughout the Plum Island estuary and adjacent Essex Bay. Bird counts were carried out biweekly in 2012 and weekly in 2013 from May through the end of September. One coutn was carried out in July 2014
Counts were carried out randomly with respect to tide and time of day. The whole area could be sampled in two days (approximately 6 hours per day) by one team of observers.
Although the focus of the study was on Snowy and Great Egrets, observers counted all the birds visible from each observation point and recorded the following information:
1. species and number,of individuals. Species was recorded using the American Ornithologists Union accepted alpha code (
2. the estimated distance in meters from the observer in concentric bands from the observation point (0-100m and >100 in 2012, 0-100, 100-250, 250-500, 500-1000, >1000 in 2013 and 2014). Most of these estimates were assisted by rangefinder binoculars
3. the number of birds in different habitats (marsh, tidal flat, pannes, open water, rock)
4. the number of birds engaged in different behaviors at each habitat (feeding, resting, preening, alert).
5. Birds flying over the observation area were recorded separately as flyovers

Data Table

Variable Name Variable Description Units Measurement Scale Code Information Number Type DateTime Format Missing Value Code Missing Value Code Explanation
Date Date   datetime     MM/DD/YYYY NA NA = no data
Year Year of observation number interval   integer   NA NA = no data
WeekNum Week of the year number interval   integer   NA NA = no data
Area General region of sample station   nominal       NA NA = no data
Observer1 Name of the observer   nominal       NA NA = no data
Observer2 Name of additional observer   nominal       NA NA = no data
Observer3 Name of additional observer   nominal       NA NA = no data
Station Name of the observation point   nominal       NA NA = no data
Latitude Latitude of station degree interval   real   NA NA = no data
Longitude Longitude of station degree interval   real   NA NA = no data
TimeStart time of day count started   datetime     hh:mm NA NA = no data
TimeEnd time of day count ended   datetime     hh:mm NA NA = no data
AlphaCode AOU (American Ornithologists' Union) four letter code for that species,   nominal       NA NA = no data
Genus Genus name of bird   nominal       NA NA = no data
Species Species name of bird   nominal       NA NA = no data
Common_Name AOU (American Ornithologists' Union) common name of bird   nominal       NA NA = no data
NumBirds The number of individual birds number ratio   integer   NA NA = no data
Distance Estimated distance of birds from observer in meters   nominal       NA NA = no data
Habitat The habitat birds occupied   nominal M=Marsh | F=Open Tidal Flat | FC= Tidal Flat along creek | P=Panne | OW=Open Water | C=Creek | D=Ditch | R=Rocks | ?= not determined     NA NA = no data
Behavior Behavior (feeding, resting, preening)   nominal F=feeding | R=resting | P= preening | Y=flyover | A= Alert | C= Courtship | ? = not determined     NA NA = no data
Comments Comments about data   nominal       NA NA = no data