Tidal Marsh Bird Studies Across the Northeastern U.S.

Tidal Marsh Bird Studies Across the Northeastern U.S., 2013

Field Team Members: Mo Correll, Kate Ruskin, Brian Olsen, Tom Hodgman

Field Location: Maine to Virginia, with intensive demographic study in Scarborough Marsh, ME

Dates: May-September 2013

Funding Support: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Science Foundation, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Maine


The summer of 2013 marked the third field season of the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program (SHARP), a large collaborative project aimed at conserving tidal marsh birds in the face of predicted sea-level rise and human development.

The SHARP project consists primarily of two parts: 1) A large-scale survey effort from Maine to Virginia recording all birds that use tidal marsh habitat using point-count methods, and 2) A demographic survey at sites in each state from Maine to New Jersey to assess the population status of several focal species.  UMaine PhD candidate Mo Correll has coordinated point count surveys at hundreds of locations along the coast from 2011-2013, and UMaine PhD candidate Kate Ruskin has overseen the demographic site operation in Scarborough Marsh, Maine from 2011-2013.

At the Scarborough demographic site, the UMaine crew found more nests than ever in 2013 (Table 1).  Several nests they found belonged to females who had been first captured as chicks that hatched on the study plots in 2011 or 2012!  For more information about their 2013 field work, see a blog the crew kept throughout the summer here: www.SHARPMaineDemographics.blogspot.com.

The point count survey crew visited a total of over 1750 locations from Maine to Virginia in 2011-2013 (Figure 1).  In 2013, Mo Correll also developed the groundwork for a GIS tool to delineate high and low marsh zones using remote sensing data, with the goal of providing an application for wildlife managers across the northeast.

For more information about UMaine’s previous expeditions surveying tidal marsh birds (2011-2012), see our other expedition report: http://climatechange.umaine.edu/tidal_marshes_across_the_northeastern_us.  Finally, you can find more information about the SHARP project in all states at the project website: www.tidalmarshbirds.org.


Table 1. Number of nests found at Scarborough Marsh, Cumberland County, Maine, 2013.

No. of Nests Found


Sharp-tailed Sparrow


Nelson’s Sparrow


Saltmarsh Sparrow


Virginia Rail




Grand Total