Why study the birds?
If you follow the Tennessee River Gorge Trust and where they invest their energy you’ll notice birds are a big deal. They have bird labs built deep inside the canyon and they have ornithologists like Holland Youngman, Lizzi and John Diener on staff who track, monitor, and study the birds.
So why study birds instead of bears, lizards, turtles, deer, bobcats, or the many other animals in the gorge?
Birds to the gorge are kind of like a paddler’s heart rate monitor, they’re a keystone indicator species. Birds reveal information everyday about the overall health of the gorge ecosystems and forests. The birds also tell us about what’s going on in Central and/or South America.
A Day in the Life: This week the TRGT staff is placing geo-locators on 16 birds (yesterday they placed 4 on and last week they placed 1). They’ll recapture the birds after a couple weeks to make sure the harnesses aren’t rubbing or chaffing. One year from now they’ll recapture the birds again and download all the data. Data includes daily GPS coordinates accurate to within 50 miles. This allows migration patterns to be determined i.e. – where the birds went during winter, how fast they traveled going north vs traveling south, and which route they went in each direction. The information gained from this research speaks volumes. If certain elements are missing it means something needs attention. For example, a coffee plantation could have clear cut a forest on a migration route and birds are forced to respond. So the information gained in the gorge is valuable on a local and macro level. To learn more about research specifics visit trgt.org.
Thanks again to everyone who plays a part in Chattajack each year. Last year we raised over $4,500 for the Tennessee River Gorge Trust!