Birds are excellent indicator species: they are especially sensitive to changes in the environment. So when birds start to disappear, a habitat is in trouble.
People shape the natural world in complicated ways. Nowhere is better to explore our interaction with nature than in the wild lands surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyoming, because this resort town immediately borders an expanse of pristine protected land. Data collected on the Spotting Songbirds in the Rockies project suggests that birds don’t fare well when their nests are surrounded by homes and businesses - and as a result of this expedition, researchers now have a better idea of exactly why.
Participants on this expedition spent days hiking through the stunning Wyoming wilderness, searching for the nests of four bird species: yellow warbler, American robin, song sparrow, and black-headed grosbeak. They also also put up mist nets - lightweight nets with pockets to catch and hold birds - and helped researchers measure the birds, band them for future identification, and release them.
Their work helped draw a picture of how these iconic American species were doing in the research areas - how many there were, how successful their breeding and nesting was, and whether or not they had enough food. Participants had an opportunity to take in sunrises over the Gros Ventre Mountains, awe-inspiring early morning silence, and incredible views of the Teton Range.