Download Mid-Atlantic Wildlife Studies: Distribution and Abundance of Wildlife along the Eastern Seaboard 2012-2014. This 32-page summary publication explores aspects of the mid-Atlantic ecosystem; describes our survey and analytical approaches; and presents a range of results, featuring several case studies on specific species or phenomena.
The Executive Summary for the technical report is also available here.
The survey methods generally showed similar species-habitat relationships, though there were differences in detectability between the two survey types. Boat survey observers recorded more birds per unit area, likely because some species were more reliably detected and identified from the boat. HiDef Aerial Surveying’s digital aerial surveys were very effective at detecting many aquatic taxa including rays, fish, and turtles. While some of these animals were also observed in boat-based surveys, the digital aerial surveys provided an excellent platform for detecting and identifying animals in the upper reaches of the water column.
In addition to detection of animals, there were differences between survey types in observers’ ability to identify animals. Only 45% of aerial observations were identified to species, versus 72% of boat-based observations. Scoters, the most common avian group in both surveys, were more often identified to species from the air, however (27% boat, 52% aerial). Scoters are known to be disturbed by boats, which may have pushed them out of range for definitive identification by boat-based observers in many cases. Excluding scoters, the rate of definitive identifications during boat surveys was 97%.
The relatively low rate of species identifications in aerial video was likely due in part to variations in image quality, as well as difficulties differentiating small species with subtle distinguishing features. Video reviewers also had difficulty identifying Common Loons and Red-throated Loons due to the overlapping body sizes of birds wintering in the region. Identification rates for sea turtles were lower from the air than from the boat (21% aerial, 91% boat), but more species were observed in aerial data, and many more individuals were detected from the air.
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