We’re all headed for the finish line in 2019, and so we need all our priority blocks wrapped up THIS YEAR!
To assist, we’ve prepared a suggested visit schedule. Look this over and then go mark off some weekends on your calendar.
When is a block complete? Review this story on our completion criteria, and then then plan your visits to make sure you finish yours in time.
April/May: Study block, find early breeders, beware of migrants, first nocturnal visit
June: Build nearly complete species list (2–4 visits), final nocturnal visit
July: Hit it hard (4–8 visits), work different habitats to rack up confirmations (this is the most challenging part)
August: Mop up visits in first week, target final confirmations (2 final visits if needed), atlasing is all but over by mid-August
April: April is still early in the season, so relatively few birds are nesting (consult the Breeding Guideline Bar Chart for guidance), but there are some early breeders getting started such as grouse, doves, owls, corvids, and raptors. Many common permanent residents will be getting started before long, like woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadee, cardinal, starling, and House Sparrow. At this time of year, get familiar with your block and its habitats, and figure out if there are particular tracts of land where you would benefit from contacting landowners for access. Woodcocks are displaying, so it’s a great time for your first nocturnal visit (see our 4-part guide to Nocturnal Atlasing).
May: Many early breeders can begin nest-building in May, especially in the latter half, but we caution against atlasing hard and over-coding species during May because there are so many migrants flooding through the state. Again (consult the Breeding Guideline Bar Chart for guidance) on when species are expected to start nesting.
June: June is all about building your species list. Head out at dawn on a nice day and spend the whole morning afield, building as big a species list as you can. Return a week or more later to elevate many of those species to S7. Combine an early morning or evening with your final nocturnal visit. Birds can be harder to confirm during June, many are sitting unobtrusively on a nest somewhere, but make sure your species list is nearly complete by the end of the month.
July: Singing drops off rapidly early in July, so it becomes much harder to build a complete species list and gain information about where territories are. July is all about confirmations, and you should make repeated visits to different habitats, hoping to pick up 5–10 or more confirmations each visit. (We have some tips for getting confirmations here and here). As you accrue confirmations for your block, you may need to be increasingly strategic. Check your block list using the Explore Atlas Regions tool and make a list of the species that are still probable or possible — those are the species you need to focus on, and if you find one in your block, follow it until you can tell what it is up to!
August: The first week or so of August can still be very productive, with lots of fledged young and family groups around, but beware of migrants filtering into the state (consult the Breeding Guideline Bar Chart for guidance), as well as older young that may be far from where they hatched (no longer codeable). By mid-August atlas is nearly over, except for selected late breeders (e.g. American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing) and a handful of species with long breeding seasons (Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Wild Turkey).
In the final year, GOOD COMMUNICATION IS CRITICAL! If you won’t be able to finish your block or if you have more time to help us mop up a block, let us know ASAP by contacting your county coordinator or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.