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P.(Paul) Hendricks.

Surveys for grassland birds of the Malta Field Office-BLM, including a seven-year study in north Valley County (Volume 2008) online

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on vegetation structure and density can differ
markedly from that of bison (Peden et al. 1974,
Schwartz and Ellis 1981). However, grazing
effects of cattle and bison can be similar at the right
scale. This scale is dependent, certainly, upon the
species in question and the ability of land managers
to address habitat elements specific to each species.
Maintaining both grazing and other natural
disturbance (e.g. fire) regimes that mimic the
frequency and intensity of historic conditions will
result in a mosaic of vegetation structures. These
conditions are critical to supporting high species
diversity; without them many species would likely
disappear from this landscape. Valley, Phillips, and
Blaine Counties are critical to the conservation of
Montana's grassland bird species (see composite
image of predicted distributions for these species
shown in Appendix C).

Continued work is needed, however, to identify
the impacts of current land management practices
on the future of these unique SOC birds. With
analyses of grazing intensity impacts on vegetation
measurements in point-count circles, we expect to
see the response of breeding birds to vegetation
structure more clearly, and this will help guide
future grazing prescriptions. Of special interest
would be an examination of the interaction of
spring precipitation and grazing intensity on year-
to-year variation in vegetation structure. From
the results presented in this report, it is very clear
that range conditions for birds in north Valley
County can be quite variable in space and time (for
example, see Figure 3), and yet a large diversity
of birds with significant differences in preferred
breeding grassland habitat continue to occur on the
study area every year.



23



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26



Appendix A. Global and State Rank Definitions



Heritage Program Ranks

The international network of Natural Heritage Programs employs a standardized ranking system to denote
global (range-wide) and state status. Species are assigned numeric ranks ranging from 1 to 5, reflecting
the relative degree to which they are "at-risk". Rank definitions are given below. A number of factors are
considered in assigning ranks — the number, size and distribution of known "occurrences" or popula-
tions, population trends (if known), habitat sensitivity, and threat. Factors in a species' life history that
make it especially vulnerable are also considered (e.g., dependence on a specific pollinator).

Global Rank Definitions (NatureServe 2003)

Gl Critically imperiled because of extreme rarity and/or other factors making it highly

vulnerable to extinction
G2 Imperiled because of rarity and/or other factors making it vulnerable to extinction

G3 Vulnerable because of rarity or restricted range and/or other factors, even though it may

be abundant at some of its locations
G4 Apparently secure, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the

periphery
G5 Demonstrably secure, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the

periphery
Tl-5 Infraspecific Taxon (trinomial) — The status of infraspecific taxa (subspecies or

varieties) are indicated by a "T-rank" following the species' global rank

State Rank Definitions

51 At high risk because of extremely limited and potentially declining numbers,
extent and/or habitat, making it highly vulnerable to extirpation in the state

52 At risk because of very limited and potentially declining numbers, extent and/or
habitat, making it vulnerable to extirpation in the state

53 Potentially at risk because of limited and potentially declining numbers, extent
and/or habitat, even though it may be abundant in some areas

54 Uncommon but not rare (although it may be rare in parts of its range), and usually
widespread. Apparently not vulnerable in most of its range, but possibly cause for
long-term concern

55 Common, widespread, and abundant (although it may be rare in parts of its
range). Not vulnerable in most of its range

Combination Ranks

G#G# or S#S# Range Rank — A numeric range rank (e.g., G2G3) used to indicate uncertainty about
the exact status of a taxon

Qualifiers

NR Not ranked

Q Questionable taxonomy that may reduce conservation priority — Distinctiveness of

this entity as a taxon at the current level is questionable; resolution of this uncertainty
may result in change from a species to a subspecies or hybrid, or inclusion of this taxon
in another taxon, with the resulting taxon having a lower-priority (numerically higher)
conservation status rank



Appendix A- 1



X Presumed Extinct — Species believed to be extinct throughout its range. Not located

despite intensive searches of historical sites and other appropriate habitat, and virtually
no likelihood that it will be rediscovered

H Possibly Extinct — Species known from only historical occurrences, but may never-the-

less still be extant; further searching needed

U Unrankable — Species currently unrankable due to lack of information or due to substan-

tially conflicting information about status or trends

HYB Hybrid — Entity not ranked because it represents an interspecific hybrid and not a species

? Inexact Numeric Rank — Denotes inexact numeric rank

C Captive or Cultivated Only — Species at present is extant only in captivity or cultiva

tion, or as a reintroduced population not yet established

A Accidental — Species is accidental or casual in Montana, in other words, infrequent and

outside usual range. Includes species (usually birds or butterflies) recorded once or only a
few times at a location. A few of these species may have bred on the one or two occa-
sions they were recorded

Z Zero Occurrences — Species is present but lacking practical conservation concern in

Montana because there are no definable occurrences, although the taxon is native and
appears regularly in Montana

P Potential — Potential that species occurs in Montana but no extant or historic occurrences

are accepted

R Reported — Species reported in Montana but without a basis for either accepting or

rejecting the report, or the report not yet reviewed locally. Some of these are very recent
discoveries for which the program has not yet received first-hand information; others are
old, obscure reports

SYN Synonym — Species reported as occurring in Montana, but the Montana Natural Heritage

Program does not recognize the taxon; therefore the species is not assigned a rank

* A rank has been assigned and is under review. Contact the Montana Natural Heritage

Program for assigned rank

B Breeding — Rank refers to the breeding population of the species in Montana

N Nonbreeding — Rank refers to the non-breeding population of the species in Montana



Appendix A- 2



Appendix B. Summary of Point-count Surveys in Northern
Blaine and Phillips Counties During 2007



Introduction

We expanded point-count coverage in 2007 to include northern Blaine and Phillips counties (Figure Bl)
for the purposes of providing baseline data on bird abundances and distributions in this portion of the
Malta Field Office-BLM, and using survey methods similar to those employed during grassland bird
surveys in north Valley County during 2001-2007. We randomly identified >200 starting points in Blaine
and Phillips counties on BLM lands, from which three observers ran a total of 71 point-count transects
(213 point counts) during 9-29 June.




LEGEND

• Point Count Locations

Bureau of Lard Maragement

Montana School Trjst Lands

Tribal Lands

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Private Land
I I County Lire
Roads

Lake

Stream



Figure Bl. Point count locations in northern Blaine and Phillips counties, Montana in 2007.

Point-count methods were identical for the two areas (Blaine/Phillips and Valley counties); 10 minute
counts were conducted at each of 3 fixed-radius points of 100-m radius spaced at least 300 m apart (thus
with 100 m between the edges of adjacent non-overlapping point-count circles). All counts were initiated
between 05:30 and 10:00 MDT. The vegetation data were collected in a modified and simplified form in
Blaine and Phillips counties. Instead of collecting vegetation data (height, density index, percent cover)
along two perpendicular 25 m tape transects that intersected at the center of a point count circle (the
method in Valley County), we recorded the same types of vegetation data at five 2-m diameter circles: one
"mini-plof located over the center of the point count, and the other four "mini-plots" at random distances
between 10 and 100 m from the center point, one in each of the four quarters of the circle. We recorded
1) maximum vegetation height (cm) within each "mini-plof, 2) the number of times vegetation contacted
a vertical rod at four points around the edge of each "mini-plof at 0-1 dm, 1-2 dm, and > 2 dm heights,
3) height of dead vegetation (matted material from previous growing seasons), and 4) the percent cover of
bare ground, moss, grass, shrub, and forbs within each "mini-plot."

Appendix B - 1



Point-count methods were identical for the two areas (Blaine/Phillips and Valley counties); 10 minute
counts were conducted at each of 3 fixed-radius points of 100-m radius spaced at least 300 m apart (thus
with 100 m between the edges of adjacent non-overlapping point-count circles). All counts were initiated
between 05:30 and 10:00 MDT. The vegetation data were collected in a modified and simplified form in
Blaine and Phillips counties. Instead of collecting vegetation data (height, density index, percent cover)
along two perpendicular 25 m tape transects that intersected at the center of a point count circle (the
method in Valley County), we recorded the same types of vegetation data at five 2-m diameter circles: one
"mini-plof located over the center of the point count, and the other four "mini-plots" at random distances
between 10 and 100 m from the center point, one in each of the four quarters of the circle. We recorded
1) maximum vegetation height (cm) within each "mini-plof, 2) the number of times vegetation contacted
a vertical rod at four points around the edge of each "mini-plof at 0-1 dm, 1-2 dm, and > 2 dm heights,
3) height of dead vegetation (matted material from previous growing seasons), and 4) the percent cover of
bare ground, moss, grass, shrub, and forbs within each "mini-plot."

Results

During the surveys in 2007, we recorded 22 bird species on our point counts in northern Blaine and Phil-
lips counties. These are listed in Table Bl in order of relative abundance of occurrence (percent of point
counts). Seventeen (77.3%) of the species also were detected on the Valley County point counts every
year during 2001-2007. A surprising omission on the Blaine and Phillips counties counts was the Brown-
headed Cowbird, which occurred on 4.3-10.1% of the points in north Valley County during the seven-year
period, including 8.2%) of the points in 2007.

Only three species (Chestnut-collared Longspur, Horned Lark, Western Meadowlark) were detected on
> 50%) of the Blaine/Phillips points in 2007, with another three (Sprague's Pipit, McCown's Longspur,
Baird's Sparrow) on 25-50%) of the points. Four of these six species (all but Horned Lark and Western
Meadowlark) are Montana Species of Concern (SOC). Eight bird Species of Concern were detected on
our counts in north Blaine and Phillips counties, and these included all those detected on our north Valley
County counts during 2001-2007 with the exception of Bobolink; in addition to those SOC previously
listed were Grasshopper Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Brewer's Sparrow, and Long-billed Curlew. Two addi-
tional species we detected (Willet and Marbled Godwit) are BLM Sensitive but not Montana SOC.

The relative abundances of the eight SOC birds in north Blaine and Phillips counties were strikingly simi-
lar in 2007 to their relative abundances in north Valley County (Table B2). Most abundant in both areas
was Chestnut-collared Longspur, followed by Sprague's Pipit; least abundant in both areas was Long-
billed Curlew. A ninth SOC bird. Bobolink, was present each year during 2001-2007 on 0.5-5.3%)
(3.4%) in 2007) of the north Valley County counts, but was absent on our point counts in north Blaine and
Phillips counties.



Appendix B - 2



Table Bl. Bird species detected on point counts in north Blaine and Phillips counties in June 2007; Montana Species of Concern
are in bold. Total point counts = 213. Species are listed in order of relative abundance.


Species


Number of points
on which detected


Percentage of points
on which detected


Chestnut-collared Longspur


192


90.1


Homed Lark


187


87.8


Western Meadowlark


108


50.7


Sprague's Pipit


100


46.9


McCown's Longspur


81


38.0


Baird's Sparrow


57


26.8


Vesper Sparrow


37


17.4


Grasshopper Sparrow


25


11.7


Savannah Sparrow


17


8.0


Lark Bunting


13


6.1


Brewer's Sparrow


12


5.6


Marbled Godwit


7


J.J


Willet


6


2.8


Killdeer


5


2.3


Long-billed Curlew


4


1.9


Brewer's Blackbird


4


1.9


Clay-colored Sparrow


3


1.4


Mallard




0.5


Lesser Scaup




0.5


Sharp-tailed Grouse




0.5


American Avocet




0.5


Cliff Swallow




0.5



Table B2. Comparison of the relative abundances (percent of point counts) for eight Montana Species of Concern birds in north
Blaine and Phillips counties and north Valley County that were detected on point counts in 2007. Numbers of point counts are in
parentheses.



Species


Blaine/PhilUps (213)


Valley (207)


Long-billed Curlew


1.9


1.9


Sprague's Pipit


46.9


58.0


Brewer's Sparrow


5.6


5.8


Lark Bunting


6.1


13.0


Grasshopper Sparrow


11.7


12.6


Baird's Sparrow


26.8


46.4


McCown's Longspur


38.0


20.3


Chestnut-collared Longspur


90.1


89.9



In 2007, Sprague's Pipit and Baird's Sparrow were more abundant in Valley County while McCown's
Longspur was more abundant in Blaine and Phillips counties (Table B2, Figure B2). These patterns in
relative abundance probably reflect differences in vegetation structure in the two areas. Average maxi-
mum vegetation height in 2007 in north Valley County (47.2 ± 7.3 cm) was slightly but significantly taller
(Two-sample t-test: t = -4.65, P < 0.0001) than in north Blaine and Phillips counties (43.8 ± 7.7 cm). It is
possible that this difference would be more substantial in other years; 2007 was a year of unusually heavy
spring (April and May) precipitation across the region (Figure B3).



Appendix B - 3








Figure B2. McCown s Longspur nests. Note difference in vegetation structure around each nest.





Figure B3. June 2007 vegetation on three count points (117.1, 228.3, 343.3) in north Phillips County.

During 2001-2007 in north Valley County, Sprague's Pipit and Baird's Sparrow tended to occupy sites


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