Your Breeding Bird Atlas: Here by Christmas? [2012]

by Larry W. Allen, Atlas Project Coordinator


On the occasion of your Chapter's annual membership meeting, it behooves us to provide an update to you, our members, on the status of your "Los Angeles County Breeding Bird Atlas". As most of you know, the Atlas Project is an endeavor to sample the entire county in order to map and report on the distribution of our breeding birds.

To do this, we divided the county into 409 blocks of about 25 km2 (10 mi2) each. Our volunteer surveyors (98 of us, whom we fondly call “blockheads”) visited their assigned blocks between 1995 and 1999, with a supplementary effort in 2000. A total of 316 people submitted records of breeding birds outside the formal system of block surveys. These reports were submitted on Casual Observation Forms. You can well imagine that we called these folks “COFers.” Almost all blockheads were COFers as well.

It is with some chagrin to the authors that only now are we in a position to finally publish the Atlas volume itself. Maps are in hand, statistical analysis are complete, data for the tables and figures have been compiled, introductory chapters and appendices have been drafted and assembled, the text of the species accounts has been written, and the entire has been reviewed by our technical editor.

It has taken over a decade.

Your Atlas is not merely a set of maps, nor is it a set of maps with associated commentary. From the beginning, we in the Project envisioned a volume that would provide as much background about the county's avifauna as possible. It is also a forward-looking document in that we discuss the conserva­tion challenges that have been revealed by the Atlas Project results. To do this, we have delved into historical, ornithological, and paleontological literature; scavenged data from 5162 egg-set record slips; modeled trends from such sources as the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count; and compared county data from all these sources with comparable data on each species from elsewhere within its range.

We have done this for each of the 246 species accounts in the Atlas.

And as with the field work, authoring has been an all-volunteer effort (with one small exception). The next step will be transforming our word-processing files into an electronic format that can be given to a printing contractor to make the plates for the presses, without extra charge for intermediary steps. This too will be an all-volunteer effort by yours truly, with use of specialized design software and computing equipment provided by yet another Atlas volunteer.

Ah, yes, money. Eventually we will have to pay for something that cannot be done on a volunteer basis: paper, printing, binding, and distribution. But this is where volunteers have again come to the rescue (but now you are called “donors”). During the fieldwork years, donors underwrote a portion of the expense of the management and data input.

More recently, you (certainly many of you reading this) have been contributing to the Atlas publica­tion fund by purchasing Species Sponsorships for $100 each. These funds have been reserved for the Atlas Project, and the total now approximates the estimated cost for printing the final volume. You have responded so generously, that as of the time I write, there is exactly one species without a sponsor. That species is Ringed Teal, an exotic (presumed escapee) South American duck that nested at Descanso Gardens in 1990 (did I mention how complete was the coverage of our county's breeding birds?). This is your last chance to immortalize yourself or a loved one in the Atlas volume. (You may sponsor by check or through our website.)

Can we provide your Atlas in time for Holiday gift-giving? If nothing goes wrong, and I work throughout the summer, it should be ready for the printer by fall.

Please view this as a prediction, not a promise. But I'll try.

Published Western Tanager Vo. 78 No. 6 July/August 2012