GPS Tracking Reveals Where Maine’s Heron’s Go During Winter

6 Mar 2019

Have you ever thought of where the Great Blue Herons in Maine go during the wintertime? Danielle D’Auria, a wildlife biologist, led a presentation on this subject in February at the Merryspring Nature Center on the Heron Observation Network of Maine.

In this talk, she spoke about how citizen volunteers, scientists and students have been monitoring migrations of great blue herons beyond state lines. Five adult great blue herons were equipped with lightweight GPS trackers in 2016 and then released so the researchers could monitor their movements during migration, nesting and wintering.

Out of the five Maine birds, two migrated to Florida, one to Cuba, one to the Bahamas and one flew to Haiti.

D’Auria started working in Bangor in the Research and Assessment Section of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife where she focuses on shorebirds and wading birds. She has a State University of New York at Geneseo B.S. in Biology and a New Mexico State University M.S. in Wildlife Science. She began the Heron Observation Network of Maine in 2009 — a group of more than 100 volunteers helping to track and monitor wading bird colonies all over the state to better understand abundance and distribution.

The lecture was sponsored at Allen Insurance & Financial and was part of a Merryspring Winter Talk series. Members of Merryspring had free admission while others paid $5 for admission to Tuesday talks.

Merryspring is a community nature center that offers cultivated gardens, walking trails, ecology, wildlife and horticulture educational programs all year round. You’ll find the part just off Route 1 behind Hannaford Shopping Plaza in Camden at the end of Conway Rd. Contact or call 207-236-2239 for more information on the program.

Benefits of GPS Tracking for Wildlife

For many years, researchers and scientists could only track wildlife by following and observing the habits and movements of wildlife or to capture wildlife and put a tag on them, hoping to recapture the same animal sometime in the future. These days, scientists and researchers have newer tools that help them figure out how wildlife moves and uses their environment.

GPS tracking devices are innovative technology used today for many tracking solutions, including wildlife. With GPS tracking devices, the scientists place a radio receiver on the animal, not a transmitter. This radio receiver then uses special satellites to pick up signals. It has a computer which is used for calculating the movement and location of the animal. The data the scientists gather from the receiver is sent off to other sets of satellites where these then send the data back to the scientists.

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