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Using old technology in a new way to track birds in Aiken County

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 10:42 PM EST
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AIKEN, SC. (WRDW/WAGT) - More than 200 species of birds pay a visit to Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary in Aiken County during the year.

Silver Bluff Audubon sanctuary covers 34-hundred acres along the Savannah River in Aiken County.

Migratory birds all along the “Atlantic Flyway” pay a visit throughout the year, and to help track the birds, they installed a Motus tower last July.

“The Motus technology actually uses an old technology in a new way. It uses VHF radio waves,” said Jennifer Mccarthey Tyrrell, engagement manager, Audubon South Carolina.

The VHF radio waves ping off of birds that have been nanotagged for studies going on around the country.

“One of the coolest things that really helped us decide on this place was a forestry project we are doing for the Swainson’s Warbler,” said Brandon Heitkamp, sanctuary manager.

This new tower will help study threatened species like the Warbler and their migration patterns using a network of other Motus towers installed across the country. The cost of this tower and another one in Harleyville were covered by a grant Audubon South Carolina received from Dominion Energy.

This is the first year with the tower for the spring migration.

“The way that they are hoping to track these birds and learn more about the migration pattern of species that we don’t know a whole lot about. It was a great opportunity we felt,” said Matt Long, spokesperson Dominion Energy

A few odd visitors have already been spotted, including a night hawk.

Tyrrell said: “A nocturnal bird, not an owl, it’s like a swift or a swallow that flies at night and eats insects, it came all the way from Montana.”

You can keep track of what birds have been pinged by going to https://motus.org/

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