The current roster of volunteers includes birding enthusiasts, landowners and people who simply have an interest in helping. Bailey said more than 350 people have registered as volunteers, and 100 to 120 of those contribute data in any given year.
One more year of observations is still needed, but so far the volunteers have uncovered some interesting trends.
Several species, for example, are showing what Bailey calls "marked expansions in both range and abundance." Those include the yellow-bellied sapsucker, the yellow-throated warbler and the yellow-rumped warbler.
At least two species, the red-headed woodpecker and the cliff swallow, appear to be abundant enough to remove them from the list of the state's rare birds.
And, as people who live in rural areas can attest, Eastern whip-poor-wills and common nighthawks are declining in number.
Most of the final observations for the new atlas will be made before Sept. 30, 2014, but Bailey said the official observation period wouldn't expire until Dec. 31 of that year. After that, work can begin on writing the atlas and creating maps for each species' distribution and abundance.
"At the end of the field [research] period, Cornell will give us the database they've been holding for us. We'll work on that data in house [at the DNR] with a statistician who has done abundance data in other states. Then, with those data and statistics, we'll produce the maps.
"Once that process is done, I will edit the book and write a sizable percentage of it, but there will be 10 to 12 other writers contributing as well. West Virginia University Press will be publishing the book, and will be assisting in the process as well."
Eight to nine years of work, which would include DNR staff time, a payment to Cornell to maintain the database and payments to a handful of contractors, will probably push the new atlas' production cost into the $200,000 to $350,000 range. The bulk of the funding comes from federal grants.
Though only a year remains in the data-collection period, Bailey said the project is still accepting volunteers to help with the fieldwork.
"We welcome as much help as we can get," he added. "The perception is that you have to know every bird by sight and sound to participate. That isn't the case. We encourage landowners and others to go to the website [http://bird.atlasing.org/Atlas/WV] and start entering the birds they know."
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or e-mail johnmc...@wvgazette.com.