June 18, 2013
Written by Sally Sanders
Thursday, 20 November 2008 15:31
Jeff Cordulack at Audubon Greenwich reminds us that from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas will take part in the Christmas Bird Count, “an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations.”
Grandmothers and students, soccer moms and scientists, bearing binoculars, bird guides and checklists will head out — often before dawn, he said. “For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house in the middle of winter.”
This is citizen science in action. “By participating in Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, they help scientists understand how birds are faring amid unprecedented environmental challenges. The data they collect inform the world about the state of birds, and provides the information we need to shape their future and ours.”
Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count national director, said thousands of volunteers counted nearly 60 million birds across North America last year.
Each count occurs in a designated circle, 15 miles in diameter, and is led by an experienced birder, or “compiler.” Around here, circles generally are centered on Stamford-Greenwich and Westport in Connecticut, and Peekskill, N.Y.
The Stamford/Greenwich count is Dec. 14, starting at midnight, ending with a bird count data meeting at 5 p.m. at Audubon Greenwich. The Peekskill Count is Saturday, Dec. 20. Putnam County’s Count is Saturday, Jan. 3. I couldn’t find the Westport date.
The longest running citizen science program in the world, the count started on Christmas Day in 1900 when ornithologist and legendary birder Frank Chapman offered an alternative to an earlier traditional holiday “side hunt.” Chapman proposed “hunting” birds to record their numbers. “Instead of firing a shotgun, now we have an annual snapshot,” said Mr. LeBaron. “Decades of data have added up to results envied by other scientists who don’t enjoy such a fleet of volunteer help, or creatures as easily seen and counted as birds.
“Counting is the first step in learning how environmental threats are affecting our birds. The proverbial ‘canaries in the coal mine,’ birds provide an early warning indicator of the health of the world we all share.
Audubon President John Flicker (great name for a bird guy) said, “Last year these birds sent us a clear message that their fate is determined by human activity more than anything else.” Using the count and other data sources, Audubon’s WatchList identified 178 species in the continental U.S. and 39 in Hawaii that are imperiled. The report was based on the latest available research, including the Christmas Bird Count. In June of 2007, count results were pivotal to the Common Birds in Decline Report which revealed that some of America’s most beloved and familiar birds have seriously declined in numbers over the past 40 years, with some down as much as 80%.
To volunteer for the Greenwich/Stamford bird count (including parts of Port Chester, Rye, Rye Brook, White Plains, Armonk and Bedford, N.Y.), sign up as soon as possible with Ted Gilman, head naturalist for Audubon Greenwich at 203-869-5272 x230. For more information, visit greenwich.audubon.org. To find out about the Peekskill count, keep an eye on bedfordaudubon.org.
Nancy Gany of Little Brook Road in Wilton reports that she and her 11-year-old son Jackson “were sitting together facing the front of our property when he saw a big bird fly in and land on one of our trees. We went outside and he spotted the owl. This is only the second time we’ve seen an owl in our 15 years of living in our home. We think it’s a Barred Owl. He stayed for a few hours before flying off.”
Little-Known Owls, with Trudy Battaly and Drew Panko, on saw-whet owls, Friday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m., $5, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Route 117 between Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow, reservations required, 914-631-1470 ext 0.
Coastal Holiday Birding, along the shore from Old Lyme to Groton, Wednesday, Dec. 17, noon to evening, with dinner at inn, $40/$45, Connecticut Audubon, 800-996-8747.
Bird walks with Luke Tiller, mostly Saturdays at 8 a.m., $10 each; to register, www. sunrisebirding. com/ walks.htm; 203-981-9924, luke.tiller @ gmail.com.
First Sundays, birding at Greenwich Point with Meredith Sampson of Wild Wings, and other guides, Dec. 7, Jan. 4, Feb. 1, March 1, April 5, May 3, meet at the second concession stand, 203-637-9822.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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