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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Birds of Washington County

Inspired by our friends at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE), NBNC invites you to participate in our first year-long Washington County Birding Challenge. For an entire year, we will be tracking how many bird species are seen in Washington County (WaCo). How many birds will we find? You can help us by reporting the birds you see!

Through the WaCo Birding Challenge we seek to learn more about where different birds live in our county, discover areas that might be important to rare species, raise awareness about the many amazing birds that visit our county, and hav fun while celebrating our local biodiversity. We'll even include a venue for those who want to compete to see if they can find the most birds in WaCo. To submit your observations (starting January 1, 2011) or see the latest tally, visit http://www.northbranchnaturecenter.org/waco/ and stay tuned for details.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Plainfield CBC Results

On Saturday, the 50th Plainfield Christmas Bird Count was held and the preliminary results are in. These results are not complete, but already we've recorded a 10-year high in our total species count of 40 (ten year average is 25 species). The most unusual sighting was a group of three Lapland Longspur that were seen eating grit by the side of a road, the first time this species has appeared for the Plainfield circle. Other highlights included a flock of 18 Pine Grosbeak (not many/any reports this season), a pair of Hooded Mergansers (rare on this count), good numbers of Bohemian Waxwing (98), and others. The preliminary tally is below:

Mallard 11
Hooded Merganser 2
Ruffed Grouse 2
Wild Turkey 311
Accipiter sp. 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Rock Pigeon 349
Mourning Dove 160
Barred Owl 1
Downy Woodpecker 39
Hairy Woodpecker 42
Pileated Woodpecker 7
Northern Shrike 1
Blue Jay 216
American Crow 247
Common Raven 46
Black-capped Chickadee 1263
Tufted Titmouse 13
Red-breasted Nuthatch 13
White-breasted Nuthatch 34
Brown Creeper 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 13
American Robin 1
European Starling 752
Bohemian Waxwing 98
Cedar Waxwing 10
American Tree Sparrow 22
Dark-eyed Junco 22
Lapland Longspur 3
Snow Bunting 175
Northern Cardinal 27
Brown-headed Cowbird 6
Pine Grosbeak 18
Purple Finch 2
House Finch 7
Common Redpoll 40
Pine Siskin 2
American Goldfinch 188
Evening Grosbeak 12
House Sparrow 36

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Counting on You to Count the Birds

A group of 27 bird enthusiasts set out on Christmas Day, 1900 to count the birds they saw. This simple act was the creation of a century-long crusade that engaged over 60,000 people this past season. Creator Frank Chapman recognized the potential of the bird count from the beginning. In the announcement of the sixth bird count Chapman proclaimed “…we are gradually accumulating a mass of exact information… having, consequently, a real scientific value.” Now, 110 years later, the CBC has been cited in hundreds of papers and is now considered one of 24 major
indicators of climate impacts by the EPA.

Originally proposed by Frank Chapman, the CBC was proposed as an alternative to the ‘side hunt’, a tradition of the times that involved two teams of men competing in a kill-competition to see which team can accrue the most animal carcasses. In Enosburg Falls, VT, the participants of an 1896 side hunt collected a bevy of over 550 birds and mammals(see above). Not surprisingly, those numbers were drastically reduced in 1897. Through Bird Lore, the popular magazine Chapman published, he announced “a new kind of Christmas side hunt in the form of a Christmas bird-census”.

By 1902, the third year of the CBC, Vermonters were already participating. Gilbert H. Trafton spent six hours on Christmas Day scouring Randolph Center for birds and tallying a shrike, two White-breasted Nuthatches, and a chickadee. “The number of birds seen was very small,” remarked Trafton, “but it gives a fair indication of the winter bird-life here. I pass many days without seeing or hearing a single bird.” This statement held true to Chapman’s original intent to capture a census of observations both unusual and mundane, but thankfully, Vermont CBC’s since then have produced plenty of birds both common and rare.

The CBC in Vermont has come a long way since the first in 1902, which counted just four birds. In 2010, over 350 participants performed 17 counts tallying around 100,000 birds of over 100 species. The increase in popularity isn’t isolated to Vermont. Increasing numbers of CBC’s are being held in Latin America, the Caribbean Islands, and elsewhere. In 2009, a CBC was even held in Antarctica.

With its growth in size, the CBC has become a powerful tool in knowing and understanding the population trends of birds in winter. One can see the rise of Wild Turkey and the decline of Evening Grosbeak. We can even see the effects of climate change as species like Carolina Wren spread north. Only time will tell what other trends the CBC reveals, but for it to continue to be useful, we’re counting on you to count the birds.

This article originated from the Nature Center's Youth Birding Newsletter

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Blog is Back!

Hello out there to everyone in the blog-o-sphere! NBNC will start our cyber-experiment of maintaining a blog for all to enjoy! Our blog will take the place of the "Nature News" section of our website which has been maintained since our re-opening in 2006. All entries to the "Nature News" are now available here in blog format, so you can look back at the many years of stories and observations in one convenient location.

We hope you'll share in the fun by posting your comments and your own observations and insights. Part of our reason for switching to 'blog' format is to make the web-experience with NBNC more interactive and engaging. Let us know what you think of the new blog... we'd love your feedback! Happy holidays to everyone, and enjoy!