Sunday, February 15, 2009

Record-setting Great Backyard Bird Count!

The numbers are still being tabulated as Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) checklists can be submitted up to the March 1st deadline. However, as of this morning, over 59,000 checklists have been submitted, which is on pace to break the previous record. Although the 2009 numbers are not complete, comparing the South Carolina 2007 results to the 2009 (partial) numbers shows that some of the rural areas in our state are now being represented. Hopefully, we can continue that trend next year!

Except for those working behind the desk in the nature center, we were not here at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest for most of the weekend. Cool, wet whether on two of the GBBC days also dampened the desire for many to be outdoors. Even though we were not in the swamp counting, visitors likely saw many of the birds we noted in our February 6th entry. We're still about a month away from the migratory return of our breeding birds. When those birds return, not only will they find stellar breeding habitat here in the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp, but they'll find us ready with mist nets as we launch Project PROTHO!

This weekend, some of us were at the University of South Carolina promoting the GBBC at the South Carolina Geographic Alliance's semi-annual Geofest. Along with a description of the GBBC and an opportunity to grab binoculars and look for birds in the urban environment, teachers were given materials showing how the GBBC can be used in the classroom to teach across the curriculum.

On the way to Geofest, we spied our first birds through the cold rain. On a wire above Five Points, 325 pigeons (Columba livia) made the counting easy! Apparently, even pigeons don't like flying around on a cold, wet day. After lunch when our group of 15 teachers headed outdoors with the binoculars, the rain had ended, but the wind had picked up and was bitingly cold. Though the weather kept many birds grounded, we did not need to travel far to find our first bird. Just outside the building and halfway up a tree was perched a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) like the one we spied last week in the swamp. The hawk perched patiently as the crowd "Oooo'd" from below and enjoyed a close look through the binoculars.

Across the street and high above the park at the corner of Blossom and Pickens, we saw a pair of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) and heard a pair of Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata), a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus). From our vantage point on the hill, we were level with the rooftops of buildings situated around the university's former physical education complex. Perched on a chimney was a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) being continuously pestered by a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). In 15 minutes, we had, with little effort on a poor-weather day, observed a variety of birds and captured a snapshot of bird activity in Columbia 29208!

Please join us next year and help citizens and scientists survey our continent's bird populations!

Image by Mark Musselman

No comments: