Friday, December 02, 2011

Focus on Birds

Winter does not conjure within most people thoughts of birding.  However, the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest will certainly be focusing on birds over the next few months.

First, from the Lowcountry Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Youth Grant Committee, we received $2000.00 to purchase 26 pairs of 8x40 binoculars. The binoculars will be used to launch a program to develop young birders.

Image by Mike Dawson

This birding program will enhance the boardwalk experience for students by allowing them to see and identify birds that would remain elusive to the naked eye. Albert Einstein said, "Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift." We can provide the old-growth forest in which a density and variety of birds exists throughout the year. However, we cannot bring the birds close enough for young (or old) eyes to see sufficiently in order for the observer to appreciate a bird's beauty or the subtle field markings necessary for proper identification. Lightweight, yet powerful binoculars allow students to use their observation skills to obtain the information necessary to identify a bird using a field guide like the one loaded to all of our iPod Touches

With the ability to look using binoculars, students will have the tools necessary to move toward comprehension, which we believe leads to appreciation and a desire to conserve the resource for future generations.

Next, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is rapidly approaching.  We will be conducting the Four Holes Swamp CBC on December 19th.  To conduct a count, CBC volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.

From David Yarnold, Audubon president:
Both Audubon and the CBC trace their roots to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Audubon movement grew out of public outrage at the slaughter of wild birds, killed so that their feathers could be used to decorate the hats of fashionable women. This was the case with the magnificent Great Egret, hunted to near extinction in the early 1900s, and now the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

The Christmas Bird Count, proposed by one of Audubon’s founders, Frank Chapman, began in 1900 as an alternative to bird-hunting competitions. In these contests, called side-hunts, hunters would choose sides to see who could kill the most birds. Chapman challenged birders to count rather than kill birds. This “new kind of hunt” became the Christmas Bird Count.

Finally, it is not too early to begin thinking of the Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb. 17-20, 2012)!

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes or longer, if one wishes, on a single day or on each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Mark Musselman, education director at the Francis Beidler Forest, will be birding at various sites around Summerville on Day 1 (Friday, February 17th).  The count will begin at the parking area near the tennis courts in Azalea Park at 8:30 a.m.  Other stops will include Ashley Ridge High School, The Ponds and Middleton Place. Anyone can join this group for all or part of the day, especially those looking to learn about birding or improve their bird identification skills.  Anyone wishing to join this group or simply to follow the progress can check @TheSwampThing (!/TheSwampThing) on Twitter.

Go forth and bird! 

Images (#2, #3) by Mark Musselman

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