Naturalists and ecologists know that ultimately everything is connected, so perhaps it is no surprise that the devastating 2005 hurricane season revealed its links with continental bird distribution.
Unlike the relatively tame storm season just ended, the violent storms of 05 specifically revealed their impacts in the last Christmas Bird Count.
They dramatically altered locales of where various bird species were found across North America, with some displaced species found well out of normal ranges, according to the National Audubon Society.
Some western birds, for example, were displaced to Atlantic Canada by the hurricanes. They were seen at the last Christmas count to be moving southward through the eastern states. The most notable among these were Townsend s solitaire, Franklin s gull, and western warblers and tanagers.
In other cases unusually high numbers of individuals of a particular species were tallied in an area, such as extreme numbers of gray catbirds in many Christmas counts in the Northeast. In all, about 62 million birds were counted in North America by more than 57,000 volunteers in Audubon and Bird Studies Canada, the partner in the CBC.
Such findings give purpose to the CBC and are a prelude to the upcoming survey, now in its 107th year. More than 2,000 local counts are anticipated during the official count period, which runs Dec. 14 through Jan. 5.
Geoff LeBaron, the CBC director for Audubon, encourages participation in local counts and stresses their importance. Audubon and our partners at Bird Studies Canada, the [federal] Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Boreal Studies Initiative, he said, rely on data from the CBC database to develop Audubon s State of the Birds report and inform Audubon s WatchList, which is used to prioritize Audubon s bird conservation work.
The first Christmas count took place more than a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 locales, led by scientist-writer Frank Chapman, proposed an alternative to what was called a side hunt, a then-acceptable if ignorant practice of seeing who could shoot the most birds and small mammals in a day.
Today s counts take place in all 50 states and the Canadian provinces, parts of Central America and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and some Pacific islands. For other details on-line, visit www.audubon.org/bird/cbc.
At least three of the counts are scheduled in northwest Ohio, led by the 75th annual event by the Toledo Naturalists Association, set for Dec. 17. This count traditionally ranks in the top five or six in Ohio for results and covers seven areas around the metropolitan area.
Long-time TNA count compiler Matt Anderson again will be at the reins and expects that the tally again could flirt with 90 species, the all-time high recorded in 1983 and again in 2001 and 2003.
Birders of all skill levels are welcome to sign on to one of the field teams, or to report birds and species being careful not to recount the same individuals all day at their backyard feeding stations.
Information and reports can be telephoned to the TNA Rare Bird Alert at 419-877-9640. Anderson also can be reached via e-mail at MattAnderson@AndersonsInc.com or by calling 419-891-532.
Count day begins with a 6:30 breakfast at Denny s restaurant at I-75 and Buck Road with a countdown at 5 p.m. set for Tony Packo s at Front and Consaul Streets.
Count areas to be covered by TNA include North Toledo and extreme southeast Michigan, the Maumee River watershed, Bayshore Power Plant (morning) and Maumee Bay State Park, Little Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge, Pearson Metropark and Mallard Club State Wildlife Area, the area just east of the Lucas-Ottawa county line, and Woodlawn Cemetery-Ottawa Park-downtown Toledo-Bayshore Power Plant (afternoon).
Another important area count is the 40th Grand Rapids-Waterville count, set for Dec. 30 and led by veteran compiler Tom Kemp, 419-356-5704. Meet at 7 a.m. at Mikey P s restaurant in Whitehouse.
The count covers Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, Maumee State Forest, the rapids of the Maumee River, and Swan Creek valley. A countdown is set for 5 p.m. at Corral Saloon & Grill in Whitehouse.
Last in order is the annual Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Count, set for Dec. 31 and led by Tom Bartlett, 419-447-0005, e-mail email@example.com. Meet at 7:45 a.m. in the refuge parking lot.