Last month's 11th annual continentwide Great Backyard Bird Count set a record, with participants identifying a phenomenal 635 species of birds.
The count, run over a long weekend by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, also recorded a record 85,700 checklists submitted by birders, who also e-mailed thousands of images of birds from across North America.
"Every year awareness of the GBBC seems to spread," said Janis Dickinson, citizen science director for Cornell. A detailed presentation of the count tallies and photos is available online at www.birdcount.org.
Observers who had heard about a significant failure in seed production in northern Canadian conifer forests had expected a large influx of northern finches in more southerly latitudes, and they were not disappointed. "As predicted there were record numbers of GBBC reports for pine grosbeak [a favorite winter finch]," said Rob Fergus, a senior scientist with Audubon.
Common redpolls and evening grosbeaks were reported in their highest numbers in several years as well.
Numbers for the yellow-billed magpie hit a new low, the count analysis showed., Magpies, crows and jays are very susceptible to West Nile virus, and for several years the magpies have declined with the spread of the virus west to California. America crow and blue jay numbers nationwide, however, appear to have stabilized, suggesting possible adaptation by these species to the relatively new disease.
The GBBC also continues to chart the explosive expansion of the Eurasian collared-dove. The species has spread expansively since its introduction in Florida in 1980, and for the first time this year it was reported in British Columbia, Manitoba and Oregon.
A masked duck, a tropical species, made a first count appearance in Texas, and an arctic loon, seldom seen outside Alaska, was found in California. An ivory gull, also an arctic denizen, showed up on a South Dakota checklist.
The top 10 reported birds included the following: northern cardinal, mourning dove, dark-eyed junco, downy woodpecker, American goldfinch, blue jay, house finch, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee and America crow.
In other bird news, a large die-off of waterfowl, including 600 to 800 canvasback and redhead ducks, has been reported on the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said that the likely cause was malnutrition because toxicology tests were negative.
The St. Clair area typically is a wintering area that is seeing a growing numbers of ducks, which are competing for a limited amount of food, the MDNR explained. Canvasbacks and redheads are especially attracted to beds of wild celery. Overwintering flocks have grown from 20,000-30,000 to 30,000-40,000 nowadays, when waters stay open and the lake does not freeze hard till mid January.
Back in Ohio, on a positive note, 12 wild turkeys have been released in Putnam County near Fort Jennings, representing possibly the last such release in the state's long-term trap-and-relocate program.
The birds had been captured in Ashtabula County for the transfer. Wild turkeys now are well established in all 88 Ohio counties.
Harold Roe, Sylvania's internationally renowned wildlife artist and a major contributor to Ducks Unlimited, has been named Ohio DU's volunteer conservationist of the year.
Roe, a four-time winner of the Ohio duck stamp art competition and twice DU national artist of the year, has raised more than $17 million with prints of his waterfowl paintings for DU. In 2007 Roe placed second in the prestigious federal duck stamp art competition, losing by a point in a runoff vote after a three-way tie for first.
The Buckeye Trail Association has scheduled a work party for Saturday through April 2 in Henry County to build trail routes and reblaze others.
The trail circles Ohio following rural and natural routes and which is marked with a familiar light blue rectangle painted along the route. Volunteer workers can meet Saturday at 8 a.m. at the North Turkeyfoot Public Access along the Maumee River at U.S. 24 and State Rt. 109.
Bring lunch and water, leather gloves, boots and appropriate outdoor wear.
Greg Wisniewski, organizer, said that donations of bottled water, snacks, and coffee also are needed, as are volunteers who would prepare breakfast each morning for trail builders. The breakfast site will be the Napoleon Church of the Nazarene. For other details call Wisniewski, 419-599-7106.
The Maumee and Sandusky rivers continue to recede but remain high and muddy and cold at 38 to 40 degrees, the Ohio Division of Wildlife said yesterday in noting just limited walleye fishing activity over the weekend.
A few walleye were being taken at Orleans Park and the foot of White Street in Perrysburg and Maumee, respectively, and at the Miles Newton Bridge in Fremont, where some larger female fish already have been taken. Action should improve steadily this week with falling levels and warming weather.
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