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Published: Sunday, 12/14/2008

Holiday bird count still valuable tool

When it comes to treasures in the natural scheme of things, birds count and that s why people count birds this time of year.

Today marks the opening of the 109th Audubon Christmas Bird Count season, a time when thousands of bird enthusiasts will fan out across much of North America and Central America and beyond to index the numbers and distribution of bird species in more than 2,000 counts. The count ends Jan. 5.

Each local count occurs within an established 15-mile-diameter circle. Information gathered helps scientists learn more about how birds are faring throughout North America, adding to more than a century of data collected by previous generations of volunteers.

With habitat and wild areas disappearing at an alarming rate and global warming affecting some ranges, the National Audubon Society says, scientists will rely on CBC data to help identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action.

Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count plays a critical role in helping us focus attention and conservation where it is most needed. said Dr. Tom Bancroft, chief scientist for Audubon. Their observations are the foundation for Audubon s State of the Birds Reports, like our Common Birds in Decline analysis, which revealed precipitous declines among many of our nation s most common and familiar birds.

The holiday bird count also is instrumental in developing Audubon s WatchList, which most recently identified species in the continental U.S. and in Hawaii in dire need of conservation help.

During last year s count, nearly 70 million birds were counted by more than 58,000 participants in all 50 states, every Canadian province, parts of Central and South America, Bermuda, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands.

The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago when the founder of Audubon magazine, Frank Chapman, changed the course of ornithological history. In 1900, Chapman led a small group on an alternative to the side hunt, when teams competed to see who could shoot the most game. Instead, Chapman proposed they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what some consider to be the world s most significant citizen-based conservation effort.

To learn more about how to participate in a Christmas Bird Count near you, visit audubon.org/bird/cbc.

The longest-running and leading count in northwest Ohio is that run by the Toledo Naturalists Association. It has developed a reputation as one of the state s most productive counts with a species total usually around 90.

The 2008 TNA count, the organization s 77th, is under way today. Among areas being surveyed by various teams include Bay Shore Power Plant (morning) and Maumee Bay State Park, and surrounding areas; Bay Shore Power Plant (afternoon)/Woodlawn Cemetery/Ottawa City Park; Pearson Metropark and Mallard Club State Wildlife Area; Point Place/North Toledo; Maumee River Watershed/downtown Toledo/Rossford, and Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge, led by Elliot Tramer.

Those unable to go afield but wanting to participate can maintain a list of birds coming to their backyard feeding stations, and submit them to TNA compiler Matt Anderson at Matt_Anderson@andersonsinc.com, or call him at 419-891-6532.

A post-count countdown gathering is set for Tony Packo s Restaurant on Consaul Street in East Toledo at 5 p.m. Other details and contacts can be found by calling the rare bird hotline, 419-877-9640, or at toledonaturalist.org.

Other notable counts in the region during the CBC cycle include:

The third annual Rudolph area count, set for Dec. 21 and led by Tom Kemp, 419-356-5704. Meet at Frisch s Big Boy, East Wooster Street, Bowling Green, 7 a.m.

The Fremont area count, also Dec. 21, done in conjunction with the Ohio Young Birders Club, Green Creek Wildlife Society, and Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Meet at 7 a.m. at Karen s Restaurant, 921 East State St., Fremont, compiler Paul Sherwood. Call BSBO 419-898-4070.

The 42nd annual Grand Rapids/Waterville count, Jan. 3, also led by Kemp, meeting at 7 a.m. at Mikey P s Restaurant in Whitehouse.

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge count, Jan. 4, led by Tom Bartlett, 419-447-0005 or via tomb@tiffinohio.com. Meet at 7:45 a.m. in the old refuge parking lot. Lunch at noon in the new refuge Visitor Center.



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