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Published: Sunday, 12/6/2009

Count birds at Christmas time

Have yourself a Merry Christmas: Count birds

The holiday season includes many traditions, and for nature lovers one of the finest is the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, which kicks off its 110th season a week from tomorrow.

The count season, which runs through Jan. 5, is a time when thousands of bird enthusiasts will fan out across much of North America, Central America, and beyond to index the numbers and distribution of bird species in more than 2,000 counts.

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.

The observations that pour in from the array of counts are the foundation for Audubon's State of the Birds Reports, such as the Common Birds in Decline analysis, which has revealed precipitous declines among many of our nation's most common and familiar birds.

The holiday bird count also contributes to Audubon's WatchList, which most recently identified species in the continental United States and Hawaii in dire need of conservation help.

In the 2008 season, nearly 65.6 million birds were counted by nearly 60,000 participants in 2,124 counts 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 in 1900 when the founder of Audubon magazine, Frank Chapman, led a small group on an alternative to a non-illegal and always unethical "side hunt," in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game. Instead, Chapman proposed they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw. To learn more visit online at audubon.org/bird/cbc.

The most historic 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 with a species total usually around 90 and for two years running has tallied 96, tying its 1978 record and maintaining its state record among Christmas counts.

Last year's TNA count tallied 78,143 birds, the highest total since 1978. The 2009 TNA count, the organization's 78th, is set for Dec. 20.

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 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.

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 at 419-877-9640 or at toledonaturalist.org.

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

The fourth annual Rudolph area count, set for Dec. 19 and led by Tom Kemp, 419-356-5704. Meet at Frisch's Big Boy, East Wooster Street, Bowling Green, 7 a.m. The count in 2008 found 72 species.

The Fremont area count, also Dec. 20, 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, or e-mail John Sawvel at johnswavel@bsbo.org. This count registered 77 species in 2008.

The 43rd annual Grand Rapids/Waterville count, Jan. 2, also led by Kemp, meeting at 7 a.m. at Mikey P's Restaurant in Whitehouse. Contact Kemp to sign on. The 2008 count listed 80 species.

The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge count, Jan. 3, led by Tom Bartlett, 419-447-0005 or via tomb@tiffinohio.com. Meet at

7:45 a.m. in the old refuge parking lot. The count listed 66 species in 2008.

Other regional counts scheduled include the following:

Carey, Jan. 2, contact Bartlett; Gypsum, Jan. 1, contact Bartlett; Tiffin, Dec. 19, Bartlett, and Erie Islands, Dec. 20, contact John Pogacnik by e-mail, jpogacnik@adelphia.net.

Nature videographer Joe LaFleur, of Columbia, Mo., has authored a new DVD on eastern birds that brings birds to life on television and computer screens. Most of the birds featured can be found in Ohio year round or as seasonal migrants.

The new title is a three-hour compilation that focuses on 270 species commonly found east of the Missouri River. Searchable indices on the DVD allow users to quickly locate species of interest. The video content has been carefully edited to display diagnostic field marks and unique behaviors of birds in their natural habitats.

The DVD costs $29.99 and is currently available at Wild Birds Unlimited in Toledo. For more information, call 1-888-414-2837 or visit betterbirdwatching.com for a list of birds on the DVD.

Kim Kaufman, executive director of the Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory, has been named naturalist of the year by the Toledo Naturalists' Association for her tireless efforts in nature and birding education.

The award was an original oil painting of a bald eagle, executed by Cincinnati artist Ann Geise. Geise painted the Philippine "monkey-eating" eagle for the cover of the Guide to the Birds of the Philippines.

In other TNA news, Elliot Tramer was elected president for 2010, and Eric Durbin was elected vice president. A silent auction that raised more than $2,000 for the TNA's Harold Mayfield Research Award Fund to aid undergraduate and graduate college students conducting research projects in natural history in the Toledo area.

Contact Steve Pollick at:

spollick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6068.



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