This year’s Christmas Bird Count registered twice as many bald eagles as in the last years. Although the number of bald eagles increased, the number of the other birds registered a decrease.
The record keeper of the Sussex County Bird Club is Alan Boyd. Boyd registered 82 species of birds, of which 16 were eagles. 31 people participated in the bird count, of which 13 were birders. Boyd is worried that the number of birds was so low, saying that he usually counted up to 90 bird species.
He said that the possible explanation for the low number could be that this winter was a relatively warm one. Since the waters are not frozen and the ground is not covered in snow, the birds are not as congregated as usually.
The first Christmas Bird Count took place in December 1900. Frank Chapman, the founder of the Audubon magazine suggested that they should count birds instead of killing them. During that period, during Christmas the so called side hunts were done traditionally. The competition focused on who could kill most of the birds, no matter how rare, beautiful or beneficial that bird was. That year, 27 people took place in the bird count in 25 places in the United States and Canada. Every winter since then, the bird counts have been held and the number of participants grew each year.
The bird count is usually sponsored by the National Audubon Society. The count is done by ordinary people who collect data on birds. This data can prove to be very important to the scientists when they want to see if any environmental changes occurred. For example, the bird count in 1950 led to the link between the DDT pesticide and the thinning egg shells of the raptors.
The counting of the birds is done by individuals who chose a certain area with a 15 miles diameter. The volunteers break up in small groups and count within their area. The areas change very little through the years. Bird counts are usually held between December 14 to January 5.
The results of the count are not extremely accurate, as they are done by ordinary people and sometimes birds are counted twice or not seen at all. The participation is free and is open to all people, starting with 2012.
This year’s Christmas Bird Count registered twice as many bald eagles and the interesting fact that vultures and mockingbirds are now extending their range in the North.
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