delware environmental institute

News Journal: Every bird counts

From common urban pigeons to two majestic bald eagles perched in a tree at Hoopes Reservoir, every bird mattered Saturday when a team of volunteers went out to assess winter bird populations in a habitat-rich area of northwest Wilmington. Since Dec. 14, other teams have canvased 15-mile-wide diameter circles throughout Delaware as part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The idea: to get a snapshot of wintering bird populations.

Last year, the volunteers-- both in Delaware and other East Coast and Great Lake states -- captured the snowy owl irruption. Snowy owls normally spend the winter well north of Delaware. This year, two have been spotted in the state. Last year, there was at least one and possibly more, in each county. National Audubon scientists say that irruption was the biggest influx of snowy owls documented during the century and it lasted throughout the winter.

This year the National Audubon Society is asking volunteers to pay close attention to another species: Loggerhead shrikes with leg bands. The data collected in this part of the count will be shared with Wildlife Preservation CANADA for an on-going research project.

The volunteer survey which runs from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 will include some 70,000 volunteer bird watchers who will count the types and numbers of birds they see in more than 2,400 locations.