Monday, February 18, 2013

Field Report: The Great Backyard Bird Count at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Feb. 16, 2013

On Saturday, February 16, 2013, Valley Forge Audubon Society held a Great Backyard Bird Count event at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. The day started out with a bird walk lead by Vince Smith which saw 32 bird species, the highlight being a Peregrine Falcon. The complete list of those birds follows: 

Canada Goose  250
Common Merganser  4
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  4
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  2
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  4
Carolina Chickadee  4
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  3
Eastern Bluebird  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2
Song Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  22
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  5
Northern Cardinal  5
Red-winged Blackbird  6
Common Grackle  1
Purple Finch (Eastern)  1     Female
House Finch  14
American Goldfinch  2

After the walk, a feeder watch was conducted at the cottage. This gave the walk attendees a break from the cold where they were treated to hot chocolate, courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. Through the large picture window, 18 species of birds were seen attending the feeder and in the immediate area. The feeder watch gave us a great opportunity to see the difference between Carolina Chickadees and Black-capped Chickadees, as both species were visiting the feeder at the same time. A list of those birds follows:

Canada Goose  8     Flying overhead
Red-tailed Hawk  1     Soaring overhead
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  3
Blue Jay  1
Carolina Chickadee  5
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  1
Song Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  9
Northern Cardinal  3
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  1

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual citizen science event held every February that gives researchers a clear view of bird populations prior to Spring migration through the observations of birdwatchers from around the world.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter Bird Counts Connect Kids to Birding

By Debbie Beer

This past winter, PA Young Birders (PAYB) was thrilled to engage more than 100 adults and children in several WINTER BIRD COUNTS FOR KIDS.  Inspired by long-running, international Christmas Bird Counts, PAYB, along with partners and volunteers, guided these exciting, citizen science programs at two Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Pennsylvania, highlighting a diversity of avian species thriving in preserved habitats.

 Willistown Conservation Trust headquarters, in Chester County, hosted the first-of-season Winter Bird Count for Kids on December 15, 2012.  A dozen kids were delighted to discover and observe wintering birds at backyard feeders and in farm fields managed for wildlife.  The group found 21 species, and finished the morning with hot chocolate and pizza!

A week later, on December 21, 2012, nearly 40 5th graders from Pepper Middle School walked over to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge for their first-ever Winter Bird Count.  After a colorful program presentation, two groups of enthusiastic students went outside with binoculars and checklists to search for birds in woods and wetlands.  The kids were engaged and interested, completing a solid citizen science effort to find 19 species and 187 birds on a windy, chilly morning.  This event served as one of over a dozen science classes taking place at Heinz Refuge for the Pepper School fifth graders, through the 2012-13 academic year.  For most of these city students, visits to Heinz Refuge mark their first experiences walking in the woods, and observing wildlife up-close.

On January 5, 2013, more than 55 people came out to participate in the 3rd annual Winter Bird Count for Kids at Heinz Refuge. PAYB leaders guided two groups around the refuge, exploring woods, fields and creek habitats.  The 200-acre water impoundment was almost completely frozen, so ducks were scarce, but we found a total of 37 species, 387 individual birds. During the tally rally, data was submitted to E-bird, and hot pizza was enjoyed by all.  Highlights: Bald Eagles, Cooper's Hawk, numerous 130 gulls on ice, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglets, sparrows, woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, and one adorable Saw-whet Owl!
Thanks to everyone who contributed to connecting kids to birds and nature through these inspiring Winter Bird Counts - PA Young Birders, Friends of Heinz Refuge, Heinz Refuge, International Institute for Advanced Instruction, Pepper Middle School, Willistown ConservationTrust, and volunteers.