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Date of Issue: January 05, 2006

More people, more birds for count

bird count gulls pic
Counting gulls
There are normally many more laughing gulls than any other bird in the count. These are mature laughing gulls in their non-mating plumage. In mating season, the adults have an all black head. Islander Photo: Courtesy David Williams

Everything was more for the Christmas bird count - twice as many people turned out to count, more species of birds spotted, more individual birds.

The word from the man in charge of the annual Audubon Society census, David Williams, was that the event's results were "excellent for Audubon; they'll use the figures in the nationwide compilation this year."

With three of the five census groups recorded at week's end, 23 people were engaged in the counting, twice as many as in 2004; 68 species of birds were seen, 2,600 individual birds counted.

"It was as scientific and complete as it gets for this kind of thing," Williams said. "It was more census than an event. These are just the kind of results that are useful to Audubon for national figuring of species, numbers, movements, trends and so on."

Many of the counters do not live in the Island, he said happily, "showing wide interest." All levels of ornithological knowledge were represented, from beginners to very knowledgeable birders. Each group had at least one experienced birder, he said.

Four species seldom counted here were found this year. Of special interest was the western sandpiper, not seen here since 1995 but a total of 51 spotted in this count. Also six pied-billed grebes, not seen since 2000; 128 red knots, last seen in 2000; and 100 dunlins, the first since 2000.

Not seen at all this year were bald eagles and roseate spoonbills, not really surprising, Williams said, since this is the eagle's nesting time and their nests are huge and dense, impossible to penetrate.

A boat carried some counters around Passage Key to check wading and shore birds, but the results of that census are not yet known.

The one-day Christmas count is done annually sometime between Dec. 15 and Jan. 5; the 2005 version was Tuesday, Dec. 27.