Most of the birding organizations around the country have, by now, completed or are in the process of completing the 2008 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data collection. The Chautauqua County area is no different.
Members of the three birding organizations in our area - the Lake Erie Bird Club, Jamestown Audubon Society and Roger Tory Peterson Institute - continue to participate in this and other birding census counts several times a year to determine the health of our bird species and search for any possible environmental changes in our area that may be determined by the increase or decrease of any of those species. The CBC season in our area this year is Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. Your local count, depending on which organization you participate with, has occurred on one day between those inclusive dates.
The clubs are now in the process of collecting and compiling the data and comparing the statistics of this year's data to those of past years to determine if any significant changes have occurred with any given species that might reflect significant species changes. These changes could indicate environmental or habitat events that effected that particular bird or group of birds.
Significant sightings in this year’s count include, clockwise from above: the Snowy Owl, Snow Goose, Purple Sandpiper, Pine Warbler and Northern Goshawk.
If your group has had more than one local count, they will probably be conducted on different dates within the CBC season. Your organization has probably picked the most convenient date for the members. Several organization members have, over the years, taken part in more than one count as they assist other clubs on their count day.
There is a specific methodology to the CBC, in which everyone can participate. The count usually takes place within pre-established "Count Circles," which focus on specific geographical areas. A count compiler leads each circle. Therefore, if you are a beginning birder, you were able to join a group that includes at least one or more experienced bird watchers. In addition, if your home is within the boundaries of a Count Circle, then you can stay at home for a while and report the birds that visit your feeder or, as many of the members do, join a group of birdwatchers in the field.
In either case, if you have never been on a CBC or a regular bird census before, your first step is to locate and contact your local Count Compiler to find out how you can volunteer in future events. The count that I have participated in this year is in the northern area of Chautauqua County. This section encompasses the territory covered by members of the Lake Erie Bird Club. The compiler for this area is and has been Paul Farver from Brocton.
While the final data is not complete, there have been some very interesting and significant sightings reported to date. Probably the most unusual report came from David Neveu, who sighted a Purple Sandpiper in the Dunkirk Harbor. This bird has had only a handful of sightings in our county over the years that I have been keeping the data. I was fortunate to obtain a photo, which I took several years ago.
This count is an annual event started in 1900 by the late Frank Chapman. This event did not necessarily begin with a scientific approach, but as a hunt of those species for food and other purposes. Over the years, the count quickly turned into a scientific search of the birds of the Christmas season. Significant sightings reported from this year's count, in addition to the Purple Sandpiper, were the Snow Goose, Pine Warbler, Northern Goshawk and Snowy Owl.
In closing, I would like to thank all of the individuals in the various bird clubs and the county who participated in this scientific bird study. Data collection like this helps us keep track of any environmental changes. Especially by looking at the number of specific birds reported, we can determine what environmental disturbances might be occurring to cause that disappearance. I want to especially thank Paul for all his work, along with the many contributors to the bird counts.
I wish all of you a safe and healthy new year.