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‘Great Count’ identifies bird trends

John Clifford
Photographer
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Posted 12/23/22

Local bird watchers in the Rome area took part in the 123rd annual Christmas Bird Count conducted by the National Audubon Society, Sunday, Dec. 18. Over 300 miles were covered.

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‘Great Count’ identifies bird trends

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ROME — Local bird watchers in the Rome area took part in the 123rd annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) conducted by the National Audubon Society, Sunday, Dec. 18.

Over 300 miles were covered by the 10 birders who collectively put in 34 hours of spotting over 9.5 hours on a relatively cloudy/calm 32 degree day.

The data collected by the count will aid conservation efforts with bird population trends. The first CBC was in 1900.

“The CBC is a point on a long linear line,” according to Bruce Carpenter, the compiler of the Rome data for many years and local bird expert. “To make assumptions can be misleading, but there are trends. Clearly, Bald Eagles have recovered and are doing great.”

According to Carpenter, the bird count might be an indicator of environmental issues, like global warming, because the birds such as “Carolina Wrens, Tufted titmouse and Bluebird species that, at this time of year should be further south, are staying and surviving further north.”

This year, locally, 46 species were reported in the Rome count.

A rare bird spotted this year was a pair of Blue-winged Teals. These smallish ducks are “the latest ducks to migrate northward in the spring and one of the first to migrate southward in the fall,” according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The pair spotted in Rome is “a first for the count,” according to Carpenter.

Other unique birds counted and expected to be spotted during the day, was Snow buntings, a Belted Kingfisher, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

“The Rome count was right where it should be in an average year,” stated Carpenter, “Both in species and numbers. We had more of the southern songbirds, but less of the winter finches. We had some high concentration of ducks and geese but variety was down.”

In fact and, not surprisingly, 2,162 Canada geese were counted, mostly on the yet-to-freeze-over Delta Lake. Thousands of Canadian geese winter in the area, flying for open water or roosting along the Mohawk River when the lake finally does freeze over.

The American Bald Eagle continues to have a healthy population in the area with 13 counted during the day. Since 2009 the lower 48 states have seen a successful rise in the national bird from just over 72,000 to well over 316,700, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Backyard birds are well represented, with Blue Jays, Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finches and Tufted Titmouse all reporting respectable numbers.

Carpenter gives a lot of credit to the “quality of the people and the time spent in the field” for a solid bird count.

“In my view, it was a great count,” Carpenter concluded.

If you would like to participate in next year’s Christmas Bird Count, check the National Audubon Society website for information and keep track of other backyard bird counts that happen throughout the year.

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