Annual Christmas Bird Count
December 15th is for the birds! And bird counters. Environmentalists on St. Croix are participating in the Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count. This year’s count will be the 114th year the international organization has hosted the count all over the world. Volunteers on St. Croix have participated for the past consecutive 14 years. Unfortunately, the volunteer count is way down for this year’s event due to the number of people who have “flown” the island. Needed are experienced and amateur bird watchers, as well as novices who can join the mentoring program being launched this year which will allow them to work with more experienced counters.
According to Bill Boyton, this year’s coordinator, “The count helps scientists evaluate the environment. The growth or decline of overall bird population often indicates changes in the local environment that otherwise would be overlooked.” Identification of changes in numbers and in the types of species on the island helps determine whether or not a bird is put on the endangered list. It also gives support to identifying environmental dangers that are present on the island. “With the wet conditions that we have had lately and the blessing of no major storms this season, we are looking for a count with record numbers this year,” Boyton added.
Volunteers will be assigned ponds on the island and given a tally sheet and bird-identification card. On the day of the event, they are asked to do a slow walk through the areas assigned and tally the number of birds of each species that are sighted. The volunteer assignment can take a couple of hours or all day depending on the willingness of the volunteer. People may choose an area close to their home or another area where they feel comfortable watching and counting the birds.
For those who would like a refresher course, Carol Burke from the St. Croix Environmental Association is hosting a bird identification workshop on Thursday, December 5th from 5:30 – 7:30 at The Nature Conservancy (Estate Little Princess). All are welcome to attend free of charge. For more information on this evening call Carol Cramer-Burke at (340) 773-1989.
If you would like to participate as a Christmas Bird Count volunteer, call 340-690-3002. You may pick your area and further instructions will be given. Bring your friends and make some new ones for this very worthwhile event.