Monday, April 27, 2009

Counting Birds at Silver Creek

Blog by Ginny Glasscock. Willet photo by Dave Glasscock.

April 15 may have been the tax deadline, but it was also the date for the monthly bird survey at The Nature Conservancy’s Silver Creek Preserve.

So, having submitted my “extension of time to file” form, I rose early and headed out on a chilly, wet morning to meet up with a dedicated crew of birders : Poo Wright-Pulliam, Dave Spaulding, Jean Seymour, and Keri York.

Each month for the past five years, a core group of knowledgeable volunteers has gathered at sunrise at the Preserve, which has been designated an Important Bird Area (download the preserve's full bird checklist).

These specially recognized locations throughout the world have been selected as being essential and vulnerable bird habitats. Monitoring bird populations over time provides information that can be used in conservation planning to safeguard these critical areas.

There are five set sample points at Silver Creek where our group stops for ten minutes to count each individual bird seen, (or sometimes, only heard). At two of the points, we extend the survey area and time for more comprehensive coverage.

I am amazed at the knowledge of these citizen scientists- how they can differentiate between very similar birds, recognize flight patterns, identify songs, and point out specific behaviors. As the snow flurries swirled around us, I learned to be more observant of the wonderful variety and number of birds that occur on the Preserve.

Some highlights of the day included a willet wading purposefully along the stream’s edge, the tiny marsh wrens hiding in the rushes, and a common snipe that perched on a fence long enough for all of us to get a great view through the spotting scope.

All in all, 38 different bird species were identified for the April count. While I thought that was an impressive number, I was told to expect a much higher count next time. So, in mid-May, my taxes still won’t be done, but I hope to be out streamside again with the amazing bird survey crew. I’m eager to see what we can find!

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