In this morning's South Texas Birding segment, Larry Jordan from the Audubon Outdoor Club joined us on First Edition to help explain bird counts and just how scientist get those numbers.
Every year around Christmas, and again in the Spring, there are national bird counts. These are done by scientists, grad students and avid, knowledgeable birders. They form small groups of two, three or four people and they get together, with a specific designated area to cover, and they go count birds from dawn to dusk – walking, driving, or even in a boat, to a variety of habitats including rural, residential, beach, wetlands etc. At the end of the day, typically groups get together and start to tabulate the bird species numbers sighted that day. So for example, Corpus Christi would be divided into territories. These individual territories, once verified, submit their count for the day, and collectively we have the number of bird species counted in Corpus Christi. That same procedure goes on nationally.
The final local numbers are submitted to National Audubon where they collect counts from all over the country, which are then entered into a data base, and over time (could be 5-10 years) scientists are able to see from that information whether bird species are increasing or decreasing, or perhaps it will show them a species of concern, or perhaps on the fringe of endangered. They take a lot of other factors into consideration by looking at events that might play a role in changing habitats where certain species are typically seen, which could be the reason for increased or decreased species numbers - such scenarios are; extreme weather….has there been an ongoing drought, a hurricane, flooding, urban sprawl taking up crucial habitat, chemical influences, oil spills and so on. All these things can play a factor!! It could also be as simple as the winter is milder up north, so the birds are not traveling that far south – although I don't think that's a factor this year.
There are several birding clubs in the area including the Coastal Bend Audubon Society and the Audubon Outdoor Club. You can contact them for information.
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