The 2020 Christmas Bird Count was different from others, according to local organizers, but in spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the area’s dedicated birders were still able to get out and record numbers of a host of species in the area.
The local Rome count is centered at Stokes corners and covers a 15 mile radius from there, said organizer Bruce Carpenter. The area includes parts of Tug Hill, Lake Delta, the Rome Sand Plains and the Griffiss Business and Technology Park.
Contributing to this year’s count were 11 different individuals, both traveling and stationed at various feeders. The group traveled more than 236 miles by car, and together logged 19 hours of searching.
The volunteers spotted some 2239 individual birds from 43 separate species. Canada goose topped the list as the most populous species with 520 reported; followed by European starlings, 278; wild turkeys, 214; crows, 202; rock pigeons, 172; mallards, 132; mourning doves, 126; black-capped chickadees, 98; dark-eyed juncos, 97; and house sparrows, 58.
Also observed in multiple numbers were: snow geese, American black ducks, common mergansers, sharp shinned hawks, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, great horned owls, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, blue jays, common ravens, tufted titmouses, red-breasted nuthatches, white-breasted nuthatches, eastern bluebirds, American robins, tree sparrows, northern cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, brown-headed cowbirds, house finches, and American goldfinches.
Making the list with one individual eyed were a great blue heron, a barred owl, a belted kingfisher, a pileated woodpecker, a northern shrike, a Carolina wren, and a white-throated sparrow.
This year we continued a trend with eight bald eagles seen, Carpenter said, but winter finches for the most part were not found in any big numbers as many people predicted. “Of course you never know what the weather will be in CNY when choosing a date, or that we would be in the middle of a growing pandemic, but, we always manage to find a treasure or two for this time of year,” Carpenter said of the team’s success of the annual count, held on Sunday, Dec. 20.
This annual bird survey is one of the largest, longest-running citizen science efforts in the world. Each November, birders interested in participating in the CBC can sign up and join in through the Audubon website (www.audubon.org). From Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 each year, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, and take part in the effort. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action.
When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years, Carpenter said. The long-term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, earlier this year, Science published a study using decades of Audubon Christmas Bird Count data to describe a grim picture: a steady decline of nearly 3 billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities, Carpenter added.