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Columns : Bird Talk - Erika Gates Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

10th Annual Christmas Bird Count on Grand Bahama Island
By Erika Gates
Jan 5, 2010 - 8:18:08 PM

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Monthly Birdwalk at the Garden of the Groves - fun and educational for young and old, novice or expert!

Grand Bahama, The Bahamas - There is excitement in the birding circle on Grand Bahama Island these days. During the 10th annual Christmas Bird Count on December 18th of 2009 the visiting experts and local birders had recorded 117 species on this island - the highest number ever observed!

When the final tally was held at Garden of the Groves birders were not only pleased to have surpassed the Nassau and Abaco counts but were ecstatic at the high number of species which is an indication that birding populations have rebounded on Grand Bahama Island after the devastation of three major hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 when some species had been decimated by 75 %.
One of the favourite species of the CBC is the Painted Bunting that spends the winter on Grand Bahama

Tony White of Bethesda, Maryland, who had lead the Grand Bahama teams over the past nine years as compiler for the count, retired from this demanding job last year and had appointed one of the outstanding birders on the island, Bruce Purdy, to be his successor. Bruce was pleased with the outcome of this year's Christmas Bird Count and stated that the teams might even have done better had it not been for the high winds and rainy conditions on count day. Leaders for their respective teams were Dr. Woody Bracey from Abaco, Carolyn Wardle from New Providence, Brucy Purdy, Shammie Rolle, and Ben Rose of Grand Bahama.
By participating in the count Grand Bahama Birders contributed once again to gather valuable information for the longest running database in ornithology. More than 59000 observers in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, South and Central America conduct an all-day census of bird populations on that day. An entirely new region was included for the first time in the 109th count - Antarctica. The first ever Antarctic CBC recorded five bird species, including 270885 Adelie Penguins! 
This male Gadwall is a rare winter visitor to Grand Bahama but just happened to be on the island during the Christmas Bird Count

The primary objective of the annual Christmas Bird Count is to monitor the status and distribution of bird populations across the Western Hemisphere. When counts are entered into a database, we begin to gain a clearer picture of how bird populations have changed over the past 100 years. The information is also vital for conservation. For example, local trends in bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from extensive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
The first Christmas Bird Count was held on December 25th 1900 in the U.S. Up until that year it has been a tradition for persons that liked the outdoors to engage in the Christmas Bird Hunt . People would go into the fields and forests in teams and shoot any bird they could. Whoever brought in the biggest pile of dead birds would win! Many persons became concerned about the indiscriminate, senseless slaughter of these beautiful feathered creatures and worried about declines in bird populations. Ornithologist Frank Chapman, an officer in the growing Audubon Society, an environmental movement, called for an end to the barbaric tradition. He suggested that, rather than shooting birds, people should count them instead. So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, twenty five counts were held on December 25th 1900 throughout the United States.
Frank Chapman

Would you like to learn more about birds? The Garden of the Groves together with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism conducts an annual Basic Birding Course on four consecutive Saturdays in March each year. It is free to the community and provides a great opportunity to learn skills of bird identification, habitat, vegetation and the environment. Check it out on the web www.thegardenofthegroves.com and click on "Workshops" or call us at 242-374-7778 for more information

Erika Gates – Bird Talk: owner of Kayak Nature Tours (one of the first Eco-Tour businesses in The Bahamas); co-founder of the Ecotourism Association; a published writer; and a Cacique award winner! Her column Bird Talk will enlighten and educate us about birds of The Bahamas, as well as the importance of Ecology. Erika can be reached at gbntours@hotmail.com or (242) 373-2485

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Bird Talk - Erika Gates
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