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Columns : Bird Talk - Erika Gates Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM

Annual Grand Bahama Birdcount involves visiting and local birders
By Erika Gates
Jan 13, 2017 - 12:36:08 PM

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Left to right: Judith Dawkins, Gena Granger, recorder, Linda Barry-Cooper, Robert Norton, team co-leader, Tiggy Cunningham (photo taken by team-coleader Duncan Mullis)

For the past 16 years, Grand Bahama has participated in the so-called “Christmas Bird Count”, a census that began 116 years ago in the United States and now includes all the Canadian Provinces, the Caribbean, Bahamas, South America as well as several Pacific islands.

Last year’s count shattered records and resulted in 2408 counts where 71659 observers recorded over 66 million birds of 2403 species!

Between December 15th and January 5th on one chosen day, birds are counted within a 15 mile circle from sunrise to sunset. In the Bahamas four islands participated this year –  Abaco, Andros, Grand Bahama and New Providence.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that shapes conservation policy. The count data is becoming increasingly important not only in documenting current climate change but is predicting the future effects of climate change on bird populations. Erika Gates, organizer of the Grand Bahama count, shares: “I couldn’t be prouder of our local birders who dedicate their time and resources to this event, thereby contributing valuable information to the longest running database in ornithology! At the same time CBC is such a wonderful learning experience for our birders as expert birders from afar, whom we are especially grateful for, join us for maximum results!”
Left to right: Deana Williamson, Robert Norton, Delores Kellman, recorder, Dr. Woody Bracey, team leader, Judith Dawkins, Rudy Sawyer

Duncan Mullis, team co-leader and Christopher Baker who took the photo of Bruce Hallett’s team

left to right: Martha Cartwright, recorder, Ellsworth Weir, Charmaine Hall, Mark Davis, Erika Gates, Bruce Hallet, team leader

The first Christmas Bird Count was held on December 25th 1900 in the U.S. Up until that year it had 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 saw. The team that brought in the larges number of dead birds would be the winner!

Many persons became concerned about the indiscriminate, senseless  slaughter of these beautiful feathered creatures and worried about declines in bird populations. Dr. Frank Chapman, conservationist and founder of Bird-Lore which evolved into Audubon magazine, suggested the alternative of counting rather than shooting the birds. Thus began the first Christmas Bird Count in the year 1900 with 27 dedicated birders observing and recording birds!
Birds seen during the 2017 count. Top: The American Kestrel and the Painted Bunting Bottom: Whimbrel and the Hooded Warbler (Photos by Erika Gates)

Bruce Purdy, the count compiler, who travelled from Destin, Florida, and submits the results to the American Audubon Society, was surprised at the excellent results for both Westend and Freeport that were compiled during the eagerly anticipated “Tally Rally” with dinner at Garden of the Groves . He had expected lower numbers due to the devastation of bird habitat on Grand Bahama.  Several birding trails and sites required clearing of fallen trees and helping hands were lent by Delores Kellman and her students from St. Georges High to prepare trails for count day!

Mr. Purdy was happy to announce a total of 105 species for Freeport (99 on count day plus 6 during count week) and 84 for Westend (80 on count day plus 4 during count week)

Left to right: Ashlynn Gilbert, Deborah Estimable, Delores Kellman, Trevaughn Smith, Joshua Carey (missing Mateo Stubbs

Left to right standing: Rudy Sawyer, Ellsworth Weir, Louise Durocher, Linda Barry-Cooper, Barbara Zill, Robert Norton, Christopher Baker, Bruce Hallett, Mark Davis, Jill Cooper, Gena Granger, Chris Mays (seated: Tiggy Cunningham, Erika Gates, Bruce Purdy, Delores Kellmann, Dr. Woody Bracey, Martha Cartwright, Duncan Mullis, missing: Bridget Davis, Alexis Thompson, Deana Williamson, Charmaine Hall, Judith Dawkins, Ben and Judy Rose.

The colourful Bahamas Ministry of Tourism promotion bag will remind visiting birders to return for more birds to our “birdorable” Grand Bahama Island!

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