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


Eleventh Annual Grand Bahama Bird Count breaks records
By Erika Gates
Jan 15, 2012 - 5:25:51 PM

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Freeport, Bahamas - More than 50.000 observers in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and the Bahamas participate each year in an all-day census of migratory and resident bird populations. The primary objective of this "Christmas Bird Count" is to monitor the status and distribution of bird populations across the Western Hemisphere.
 
Grand Bahama Island provided five teams for its eleventh count with a total of 34 local and visiting field observers that were assigned to five different count sections in the Freeport/Lucaya area. The event began Friday evening with an orientation for the participants and a social gathering at Junkanoo Beach Club where delicious hot chili and other refreshments were provided during the chilly evening compliments of the Club and hosted by Club manager, Mark Neely.
 
The official count began on Saturday morning at sunrise. Teams hardly took time for lunch and birded until sundown. Their efforts were awarded with several unusual species that had not been seen during previous counts.
 
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After an exciting day of birding, teams gathered at Garden of the Groves for the highly anticipated tabulation of the number of species each team had observed during the day. The total count of bird species was 109, however, when 6 additional species that were observed during count week had been added the total reached 115. Bruce Purdy, the count compiler, stated that this had been the highest number for Christmas Bird Count since it began on Grand Bahama eleven years ago. Erika Gates, who organized the counts over the years, commented that she was very excited about the number of birds observed by the teams this year but she was even happier about the number of young persons that are coming out to participate in birdwatching and especially in the Christmas Bird Count.
 
The day ended with a scrumptious dinner prepared by Julia Ryan and her team at the Garden Cafe and all agreed that this event had been the highlight of the 2011 birding year!
 
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The first Christmas Bird Count was held in the United States over a hundred years ago, on December 25th in the year 1900,  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 encountered. Whoever brought in the biggest pile of dead birds was the winner! Many people, however, were becoming concerned about this indiscriminate, senseless slaughter of the beautiful feathered creatures and declines in bird populations. Ornithologist Frank Chapmand of the Museum of Natural History in New York had launched what was to become the largest citizen science program in ornithology when he proposed a Christmas Bird Count rather than a Christmas Bird Hunt. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank Chapmana nd the enthusiasm and support of 27 dedicated birders, the first Christmas Bird Counts were held on Dec. 25th in 1900! In 1905 the National Audubon Society was formed, an environmental organization that has dedicated itself to conservation of birds and other wildlife and their habitats. 
 
The Grand Bahama birding community is privileged to contribute important data to the largest data base in ornithology  by participating in the annual bird count.

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Bird Talk - Erika Gates
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