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

Successful 14th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) Held
By Erika Gates
Jan 15, 2014 - 11:25:12 PM

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Here are some of the rare birds that were observed during the recent Grand Bahama Annual Bird Count on Grand Bahama Island, from sunrise to sunset on Grand Bahama Christmas Bird Count: Nashville Warble (top left); Hooded Merganser (top right); Green Heron (middle left); Painted Bunting (bottom left); Wilson’s Warbler (middle right); Snow Goose (center, photo by Duncan Mullis); Smooth-billed Ani (bottom right); and Wilson Warbler (middle right)

Freeport, Bahamas - The annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on January 4th. Erika Gates of Grand Bahama Nature Tours who has been organizing the count over the past 9 years was delighted with the results. “We recorded a total of 110 species, whereby 99 were observed this past Saturday and an additional 11 during count week, a period 3days prior and 3 days after count day! I am also pleased with the number of participants that turned out for this year’s event which reached 35!”, from sunrise to sunset on Grand Bahama Island.

The first “Christmas Bird Count” was held over 100 years ago in the United States. Up until then it had been a tradition for persons that enjoyed the outdoors to engage in the “Christmas Bird Hunt”. People would go into the fields and forests in teams and shoot any bird that they came across. At the end of the day, the team that brought in the biggest pile of dead birds, was the winner! Many people became concerned about the indiscriminate slaughter of these beautiful feathered creatures and also worried about declines in bird populations, Ornithologist, Frank Chapman, an officer in the growing Audubon Society, an environmental movement, called for an end to this barbaric tradition. He suggested that, rather than shooting birds, they should be counted instead. So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, in the year 1900twentyfive bird counts were held throughout the United States.

One of the four teams was lead by Dr. Woody Bracey. His team members were Michael Flowers, Jordan Davis, Mikey Moss , Tony Newbold and Zeko McKenzie (right to left)

Now the annual count is conducted in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and the Bahamas by over 50.000 birding enthusiasts. The primary objective is to monitor the status and distributionof bird populations across the Western Hemisphere. When the results are entered into a database, we begin to gain a clearer picture of how bird populations have changed over the years. This information is also vital for conservation. Declines in birdpopulations can signal immediate environmental threats, such as groundwater contamination from extensive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

The Grand Bahama count event began Friday night and participants met at the Gates’s house for an orientation. Hot chili and peasoup with dough had been prepared by Chef Stefan from the Garden Café. Erika introduced the individual team leaders:Dr. Woody Bracey from Abaco, one of the outstanding birders in the Bahamas, had travelled to Freeport for the count with his wife Betsy. Woody set the record in 2012 by having observed 242 birds in one year which no other birder ever accomplished in the Bahamas! Woody also conducts the Abaco Christmas Bird Count.

(insert picture # 6 of Woody and Betsy – Caption: Dr. Woody Bracey and wife Betsy during count dinner)

Carolyn Wardle flew in from Nassau via Abaco where she assisted with the count. She also organizes the New Providence count. Carolyn is the owner and operator of Bahamas Outdoors and organizes birding trips to the family islands.

Shamie Rolle of Calabash Ecoadventures always prepares wellfor the count by scouting his designated area days in advance to maximize finding as many species on count day as he possibly can! His passion about birds always makes an impression on the young birders on his team!

Bruce Purdy is the designated Count Compiler by the Audubon Society. Bruce traveled from Florida again this year to tally the results at the end of count day during the “tally rally” and dinner at Garden of the Groves. In addition to leading a team Bruce will also submit the results of the count to Audubon. Having lived on Grand Bahama for many years he is very familiar with the best birding sites and an expert birder as well.

Woody Bracey, Mary Tarzwell, Chaz Tuchel and Bruce Purdy compiling the count results

During the evening special recognition was given to two of the recent graduates of the “Basic Birding Class” that is conducted during the month of November by Cert. Bahamas Birding Guide, Erika Gates. Delores Kellman and Jordan Davis received their first “Birds of the Bahamas” certificates for having observed and studied 54 bird species during classes. The certificate is sponsored by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and encourages residents and visitors alike to “get out there and go birding”!

By participating in this 14thGrand Bahama Birding Group and visiting team leaders once again contributed valuable information to the longest running database in ornithology.

Erika Gates is 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

Delores Kellman and Jordan Davies are being presented with their “Birds of the Bahamas” certificate

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