You can help…by counting birds

In the 2010 NH Audubon Backyard Winter Bird Survey, the Mourning Dove was the fifth most commonly counted bird. The American Goldfinch was number one, followed by the Black-capped Chickadee, the Dark-eyed Junco, and then the Blue Jay.

New Hampshire Audubon needs your help…in counting birds. Their annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey will take place on Saturday, February 12, and Sunday, February 13.

Biologists need assistance from citizens all over the Granite State to get a clear picture of what’s really happening with our winter birds.

Anyone can participate in the Backyard Winter Bird Survey by counting the birds in their own backyard on the survey weekend and sending the results on a special reporting form to NH Audubon.

Forms are available on-line and at NH Audubon centers in Auburn, Concord and Manchester.

Go to www.nhaudubon.org under the Birding page…or click HERE, which will take you directly to the survey page.

Considered a rare sighting in New Hampshire during winter, this Fox Sparrow continues to visit a Sunapee backyard. Three Fox Sparrows were recorded in last year's winter survey.

Data from the Backyard Winter Bird Survey is used to track changes in the distribution and abundance of many species. Each year about 1,300 observers across the state count the birds coming to their feeders.

“The strength of the survey is that we can look at trends over the long term,” says Survey Coordinator, Rebecca Suomala. “We now have more than 20 years of data and we can see the patterns of ups and downs in different bird species.”

Last year, the survey showed continued increases in numbers of wintering American Robins, but an absence of winter visitors such as Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls that periodically comes south in big numbers.

A Carolina Wren at a feeder in Georges Mills - this photo was taken earlier this winter.

“We expect redpolls to be back this winter because the survey data show a pattern of high numbers every other year,” according to Dr. Pam Hunt, Senior Biologist at NH Audubon. Hunt’s analysis shows that southern species such as Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Carolina Wrens continue to increase on the survey.

“On the downside, House Finches continued to decline, reaching an all time low in 2010,” says Hunt. “We can see their populations increase in the 1990s and then a big drop from conjunctivitis in 1996, after which they never really recovered.”

Reports of a lack of birds are just as valuable as reports of many birds.

“If everyone reported only when they have a lot of birds, we wouldn’t be able to see the declines,” says Suomala.

The most important thing is to participate each year regardless of how many or how few birds you have. This provides a consistent long-term set of data that shows both the ups and downs.

Note: There are two bird surveys in February. NH Audubon’s Backyard Winter Bird Survey that takes place in New Hampshire only, and the Great Backyard Bird Count (www.birdcount.org), a nation-wide web-based survey on February 18-21, 2011.

About New Hampshire Audubon

New Hampshire Audubon is an independent statewide membership organization with five nature centers throughout the state. It provides educational programs; conducts bird conservation efforts such as the Peregrine Falcon restoration; protects wildlife habitat through its conservation program; and helps to give voice to environmental public policy issues. For information, call 603-224-9909 or visit www.nhaudubon.org.

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