By Carole Schor
Every February, thousands of people around the world count birds over the course of four days.
Why count birds? Some people say it enriches their own lives and contributes to scientific knowledge and bird conservation. Others believe that long-term data is the only way we can make effective conservation decisions to address the consequences of climate change, disease transmission and habitat loss. Other people count birds because they can’t imagine a world without the sound of a songbird or the beauty of a hummingbird. Some people do it just because it’s fun!
This was the first year that Audubon de Mexico participated in this worldwide event known as the Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the US Audubon Society. The record-breaking year of 2014, involving participants from more than 130 countries, with close to 4,500 species and 20 million birds recorded.
Here in our own backyard, Audubon de Mexico held several bird counting events in some of San Miguel’s most treasured habitats, led by Audubon bird guides Norman Besman, Bob Graham, Signe Hammer, Rodrigo Lopez and Luke Rich.
On Saturday, February 15, children and their parents joined Audubon bird guides and volunteers for a Kids and Nature Day at El Charco del Ingenio. The children, ranging from age three to 13, learned how to use binoculars and identify native and migratory birds, and helped to collect data on the species and number of birds at the preserve that day, tallying 50 species and 451 individual birds within two hours. “Kids and Nature is a new Audubon de Mexico program,” says the organization’s president, April Gaydos. “Our goal is to help children connect with nature on many levels, including community service projects where they have an opportunity to experience the rewards of environmental stewardship.”
On Sunday, 43 participants walked along the tree-lined banks of the Rio Laja and counted more than 350 birds, including warblers, orioles, wrens, kingfishers, woodpeckers and egrets. Monday morning, 24 people headed out to enjoy a day of kayaking on the Presa Allende, where they spotted 52 bird species including pelicans, ducks, ibis, herons, vultures, and sandpipers. After they came off the water, they were rewarded for their efforts with a brunch prepared by volunteers Debbie and Pat Whitaker.
Audubon de Mexico thanks each and every participant who joined in to count birds. All told, 150 San Miguel residents and visitors took part, recording 86 species and 7742 individual birds. This number includes an estimated 5,000 Bronzed Cowbirds, which form an amazing murmuration each evening at sunset in Parque Landeta.
“We were really pleased with the level of participation and interest in this event,” says Gaydos. “Everyone had a great time while lending a hand for research.” The data collected was entered into Cornell University’s ebird database, which will help scientists look for patterns in bird behavior and will build a picture over time of how our local environment is doing. Gaydos said that Audubon is concentrating its local conservation efforts on water and habitat, especially trees, so that San Miguel continues to be a place where birds thrive, adding that “if birds thrive, people will thrive as well.” To get involved in future events or to learn about Audubon’s programs visit www.audubonmex.org.