Christmas Bird Count – Gathering Valuable Data

December 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

In the late 1800s wildlife conservation was unheard of and the hunting of birds and other animals was generally unrestricted in the United States. In some states it was a common Christmas tradition to go hunting, with the hunter bagging the most birds and animals being declared the winner of the so-called “Side Hunt”. By the turn of the century, however, nature lovers and scientists began to express concern regarding the effects of hunting on bird populations, and it was at this time, when the Audubon Society was still in its infancy, that the society’s representative Frank M. Chapman proposed starting a new Christmas tradition in which birds would be counted, rather than hunted, and so the concept of the “Christmas Bird Count” was born – and enthusiastically supported.

The very first Christmas Bird Count was carried out by Frank Chapman and a team of 27 birders, who recorded a combined count of 90 species of birds in 25 locations. From small beginnings, the Christmas Bird Count has grown into a nationwide effort involving thousands of keen birders, each doing their bit to compile a record of the country’s feathered creatures. Starting on 14 December this year, the 112th Christmas Bird Count will continue to 5 January 2012, during which time thousands of volunteers, referred to as “citizen scientists”, will collect data to be used by the Audubon society and other conservation organizations in determining the health of bird populations – and have loads of fun in the process.

With some nature-loving families, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has become somewhat of a tradition, and whether citizen scientists are monitoring backyard bird feeders, or going out into the wild, every bit of information collected in this carefully coordinated effort is important. The fact that the CBC has been taking place over such a long period of time gives conservationists a clearer picture of trends in bird populations. This allows them to formulate strategies to protect birds by protecting their natural habitat. Although the focus is on the feathered inhabitants of the monitored areas, conservationists are able to detect issues such as improper use of pesticides and groundwater contamination which could be detrimental to the humans in the area as well.

Whether you are a seasoned birder, or a budding citizen scientist, the Audubon Society welcomes participation in the Christmas Bird Count. So bundle up warm, grab those binoculars, and do your bit for the future of our feathered friends.

Bird Watching in Oman – A Rewarding Experience

November 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Bird watching enthusiasts who make it a goal to visit a veriety of destinations where they can enjoy their hobby, may want to consider a visit to Oman during the northern hemisphere winter season. Located on the edge of the western Palearctic, between Africa, Europe and Asia, Oman is the wintering destination of avifauna from three distinctive zoo-geographical areas. The country has a wealth of varied habitats to cater for the specific needs of hundreds of bird species, and birding enthusiasts can be assured that each bird watching excursion will be a rewarding experience.

Officially called the Sultanate of Oman, the country is an Arab state located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman form the coastline of the country, providing plenty of opportunities for seabirds and waders to enjoy the sea’s bounty. Husband and wife Janne and Jens Eriksen are experienced birdwatchers based in Oman, and they are making a concerted effort to bring the country’s rich birdlife to the attention of birders around the world. While the winter months, between October and March, are particularly interesting because of the foreign feathered visitors that join the locals, Oman has a thriving all-year-round population of around 500 species of birds spread throughout the more than 300,000 square kilometers of land.

The Oman Ministry of Environment, together with the Ministry of Tourism, is actively involved in both protecting the natural heritage of the country, and promoting eco-tourism. Authorities have allocated fifteen protected conservation areas and have sponsored the publication of books on birding in Oman to encourage both locals and international tourists to enjoy the birdlife of the country. The Eriksens note that while people flock to shopping malls for recreation, they are missing out on spending their leisure time in nature. This is a situation they would like to change and believe that nature clubs in schools are the answer, as these could encourage the younger generation to get involved in bird watching and hiking.

November is one of the most popular times for bird watching in Oman, as this is when large flocks of migrating birds arrive, providing plenty of action on the coastline as they establish territory for the winter by strutting about, swooping and diving in an endless flurry of activity. By December the birds are more settled and bird watchers can observe them going about their daily routines. In January, the water level of the lagoons and wetlands rises, attracting wintering waterfowl in large numbers. Certainly, birders who have spent time observing the birds of Oman agree that the diversity and number of birds is astounding, and well worth experiencing.

Portland Christmas Bird Count

October 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

Join in the cheer of the season with a Christmas Bird Count. Not only is it good fun, but it also provides valuable scientific data on bird populations. Last year 267 bird watchers joined in, spotting 124 species. Why not help break the record? Along with fantastic bird watching, birders will meet like-minded people with whom to share experiences and knowledge. The data collected is sent to the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. So wrap up warmly and grab your binoculars for this fantastic event. For more info, check out the Audubon of Portland website.

Dates: 31 December 2011
Times: 06h00 to 18h00
City: Portland
State: Oregon
Country: United States of America

Sigurgeirs Bird Museum in Iceland

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Surrounded by volcanic landforms and wetlands, Lake Mývatn, located near the Krafla volcano in the north of Iceland, is home to a wide range of birdlife, particularly waterfowl. Its rich biodiversity and intriguing geology continues to attract biologists, naturalists, geologists and bird watchers from around the world. It was in these beautiful surroundings that Sigurgeir Stefánsson was raised, and his love for birds became evident. The results of his life-long interest in birds can be viewed in the fascinating Sigurgeirs Bird Museum where his collection of more than 300 birds, representing around 180 species, is displayed.

Sigurgeir Stefánsson was born and raised on the Ytri-Neslönd farm, and spent his youth exploring his surroundings and collecting birds’ eggs. Soon he had specimens of all the indigenous Icelandic birds’ eggs, which he used to create a small natural history museum. At the age of 14 years, Stefánsson was given a bird that had been preserved by the process of taxidermy. This was the beginning of his bird collection, and any dead birds he, or his friends and neighbors found, were taken to the taxidermist for preservation.

Stefánsson’s collection grew until it had taken over his family’s house. It was later moved to a nearby shack and continued to grow, with other bird-lovers showing an interest in his work. While focusing on creating a complete collection of the birds of Iceland, Stefánsson also communicated and traded with ornithologists in other parts of the world, and his collection includes some exotic birds. He was often consulted by visiting researchers, as he had an intimate knowledge of the area and its feathered residents. He had expressed the desire to build a museum to properly display his collection for others to enjoy, but had no funds to make his dream a reality.

Tragically, in 1999 during a storm Stefánsson and his two companions drowned in Lake Mývatn as they attempted to repair an underwater cable – he was only 37 years old. To honor his memory and his accomplishments in the field of ornithology, the Aurora Charity Fund, together with members of his family, established the Sigurgeirs Bird Museum, which opened on 17 August 2008. In addition to viewing the extensive collection of birds on display in the museum, visitors can make use of the binoculars provided to spot local birds in the surroundings and on the lake, which is known for having the most species of duck to be found in one location.

Boreal Birding & Northern Landscapes Festival

May 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

This event offers birding enthusiasts the opportunity to explore this beautiful wilderness area and its feathered and furry inhabitants. Through a series of field-focused courses, lectures, and hikes, experts will be sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with participants. One of the highlights of the program is the presentation on Bird Conservation in the Superior National Forest at the USFS Gunflint Ranger District.

Dates: 2-5 June 2011
Venue: North House Folk School, Grand Marais
State: Minnesota
Country: United States of America

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