Where Are All The Birds?
N.H. Audubon Needs Your Help on Statewide Bird Survey!
Concord – NH Audubon has received quite a few calls from worried bird watchers whose birds seem to have disappeared from their feeders. But have they really gone or just moved next door? Help New Hampshire Audubon (NHA) determine what’s happening by taking part in the annual New Hampshire Backyard Winter Bird Survey on Saturday, February 14, and Sunday, February 15. Biologists need assistance from citizens all over the Granite State to get a clearer picture of what's really happening with our winter birds this year.
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 NHA. To receive a copy of the reporting form and complete instructions on how to participate, send a self-addressed, stamped, long envelope to:
New Hampshire Audubon, Winter Bird Survey
84 Silk Farm Road,
Concord, NH 03301-8200
Forms are also available at N.H. Audubon centers in Auburn, Concord, Laconia, and Manchester, or you can find them on the NHA web site, along with more information about the survey at www.nhaudubon.org under the Birding page.
Data from the Backyard Winter Bird Survey is used to track changes in the distribution and abundance of many species. Each year about 1,200 observers count the birds coming to their feeders. Last year they tallied 68 species, smashed the survey record for Pine Grosbeak, and counted a record number of Barred Owls – paralleling the news reports of many owls found emaciated (or dead) along roads and highways. Survey results also showed an irruption of Bohemian Waxwings and Common Redpolls. “These delightful denizens of the Canadian boreal forest invaded in numbers not seen since 1998,” according to Pam Hunt, Senior Biologist at NH Audubon.
There are no invasions of redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, or Bohemian Waxwings this winter. “We don’t expect to see these species this year because they have a biannual pattern of irruption,” says Hunt, “but we are seeing signs of a Pine Siskin invasion.” And record numbers of Red-bellied Woodpeckers were tallied on Christmas Bird Counts. “We have documented an increase in the Red-bellied population and we are especially interested in all the reports this year,” says Hunt, who has mapped this species’ range expansion in NH.
For some people, their feeders are quiet and “their” birds seem to have disappeared. “The only way we can tell if bird numbers are down this winter is through this survey. Otherwise it’s just anecdotal – birds may have disappeared from one feeder, only to appear at another,” says Survey Coordinator and Biologist Rebecca Suomala. You can help by taking part in the survey and reporting the birds in your backyard – even if your birds have left!
Birds may move in response to weather and the availability of natural food supplies. “Feeders provide supplemental food, but birds depend on many food sources,” says Hunt. The information gathered on the survey weekend will provide NHA biologists with the information they need to keep track of wintering bird populations.
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. "Feeders may be quiet this winter, but we want to know that." 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.
Suomala emphasizes that anyone can participate, even if you only have a few minutes. Results from past years are on the NHA web site. All New Hampshire residents are encouraged to take part. For more information about the Backyard Winter Bird Survey, please call New Hampshire Audubon at 224-9909 or go to the NHA web site at www.nhaudubon.org and click on Birding.
About New Hampshire Audubon
New Hampshire Audubon’s mission is to protect New Hampshire’s natural environment for wildlife and for people. It is an independent statewide membership organization with five nature centers throughout the state. Expert educators give programs to children, families, and adults at centers and in schools. Staff biologists and volunteers conduct bird conservation efforts such as the Peregrine Falcon restoration. New Hampshire Audubon protects thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and is a voice for sound public policy on environmental issues. For information on New Hampshire Audubon, including membership, volunteering, programs, sanctuaries, and publications, call 224-9909, or visit www.nhaudubon.org.