Christmas Bird Count’s results show an increase of the eagles’ number but a decrease of the total number of species spotted compared to previous years.
The Sussex County’s Christmas Bird Count is now over and the Bird Club announced the results. According to the club’s record-keeper Alan Boyd this year have been counted 82 species of birds among which the 31 participants have seen 16 eagles.
Boyd says the number of species counted is lower than in the previous years when the average was around 90 species. He thinks that one reason for the low number of species counted could be the unusual warm weather during the time of the counting. When the snow is not covering the ground and the ice is not covering the lakes the birds can be more dispersed.
The first Christmas Bird Count in Sussex County has been held on December 21, 1952. That year only six people participated, counting no less than 27 species. This year the counting took place on December 20.
The Christmas Bird Count is an event started 116 years ago. It is now held all over the United States between December 14 and January 5 being sponsored by the National Audubon Society.
According to the president of Sussex’s Bird Club, Donna Traylor, the counting began as an alternative of the birds hunting happening in the 20th century around Christmas. Now the counting is the largest project of citizen science and at the same time the long-lasting one.
Anyone can participate in the event either on their own by counting the birds coming to their back yard feeder or by joining an organized group for which they have to contact their local birds club. After the countings are over each year scientists use the data to write research papers regarding the trends, migration patterns and the signs of environmental changes.
Around the 1950s the population of birds of prey such as eagles and ospreys was dropping very fast. That helped scientists discover the connection between DDT pesticide and the thinning of bird’s egg shells.
The increase of eagles’ population is a major shift. According to Traylor birds such as black vultures and mockingbirds are expanding their territory to the north, which might be a result of the higher temperatures in the north due to the climate changes.
When Traylor and her husband started birding black vultures were rarely seen in these parts of the country. But now they are even spending the winter in New Jersey.
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