Monday, January 4, 2010

Citizen Science

Welcome back to the Weedpicker's Journal for a fabulous New Year!

January's ice and cold has been no surprise to those of us born and raised in mid-Ohio farm country. We even took advantage of the snow on Friday, January 1st by celebrating my friend Janet Creamer's birthday with a little cross-country skiing. But the weather was so bone-chilling cold, I didn't have the camera out to document any of our fun!

Saturday the 2nd was our Annual Mohican Christmas Bird Count and good friends Marc Nolls, Mike Edgington and Chad from Akron U. teamed up with Janet and I. Much of our territory is farm country and this scenic rural home, complete with antique windmill, provided the first American Kestrel of the day.

Farms play an important role for bird conservation, as an open field with fresh manure is the best place to find Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, or Lapland Longspurs. We were treated to a flock of Horned larks as they foraged seed in this field. Their distinctive yellow faces and little feather "horns" set them apart from more common-looking sparrows.
And due to the excessive cold and wind, much of our route was driving cross-country checking the woodlots and "poaching" the birds from an occasional front yard feeder.

Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were joined by a stunning White-crowned Sparrow as they forage together under a home owner's feeder. Finding one of these zebra-striped heads among the basic browns gets me excited every time! They were a rare treat indeed.

Counting the birds is not just a way for crazy people to pass the cold months in Ohio. It is actually an important part of the "Citizen Science" data being collect throughout the country by regular folks like you and me. Backyard birdwatcher are providing valuable information about the wintering trends of birds and their changing numbers. Cornell University collects this information and studies the impacts of climate, urbanization and other factors impacting bird populations.

If you would like to learn more about E-bird, or Project Feeder Watch, I hope you'll join Steve McKee and other Greater Mohican Audubon members at Gorman Nature Center on January 9th at 2:00 PM.

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