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HomeNewsArchivesST. JOHN BIRD COUNT TOTALS 1,962 FROM 55 SPECIES

ST. JOHN BIRD COUNT TOTALS 1,962 FROM 55 SPECIES

Jan. 4, 2002 – The number and species of birds observed in the Dec. 29 V.I. Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count on St. John are down from last year, but at least part of the reason may be that the island's luxurious foliage this season due to unusual rains made it harder to get an accurate count.
"They move too quick in the bushes, and they all look alike," Laurel Brannick-Trager, the organization's president, said of the birds.
Forty bird watchers counted 1,962 birds from 55 species. Last year 46 people spotted more than 2,000 birds from 60 species, Audubon Society member Wil Henderson said.
Neither Brannick-Trager nor Henderson is alarmed by the decreases. Meantime, Henderson is continuing to update the numbers as more information comes in, and he expects the official count to rise. "The bird status is quite good," he said.
Brannick-Trager said the organization had fewer volunteers turn out to help count the birds this year than last, too, because many people are sick. St. John and St. Thomas residents as well as visitors took part.
Henderson said bird watchers saw one each of two species not usually found on St. John — the cinnamon teal duck and the purple-throated Carib hummingbird. The Virgin Islands is at the very edge of the migratory range for these two species, he said.
He said counters also reported seeing some other unusual species and that he is working on verifying that information to make sure the reported observations were accurate.
Henderson was also cheered to find more Caribbean elaenais than in recent years. The species was decimated when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, but the numbers have climbed back "well into the normal range now," he said.
According to Henderson, the foliage is unusually dense now because the island did not experience the usual two distinct dry seasons in the last year. Thus, trees did not lose as many leaves as normal. Additionally, the recent spate of downpours fueled additional growth. The rains also filled ponds, making the water in the middle too deep for wading birds, so that they instead clustered around the water's edge, which made them hard to spot.
Another factor in the lower count, Henderson said, was that there probably were fewer migratory birds to count because the U.S. Northeast had a warm fall. However, the recent cold weather in that region is likely to send more birds south. "They're probably getting out of there like mad," he said.
The Christmas Bird Count is a worldwide event held every year during the Christmas season. On St. John, the Audubon Society has been taking part in the count for 23 years. Nationally, this was the 102nd annual count.
Henderson will report on the 2001 Christmas Bird Count at the next V.I. Audubon Society meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay.

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Jan. 4, 2002 - The number and species of birds observed in the Dec. 29 V.I. Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count on St. John are down from last year, but at least part of the reason may be that the island's luxurious foliage this season due to unusual rains made it harder to get an accurate count.
"They move too quick in the bushes, and they all look alike," Laurel Brannick-Trager, the organization's president, said of the birds.
Forty bird watchers counted 1,962 birds from 55 species. Last year 46 people spotted more than 2,000 birds from 60 species, Audubon Society member Wil Henderson said.
Neither Brannick-Trager nor Henderson is alarmed by the decreases. Meantime, Henderson is continuing to update the numbers as more information comes in, and he expects the official count to rise. "The bird status is quite good," he said.
Brannick-Trager said the organization had fewer volunteers turn out to help count the birds this year than last, too, because many people are sick. St. John and St. Thomas residents as well as visitors took part.
Henderson said bird watchers saw one each of two species not usually found on St. John -- the cinnamon teal duck and the purple-throated Carib hummingbird. The Virgin Islands is at the very edge of the migratory range for these two species, he said.
He said counters also reported seeing some other unusual species and that he is working on verifying that information to make sure the reported observations were accurate.
Henderson was also cheered to find more Caribbean elaenais than in recent years. The species was decimated when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, but the numbers have climbed back "well into the normal range now," he said.
According to Henderson, the foliage is unusually dense now because the island did not experience the usual two distinct dry seasons in the last year. Thus, trees did not lose as many leaves as normal. Additionally, the recent spate of downpours fueled additional growth. The rains also filled ponds, making the water in the middle too deep for wading birds, so that they instead clustered around the water's edge, which made them hard to spot.
Another factor in the lower count, Henderson said, was that there probably were fewer migratory birds to count because the U.S. Northeast had a warm fall. However, the recent cold weather in that region is likely to send more birds south. "They're probably getting out of there like mad," he said.
The Christmas Bird Count is a worldwide event held every year during the Christmas season. On St. John, the Audubon Society has been taking part in the count for 23 years. Nationally, this was the 102nd annual count.
Henderson will report on the 2001 Christmas Bird Count at the next V.I. Audubon Society meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay.