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Audubon's Bird Count Up From Last Year

Jan. 11, 2005 –– The numbers of birds counted at the Dec. 26, 2004 V.I. Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count on St. John were up over last year.
President Laurel Brannick-Trager said Tuesday that this year 27 counters saw nearly 1,700 birds from 60 species. She said there are still a few people who haven't reported their tallies, but she thinks it will hit 1,700 once they're all in. The current total stands at 1,652.
In the 2003 count, the number stood at 1,180 birds from 56 species.
"But we only had 17 counters," Brannick-Trager pointed out.
She said that several new people with extensive birding experience participated in the 2004 count, which probably helped bring the numbers up.
She said lots of rain filled the ponds, which increases the bug population.
She said that birds flying south for the winter stay here rather than continuing on if they find sufficient food.
"That's why they mainly come," she said.
Additionally, she said St. John has gone several years without a hurricane strong enough to kill birds and damage their habitat.
In 1995, the year Hurricane Marilyn hit, the number stood at 1,096, down from 1,612 the year before. After Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, the number dropped to 1,963 from 2,141 the year before.
Brannick-Trager, who works as a V.I. National Park interpretive ranger, credits the presence of the park with providing habitat for the birds.
She said counters saw several rare birds. They included the tri-colored heron, the Sora rail and the yellow rump warbler.
She said that about one-third of the birds were gray king birds, a common species on St. John.
"They're great fly catchers," she said.
Counters also spotted ospreys, peregrine falcons and ring neck ducks.
"You could live here 10 years and not see a ring neck duck," she said.
Audubon Society members around the world conduct annual Christmas Bird Counts.
If you'd like to hear more about the Christmas Bird Count results, attend the Audubon Society's Jan. 18 meeting. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the Legislature building.
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