Environmentalists and bird watchers are getting ready to take part in the 114th Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count, but organizers hope to be able to count a lot more volunteers before they begin counting birds.
Volunteers on St. Croix have participated for the past 14 years, but the number of people taking part this year’s is way down due to the number of people who have “flown” the island, according to Bill Boyton, this year’s coordinator for the St. Croix Environmental Association.
“The count helps scientists evaluate the environment. The growth or decline of overall bird population often indicates changes in the local environment that otherwise would be overlooked,” Boyton said.
Identifying changes in numbers and the types of species on the island helps determine whether or not a bird is put on the endangered list, Boyton said. It also gives support to identifying environmental dangers that are present on the island.
“With the wet conditions that we have had lately and the blessing of no major storms this season, we are looking for a count with record numbers this year,” the coordinator added.
Volunteers will be assigned ponds on the island and given a tally sheet and bird-identification card. On the day of the event, they are asked to do a slow walk through their areas and tally the number of birds of each species they sight. The volunteer assignment can take a couple of hours or all day, depending on the willingness of the volunteer. People can choose an area close to their home or another area where they feel comfortable watching and counting the birds.
The organizers need experienced and amateur bird watchers, as well as novices who can join the mentoring program being launched this year which will allow them to work with more experienced counters.
Carol Burke from the St. Croix Environmental Association is hosting a bird identification workshop from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Nature Conservancy in Estate Little Princess. All are welcome to attend free of charge.
More information on the evening is available by calling Burke at 1-340-773-1989.
Anyone who would like to participate as a Christmas Bird Count volunteer can send an email to Boyton at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-340-690-3002. Volunteers can pick their areas and further instructions will be given.