by Dottie Head, Director of Membership & Communications
The results are in from the 2017 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) across metro-Atlanta and, by all measures, it was a very successful CBC season. Counts were held in four “circles” around metro-Atlanta, including In-town Atlanta, Marietta, Peachtree City, and Roswell. When the count results were in, 159 volunteers counted more than 40,500 individual birds representing more than 100 different species.
The Christmas Bird Count is an annual tradition dating back to 1900, when ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a "Christmas Bird Census" that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunting them as had previously been done.
Each year, from December 14 through January 5 each thousands of volunteers across the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, and take part in the effort. The National Audubon Society and other organizations use data to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action. At 118 years old, the annual Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science project in the nation!
“2017 was a great year for Christmas Bird Counts,” says Nikki Belmonte, Executive Director of Atlanta Audubon Society and leader of the Roswell CBC circle. “It was cold, but not nearly as rainy as in 2016—thankfully, because it would have been snow! Our volunteers just put on an extra layer and counted the birds.” Typically, the CBCs wrap up with a ‘counting party’ featuring hot chili, soup, and beverage. Volunteers report compare notes, report totals, and tell just a few ‘bird tales’ about the count day. The camaraderie is one of the best parts of this citizen science program.
Here are breakdowns from the four metro counts:
December 14, 2017– Roswell Christmas Bird Count
December 16, 2017 – Marietta Christmas Bird Count
December 30, 2017 – In-town Atlanta Christmas Bird Count
The mission of the Atlanta Audubon Society is to protect Georgia’s birds and their habitats through conservation, education and advocacy.
by Steve Phenicie
The comedian Jeff Foxworthy made a name for himself with his “You might be a redneck” jokes. Here’s my version of “You might be at a party after a Christmas Bird Count” if you hear remarks that sound like this:
“Joy, this soup is great!”
“At first we got real excited because we thought it was a Golden Honker. Then it flew out from behind the bush, and we could see that it was only a Purple-bellied Whozewhatsit.”
“Where are they hiding the wine?”
“Otis and I are booked on a trip to North Slambezia in March with Lotsa Bird Adventures.”
“They weren’t going to let us bird there, but Tillie Lou mentioned that she knows John Bigwig, so the security guard unlocked the gate for us.”
Have you noticed on GABO that they have been seeing a Tufted Spider-Catcher down in Boondocks County?”
“The birding is no good there now that they’ve put in all those lights at the strip club next to the woods.”
“In previous years, Bedraggled Park has always had tons of Hooded Canaries, but there wasn’t a one there this year.”
“We had planned to go to Out-of-the-Way Nature Preserve, but we ran out of time.”
“We didn’t see as many species as they did, but that’s because they had Billy Jim Sharpeye on their team.”
“Seeing that Fort Lauderdale Warbler was a lifer for me, and Wanda said it was for her too.”
“Is anybody going to the GOS meeting? I was going to go with Clara Jane, but her husband is sick so she can’t go, and I don’t want to go alone.”
“To get in there to bird, you have to park in the lot at Dogmeat Burgers, but they don‘t care.”
“I see on eBird that there’s an irruption of the Arctic Flamingo this year.”
“Pink-eyed Cacklebirds have been coming to my feeder. I think it’s the special blend of horseradish and macadamia nuts I’ve been giving them.”
The 2017 Project Safe Flight Atlanta program monitoring bird-building collisions is in the books. During fall monitoring, volunteers collected more than 200 birds representing 51 different species, bringing the total number of birds collected since the program began in fall 2015 to over 900 birds of 89 different species. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Tennessee Warblers were the most common bird species collected during the fall monitoring period which ran from mid-August to mid-November 2017.
Twenty-seven Atlanta Audubon Society volunteers invested 210 hours this fall patrolling routes in Buckhead, Georgia Tech, downtown, and Midtown. In addition, volunteers monitored 15 individual buildings at other metro locations that have had high reports of bird collisions. The program also receives assistance from building cleaning crews, security personnel, homeowners, and others who report bird collisions.
Each year, an estimated 365 million to 1 billion birds die in the United States after colliding with buildings. In Atlanta, Project Safe Flight Atlanta volunteers patrol selected routes during peak bird migration periods collecting birds that have died or been injured after colliding with buildings. Atlanta Audubon Society is actively recruiting volunteers to help patrol Project Safe Flight Atlanta routes. Training is provided. For more information or to volunteer, visit www.atlantaaudubon.org/project-safe-flight.
In an effort to reduce the number of bird-building collisions, Atlanta Audubon launched the Lights Out Atlanta Program in spring 2017. A voluntary program, Lights Out Atlanta encourages building owners and residential homeowners to turn off or reduce lighting from midnight to dawn during the peak bird migration periods. Participants pledge to reduce non-essential lighting during peak migration periods of March 15 to May 31 (spring) and August 15 to November 15 (fall). The pledge is available on the Atlanta Audubon website at www.AtlantaAudubon.org/lightsoutatlanta. Since Lights Out Atlanta launched in spring 2017, more than 125 homeowners and 14 commercial properties have pledged to turn the lights out to help birds, including the City of Atlanta, Cox Enterprises, Highwoods Properties, Parmenter Realty Partners, and the SouthFace Energy Institute.
Atlanta Audubon is once again partnering with the Atlanta Better Building Challenge (ABBC) on Lights Out Atlanta outreach. This partnership is a natural fit since the ABBC Program’s goal is to reduce energy and water use in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020. ABBC already encourages participants to turn off any unnecessary nighttime lighting.
Modeled after other successful programs in Toronto, New York City, and Minneapolis, Lights Out Atlanta is working with building owners, property management companies, tenants, local governments, and homeowners to make Atlanta safe for passing birds. Studies have shown that bird deaths during peak migration periods can be dramatically reduced when exterior architectural and unnecessary lighting is turned off. Lights Out Atlanta has an additional benefit of reducing energy usage and cost to help properties achieve their sustainability goals.
For more information or to take the Lights Out Atlanta pledge, please visit www.atlantaaudubon.org/lights-out-atlanta.
If you've spent any time birding in Georgia, you've almost certainly heard the flute-like call of the Wood Thrush. During the spring and summer months, the Wood Thrush breeds in deciduous and mixed forests in the eastern U.S. where there are large trees, moderate understory, shade, and abundant leaf litter for foraging. Each fall, they migrate to the lowland tropical forests in Central America where they spend the winter.
You may also have noticed that the Wood Thrush's ethereal 'eee-oh-lay' song has been disappearing from Georgia's forest over the past several decades. Named on the 2015 Watch List by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, the Wood Thrush faces multiple threats including building collisions, habitat degradation, and climate change.
In an effort to reverse these declines, Atlanta Audubon has named the Wood Thrush as its 2017-18 target species. In the coming years, we will be promoting and implementing tangible actions to preserve the Wood Thrush’s habitat, both locally and internationally.
With support from our partners, members, and donors, Atlanta Audubon has developed a Wood Thrush Story Map. This unique conservation tool is designed to raise public awareness about the plight of the habitat-threatened Wood Thrush and to provide advice on how citizens can help these birds.
Click here to view the story map