Locals Take to the Outdoors for the Annual Concord Christmas Bird Count
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a release from the Sudbury Valley Trustees.)
On Jan. 2, local bird and nature enthusiasts came out for the annual Concord Christmas Bird Count. The Concord Christmas Bird Count is part of a national effort that the National Audubon Society has organized for the last 112 years. Concord has participated in the national count for over 50 years.
Participants in local bird counts tally species within a defined circular area. Each count circle is defined by a center point with a radius of 7.5 miles. The local count circle is centered where the town lines of Concord, Acton, Maynard and Sudbury converge, covering all or part of 18 towns. There are over two thousand areas, or count circles in the Americas and Pacific Islands.
This year roughly 350 people participated in annual Concord count. Field parties are teams of volunteers who devote a portion or all of their day outdoors, collecting and recording observations from their assigned locations. Feeder-watchers join in by reporting birds in their yard or by their feeder, without having to brave the weather conditions on the day of the count.
Peter Alden, world-renowned naturalist, initiated the first Concord Bird Count in 1960. Today he serves as participant, Concord town coordinator, and co-compiler with Norman Levey. Alden can easily rattle off the common birds from the 1960’s, which have largely disappeared from this area in recent years (Ruffed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasant), as well as the current increase in sightings of other species (Turkey Vultures, reported in nearly every town in the circle this year).
Canada Geese, Black-capped Chickadees, and European Starlings topped the list this year for the most sightings. New high counts were set for several species. The two Merlins found in Acton and Stow beat previous record of one. The 342 American Coots at Great Meadows in Concord and in Acton beat previous high of 141.
“The high count of American Coots were likely the result of this extraordinarily warm winter. With enough open water, birds will spend the winter,” according to Alden. In total, 68 species were found.
This year was notable not only for what was found, but also for the birds that were not seen. In prior years, northern tundra and boreal forest birds such as Redpolls, Pine Siskins, Bohemian Waxwings and Northern Shrikes have come south to this area. With the mild start to the winter, those birds have not made their way to this region. “As results from other regions are compiled, it’s possible we will see that these birds went to Wisconsin or Minnesota,” says Alden.
For many volunteers, participating in the Concord Bird Count is an annual tradition. They follow a similar routine year-after-year, exploring the same locations.
Ron McAdow, Executive Director of Sudbury Valley Trustees, has been volunteering for over 10 years. McAdow says, “The efforts of many, including organizations such as SVT, have helped conserve land and protect wildlife habitat. The biodiversity in our region is a reflection of those efforts.” As an example, McAdow says, “More mature forests and standing deadwood are of great value for wildlife; many species of birds nest in tree cavities. One such bird, the Pileated Woodpecker, is still a special treat to see, but not as rare as it once was.”
SVT hosted the Concord Christmas Bird Count after-party at their Wolbach Farm headquarters in Sudbury. There, volunteers could share stories, photos, and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow bird counters, as well as hear proud proclamations of the most rare sighting.
The allure and wonder of bird watching has grown in popularity over the years. Birds are everywhere, and bird watching is a great outdoor activity. SVT and other local organizations create many opportunities to learn more about birds, wildlife and our natural surroundings.
Both Alden and McAdow encourage new bird watchers to get involved. Volunteers with any level of experience you can participate in the annual bird count by reporting birds seen in your yard or at your feeder, or by joining a field party. Visit concordcbc.org for further information.