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News-Sun: Clark County Audubon Society to Host 40th Annual Bird Count Walk

AUDUBON BIRD COUNT 1207

Naomi Harward/240-298-8362

The Clark County Audubon Society invites county residents to join them for their 40th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on December 16. This is part of the Audubon Society’s century-old winter practice, which serves to compile data that will help assess the health of bird populations across the US and aid in conservation efforts.

Doug Overacker, President of the Clark County branch, said he has noticed certain significant changes locally in bird habits in the past few years. Some bird species that were previously not as common are becoming more regular, while other species that were often spotted are dwindling in number or have altogether disappeared.

Habitat loss and climate changes seem to be the biggest players in these shifts, said Gaylee Ross, the Society’s publicity chair. Of these two factors, she said, her main concern is deforestation.

“Trees are their biggest habitat,” she said. “When their habitat is in trouble, they’re in trouble.”

Overacker said rough-legged hawks and short-eared owls are two species that were occasionally sighted in past years, but have since disappeared. Some of Clark County’s resident bird species, such as certain sparrows and the American Kestrel, are also declining in number, mostly due to habitat loss.

“[The Kestrels] nest in tree cavities, and they’re losing those,” he said. “You used to see them regularly year-round, but you don’t see them much now.”

Other species, which typically migrate south for the winter, have increased in number in the area due to the warmer winters. These include robins, ducks, and eagles. There has also been a growing colony of crows roosting in downtown Springfield, which Overacker said is significant considering “there are only a handful of crows in Ohio.”

On last year’s CBC, The Clark County branch recorded 62 different species. In previous years, they have recorded between 60 – 69 species. This year, Ross said the Society hopes to see a lot of residents come out, even if they only stay for the first half, as she believes it will help raise local awareness for some of the at-risk species.

The count will begin around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, December 16, and will last until noon Lunch served at the Corps of Engineers maintenance building will follow. Birding will resume after the break for those interested in going back out, and will continue until dark.

Those interested in participating are encouraged to contact President Overacker at 937-324-1871. More information about local bird species can also be found on the Society’s website: clarkcountyohioaudubon.org

Naomi HarwardComment