Release: Great Backyard Bird Count sets new species record


Here’s a press release from the Great Backyard Bird Count folks: All text and photos below the dotted line are directly from the release.

I love the charts they compile following this count. Great photos included, too.

Here’s my post directly following the GBBC.


New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON–Participants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world. The four-day count was held February 13-16, the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale made possible by using the eBird online checklist program. A sampling of species found by intrepid counters include Ibisbill in India, Bornean Bistlehead in Malaysia, and  Continue reading


Project SNOWstorm seeks to unravel mysteries of the Snowy Owl

Photo by Chris Bosak Don Crockett of Project SNOWStorm talks about Snowy Owls at a presenation at Milford City Hall on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Don Crockett of Project SNOWStorm talks about Snowy Owls at a presentation at Milford City Hall on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.


(Here’s a little something I wrote up about a presentation on Snowy Owls I attended on Sunday. The event “The Hidden Lives of Snowy Owls” was presented by Don Crockett and sponsored by Connecticut Audubon.)

Last winter Snowy Owls enthralled the U.S. Even casual birdwatchers couldn’t help but be caught up in the historic irruption of the beautiful, yet powerful Arctic bird of prey.

The birds made their way down from their Arctic breeding grounds in record numbers during the winter of 2013-14. Birdwatchers flocked to beaches to try to find the owls. Unlike most winters, the birdwatchers were often successful in catching a glimpse of an owl.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

While Snowy Owls can remain in one spot for hours on end, they do move around quite a bit, during the day and night. So where do the owls go when they aren’t under the watchful eye of birdwatchers? What do they do at night when even the best spotting scope can’t keep track of their whereabouts?

Information about what Snowy Owls do when they come down to the United States is valuable because it gives us a better understanding of these mysterious birds. As Arctic breeders, the more we know about them the better as we continue to grapple with the effects of climate change. They may offer clues as to the extent to which climate change is impacting our world.

To help gather more information on these owls, a group of volunteers started Project SNOWstorm last year. The project involves trapping Snowy Owls with a net and attaching a transmitter to each owl’s back using a harness. The transmitter is lightweight (about 40 grams) and the harness is designed to not effect an owl’s flight. The transmitters are solar-powered, which reduces the weight as no batteries are required, and use the cellular phone network as opposed to satellites. Using the Continue reading

Great Backyard Bird Count set for Feb. 13-16 (press release)

Photo by Chris Bosak

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Black-capped Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker share the suet feeder, Nov. 16, 2014.

Here’s a press release about the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, a citizen science project for birders of all ages and levels. My next For the Birds column will focus on the Count.

NEW YORK (Jan. 21, 2015) —Give Mother Nature a valentine this year and show how much you care about birds by counting them for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 18th annual count is taking place February 13 through 16.

Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at The information gathered by tens of thousands of Continue reading

Good day for Christmas Bird Count (lots of photos)


Photo by Chris Bosak Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

The weather was actually quite nice (cold, but calm) and the birds were plentiful. A story about the Christmas Bird Count (Westport Circle) is posted on

I personally had a good day, too, in terms of finding birds. Below are more photos from the interesting birds I found during the count. Yes, I realize the photos aren’t of great quality, but it was very overcast and the photos were taken mostly to prove what was seen. Some of the photos aren’t too bad, though. Anyway …

The highlight was the three warblers I saw at Oystershell Park in Norwalk. Even one warbler species is pretty rare for a New England Christmas Bird Count, but I had three at one location. The warblers were an Orange-crowned Warbler, Continue reading

Christmas Bird Count time is here


The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is upon us. The local one that I participate in — the Westport Circle — takes place on Sunday. Many of the counts take place this weekend, but the range to do the count started on Dec. 14 and runs through Jan. 5. Participants spend all day “in the field” counting birds (individual species and total number) and send the data to the circle’s compiler, who turns it all into the National Audubon Society.

The Christmas Bird Count is the world’s largest citizen science program with data going back to 1900. The data helps scientists track bird populations and is valuable in determining what steps, if any, need to be taken to help certain species.

The data, of course, is valuable and is indeed the most important part of the CBC. But it’s also a fun day to look for birds all day. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate — let me rephrase that, the weather hardly ever cooperates — but that only adds Continue reading

Red Knot Shorebird Listed as Threatened by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Red Knot, from American Bird Conservancy.

Red Knot, from American Bird Conservancy.

Here’s an interesting press release from the American Bird Conservancy. It will be interesting to follow the fate of this beautiful shorebird.

(Washington, D.C., December 9, 2014) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Defense Council welcomed today’s decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to formally list as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the highly imperiled rufa Red Knot, a shorebird that flies more than 9,300 miles from south to north every spring and repeats the trip in reverse every autumn—one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom. Though the decision to list the Red Knot was hailed as an important victory by the three groups, they urge FWS to quickly designate critical habitat to better protect the bird.

Surveys of wintering knots along the coasts of southern Chile and Argentina and in Delaware Bay on the East Coast of the United States during spring migration indicate that the species experienced a serious population decline in the 2000s. Specifically, a 2011 count of the main wintering population of the bird in South America found a decline from the previous winter of at least 5,000 birds—approximately one-third of the remaining population.

“The compelling scientific case for ESA listing fueled our 10-year effort to encourage this decision,” says Darin Schroeder, Vice President of Conservation Advocacy for ABC. “While the decision to list the rufa Red Knot was certainly a protracted process, we do now have hope that future generations of Americans will be able to witness this migratory marvel.”

Red Knot survival is tied to management practices associated with a key food source for the bird: horseshoe crab populations along the shores of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. An abundant horseshoe crab population provides critical fuel for migration when the birds stop at Delaware Bay to feed on horseshoe crab eggs. Birds with higher weights have a better chance of reaching the Arctic to breed and survive into the next year.

The decline of Red Knots and other shorebird species has been largely caused by a diminishing supply of horseshoe crab eggs due to overharvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait and other purposes. When Red Knots leave Delaware Bay in poor condition due to the lack of horseshoe crab eggs, they either die before ever arriving in the Arctic or arrive in too poor a condition to successfully reproduce. As a result, adult birds are dying off without being replaced by juveniles, leading to a decline in population.

“It’s clear that Red Knots are dying because we’re decimating a food source they desperately need to survive,” says Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “Now that they’ve been listed as threatened, it’s time to make serious changes to horseshoe crab management and put a halt to their decline. We’ve waited far too long for this decision, and Red Knots are paying the price.”

Despite the growing evidence of over-exploitation of the horseshoe crab population, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has not reduced the harvest significantly in the last six years. The State of New Jersey eventually implemented a moratorium on horseshoe crab harvesting in 2008, but Delaware and Maryland, which border Delaware Bay, have failed to do so.

“I’ve personally seen the Red Knot’s numbers dwindling in migratory stopover points like Canada’s Mingan Archipelago,” says Elly Pepper of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These birds are strong enough to make migratory trips of nearly 20,000 miles annually, but not strong enough to weather the overharvesting of East Coast horseshoe crab populations. If we don’t change management policies for one of the key foods this bird relies on quickly, one of nature’s most epic journeys, and the birds that make it, will be wiped off the map.”

Red Knots are not the only species affected by the horseshoe crab fishery. Other species including Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, and Semipalmated Sandpipers also depend on an abundant supply of horseshoe crab eggs at the Delaware Bay stopover and have experienced significant declines as a result of the shortage.


Since 2005, four formal requests to list the Red Knot under the Endangered Species Act have been submitted to FWS. Citing a lack of resources and other priorities, FWS chose not to list the bird but placed it on the candidate list in 2006. Since then, Red Knot numbers have continued to fall.

A “threatened species” is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Such a designation requires that the species be protected from adverse effects of federal activities; provides restrictions on taking, transporting or selling a species; provides authority for recovery plans as well as the purchase of important habitat; and provides for federal aid to state and commonwealth wildlife agencies that have cooperative federal agreements.

Continue reading