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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 7, 2022


Dozens of volunteer bird watchers spent New Year's Day in the bush counting the species they sighted across St. John as part of the national Audubon Society's 100th annual "Christmas bird count." From the reported sightings, it appears that a number of local flocks depleted in recent years are making a comeback.
Next, the National Park Service will be looking for some good spotters to help count sea birds in evidence around the territory's islands.
About 50 birders who took part in the New Year's Day exercise gathered for a post-count meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at the St. John Legislative Conference Room. National Park Service interpreter Don Near showed a video on the migration patterns of North American birds using data collected from regional Christmastime bird counts plotted on a map over a period of 40 years.
He asked society members to assist the park in an upcoming project to count sea birds, which are one of six plant and animal groupings that are to be counted nationwide as part of an inventory program that is getting under way at the V.I. National Park on St. John and at the Buck Island Reef National Monument on St. Croix.
He said, volunteers will be recruited later this year to conduct counts on pelicans, which are considered an endangered species, and terns.
President Clinton recently signed a "natural resources initiative" providing a reported $20 million for national parks across the country to carry out the inventory program. Near said the allotment "will break down to about $100,000 a park."
According to Dr. Will Henderson, who collected the data, some bird populations are only now returning to the numbers seen before Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Hummingbirds, pigeons and the great blue heron are among those making a comeback, he said, as is the pearly-eyed thrasher, locally called the "thrushee."
Once-familiar flocks yet to return in their former numbers include doves and warblers, he said.
A total of 48 species and 1,242 individual birds were identified on the island during the centennial bird count, Henderson said.
Disruptions of habitat and food supplies can cause flocks to settle elsewhere, at least temporarily, after a storm. But Henderson said some birds, especially those that nest on the ground, can also lose population to predators, such as the "tremendous number of feral cats we have on the island."
During almost every bird count, some watchers catch a glimpse of something unusual. This year, Henderson said, a "cameo appearance" was made by an honest-to-goodness yellow-bellied sap sucker. It was sighted in the cool forest atop Bordeaux Mountain. Personally, he said, "I've never seen one here."

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