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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsAudubon Christmas Bird Count on St. Croix

Audubon Christmas Bird Count on St. Croix

Bill Boyton, organizer and compiler of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count on St. Croix,  said about two dozen volunteers counted birds from sunrise to sunset in the annual bird count Sunday. The counts were done from one end of St. Croix to the other in more than 40 different spots on the island.

“The preliminary numbers indicate the bird count is down on the eastern circle and up in the west,” Boyton said. He added there were reports Sunday that a lot of ponds on the east side were “dry as a bone” and the number of birds were way down. He said even though we’ve had rain in the last month or two the drought has had a lasting effect. He said the counts of the birds in the west were up, but it didn’t necessarily mean the birds moved to the west side where there was more precipitation.  He said the numbers will be in and compiled in about four weeks.

The 13 teams, generally made up of two people each, counted from Point Udall, at the farthest eastern tip of the United States, to Hams Bluff in Frederiksted. The teams were out before 6:30 a.m. looking and listening for the birds to start singing and taking flight.

Boyton said volunteers counted at every pond on St. Croix. There are ponds at the Agriculture Department, Carambola, Buccaneer and Reef golf courses. The birds are counted at Creque Damn, Mount Victory, Great Salt Pond, South Gate and the University of the Virgin Islands wetlands. Volunteers counted birds at the West End Salt Pond, the pier in Frederiksted, Cruzan Rum and more.

“I ask people to count till they drop,” Boyton said, since there are a lot of areas to cover.  And there are about 100 species of birds to look for in the different areas. He said he was excited to get four new volunteers this year as the number of volunteers has been dropping the last few years.

Ken Haines, who was counting on the east end, said he noticed the vegetation was sparse in places where the little black and yellow bananaquit likes to feed. He added it was a beautiful day for bird watching.

According to long-time local birder Lisa Yntema, the Christmas Bird Count on St. Croix began in the early 1970s.

She said the first year the CBC took place on St. Croix appears to be 1972 with two participants who counted 684 individuals of 51 species. The first year that shows up in the online CBC historical data is 1973.

She said the naming of participants and compilers is incomplete.

Yntema said Charles Leck, an ornithologist from Rutgers, was the first St. Croix compiler. Bill Gladfelter, a biologist who worked at the West Indies Lab, was the primary compiler from 1973-1975. Then John Yntema, her father, was the primary compiler from 1976-1982, followed by Fred Sladen from 1983-1988. There was a gap from 1988, when Sladen left, until around 2000 when Sheelagh Fromer started it up again. Jen Valiuils took over after about 10 years. The current organizer/compiler is Boyton.

According to the Audubon website, the day after Christmas there was a traditional hunting contest to see who could kill the most furry and feathered creatures. Scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. On Christmas Day 1900, 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 hunt them.

The site also states Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action. The long-term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well.  

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