Thursday, March 3, 2011
Turnout good for bird count in Hudsonville community
By SUE WATSON
The fourth Hudsonville Great Backyard Bird Count took place February 18 with counting at about three locations.
The annual count is made possible through the interest in conservation and reestablishing threatened bird populations by landowners in the area including Tom and Jane Heineke, Chad Pope, Wanda and Mike Boone and Suzanne Langley.
The final counts of species tallied at the Heineke’s farm was reported to Cornell University, who tallies the data nationwide in concert with the National Audubon Society.
“We work from a species list supplied by Cornell and National Audubon Society,” Langley said. “We can check on the web for the species reported from Hudsonville over the past three years, which is pretty cool.
“I’ve learned when and where to expect everything from pine siskins to ruby-throated hummingbirds. An example of a lesson learned is when, and when not, to cut fields to allow quail and other grassland birds to nest. Learning the birds that return or live in habitats around Hudsonville also gave us an early clue of the approaching spring before the last snow.
“We heard the call of the American woodcock which mates each spring. The annual event also gives us a chance to see the progress of our conservation projects. It’s our fourth year of getting to know each other, habitat and species.”
“This is part of building community, too,” said Jane Heineke at their stop for water at the Heineke’s farm, the last leg of the bird count. “What brought us together was the bird count, but it’s become community-building, too.”
Her neighbor, Wanda Hairston, agreed. She and her husband have owned their property for 20 years.
“Hudsonville is becoming a like-minded people,” Hairston said. “We care about the same things. We care about the land, the people, the environment. It crosses boundaries - age, backgrounds, experiences.
“I feel very lucky and fortunate to have found this neighborhood.”
“We are developing a feel of we’re all in this together,” Heineke added.
“Because we care about the same things, we like each other,” Hairston explained. “We have a new community. We are a diverse group of people from different geographical areas and backgrounds who have come together here.”
“For whatever reason, there is a similarity in our lives, the land and our interest in nature,” Heineke said.
Kristin Lamberson, native species specialist with Strawberry Plains Audubon, was present at the count this year. She said several decades of data would be needed to see if there is a trend in the bird populations and diversity at Hudsonville and whether farming practices have brought back the numbers of declining populations of species such as quail.
“Improving the quality of habitat by the landowners here has increased the populations of some species of birds,” Lamberson said.
The woodcock is one example of a species that seems to be increasing in numbers in the area.
“And bobwhite quail – these two species are increasing because of the quality of habitat which is regenerating,” she said.
Native grassland and wildflower species have been seeded on Heineke’s property to replace exotic species such as Bermuda grass, fescue and Johnson grass.
Some land owners in Hudsonville have done controlled burns of open fields with hope of improving the habitat quality for native species of birds, said Chad Pope, ecologist with Strawberry Plains Audubon.
Birds populations are a good indicator of the health and quality of a habitat, Pope said.
Audubon hopes to mark some scientific plots on some of the lands to participate with Mississippi State University in scientific studies of bird populations, he said.
“What makes the backyard bird count important is that we are just one of thousands of places nationwide who are counting.”
“And it’s a great way to get kids involved,” said Lamberson, noting that the Popes brought their baby girl for the occasion.
Other activities likely to take place again this year in Hudsonville is the annual cleanup.
“We share and learn from each other,” Hairston added. “Chad brings us the experience of Audubon to the community. How can you top that?”
For the record, those taking part in Friday’s count in Hudsonville included Tom, Jane and Becky Heineke; Chad, Jena and Cora Pope; Barry and Martha Johnson; Kristin Lamberson; Cathy Justis (with Wolf River Conservancy, Memphis, Tenn.); Dick and Cathy Yelverton (northern Georgia); Mike Boone and Wanda Hairston; and Suzanne Langley.
For more information visit www.birdsource.org/gbbc.
A report from Cornell University Friday showed nearly a million birds had been counted by 2 p.m. across the nation. There were 1,380 checklists reporting a total of 306 species. The GBBC officially ended March 1.
The Hudsonville count since 2009, as updated Feb. 21, 2011, is as follows:
• Feb. 14, 2009, 76 birds-20 species.
• Feb. 13, 2010, 6:30 a.m., 866 birds-10 species.
• Feb. 13, 2010, 8 a.m., 2,036 birds-10 species.
• Feb. 13, 2010, 3 p.m., 41 birds-13 species.
• Feb. 18, 2011, 9:30 a.m., 117 birds, 21 species.
• Feb. 18, 2011, 3 p.m., 44 birds, 13.
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