Sunday, December 09, 2001

Bird count helps parks monitor populations

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP — There was a bird bonanza Saturday morning at the retention basin off McKelvey Road — a flurry of wings, ducks lifting from the water against a gray-brown, leafless landscape.

  • More than 30 million Americans participate in birding, ranking it behind gardening, hunting and fishing for leisure-time activities.
  • About 64 million Americans actively feed wild birds.
  • About 800,000 bird field guides are sold annually.
  • People will spend close to $100 million each year on bird feeders, baths, birdhouses and nest boxes.
        The volunteers and naturalists began counting. One American wigeon, a bufflehead, two dozen American coot, two pied-billed grebe, 25 ring-necked ducks, one ruddy duck; three, no, make that four, redhead ducks; 10 — make that 15 — gadwalls.

        Four volunteers and two Hamilton County Park District naturalists spent a dreary, drizzly Saturday counting birds and noting the number of species across 2,465-acre Winton Woods.

        The six were among some 40 volunteers who participated in the park district's 29th annual winter bird count, conducted each December at the park district's 17 parks.

        Surveying bird life in the parks is a fairly effective way of monitoring the health of the bird population in the area and what effects weather may have in fluctuations.

        “A census is a way of noting increases and decreases in popula tion,” said Jerry Lippert, a park district naturalist. “If you don't see many of one species, it could mean they're not breeding successfully, or maybe there's been a loss of habitat or they're being exposed to chemical influences.”

        That the park district has been doing it for almost 30 years provides a wealth of data on the size of the population. Since 1972, more than 350,000 birds have been counted, representing close to 120 species. They range from more than 60,000 starlings to a single snow goose.

        On Saturday, more than 21,927 birds were counted, representing 74 species. Both counts were slightly higher than last year's.

        The Winton Woods team is fairly typical of the more than 2,000 volunteers the bird count has attracted over the years — from Joanne Willman of Fairfield, who was participating in her very first bird count Saturday, to Harry Sjolin of Springfield Township, who has participated in practically all of them.

        Erich Baumgardner, of West Chester, has been doing it for 20 years, while Wayne Wauligman, a Westwood dentist, has taken part in the annual bird census since 1987. Mr. Lippert and Jen Hilbert, park district naturalists, led the team.

        Mr. Baumgardner's mother worked as a volunteer for the park district. “She got me started,” he said.

        Ms. Willman likes being outdoors. “I've been wanting to do this for a few years,” she said.

        Mr. Wauligman got hooked on birds watching cardinals outside his window when he was a kid.

        Mr. Sjolin used to take nature hikes with Warren Wells, the late chief naturalist for the park district, back in the 1960s. “I learned a lot about birds,” he said.


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