Audubon Florida News

Topic: Christmas Bird Count,FL Coastal Islands Sanctuaries,Wildlife

VIDEO: American Avocets Cooperate to Find Food

On Sunday, Audubon participated on the Alafia Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on the Mosaic Company’s Riverview Fertilizer Plant’s property. The CBC team consisted of Audubon’s Ann Paul, Mark Rachal, and Carol Cassels, and Mosaic’s Jim Johnson. Here is a great video of a foraging flock of American Avocets cooperating to find abundant food in the spoil area pool.

Have you ever seen this behavior in person?

Christmas Bird Count – Coming soon to a Circle Near You!

posted on November 27, 2013 in Birding,Christmas Bird Count,Citizen Science

birding at alligator lake 2Ask a birder what some of their favorite thing about the holidays are and you might be surprised by their answer, “the Christmas Bird Count.”

For those who have never seized the opportunity the CBC involves heading out early with a small team to a specifically selected area (the same each year) on a designated date (between Dec. 14 and January 5) to count all the birds, that’s right, every single bird seen!  This provides a snapshot of how and what our feathered brethren are doing. Using data reaching back to 1900, scientists continue to identify trends in avian populations.

citrus which way did it goEach count circle is 15 miles in diameter and the teams cover as much of the area as possible within a 24 hour period.  It stands to reason that many pairs of eyes and binoculars are needed to get the job done.  Teams travel on foot or by boat, bicycle, horse or whatever else suits the terrain. The more variety of habitats explored the great number of species are likely to be seen.  Birds can be found in woods, pine plantations, agricultural areas, urban and suburban neighborhoods, on or near rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, islands, public and private lands and even the dump.

Audubon_bootsontheground_logoThe consistency of being with the same team each year has its benefits. If you are a repeat counter you will delight in seeing some the same “snowbirds” returning each year.  And if you are new you can learn from those who already know what to anticipate.  On the personal side, there is a special bond that develops within the team during the experience that is rekindled each year on the same date, an annual reunion.

For all the information you need to know (and more) about this extraordinary citizen science program you can visit the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count website. If you are considering joining a Christmas Bird Count, the Florida Ornithological website has posted a list of locations and dates.

Hooded Warbler c anderbergMost (though not all) counts welcome newcomers. If you don’t feel that you know enough about bird identification there is always need for a “recorder.” So, if you have the time and enthusiasm, why not add a CBC to your holiday calendar. There is no better way to learn more about birds, experience a new area and enjoy the camaraderie of a knowledgeable team.

And at the end of the day one counter wrote:  “The Christmas Bird Count had left us all tired, yet once again oddly energized having spent all day long doing one of our very favorite things.” With over 70 counts scheduled in Florida alone there are more than enough to fill the 12 days of Christmas!


Christmas Bird Count: From the Suwannee River to the Phosphate Mines

posted on December 30, 2011 in Birding,Christmas Bird Count

What a wonderful account of the Christmas Bird Count in Florida! Thanks to Audubon’s Jacqui Sulek for participating in our yearly tradition. This count took place in beautiful Hamilton County, Florida. Enjoy:

Imagine spending the entire day doing one of your very favorite things.  The Holidays mean many different things to different people. As a birder the thing I look forward to the most around Christmas is the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

When I moved to rural North Florida years ago I was invited to participate in the Hamilton County CBC. It is a pretty low key count involving between a dozen and 15 people, some experienced birders and others less so. Fortunately there is a role for everyone. The circle (15 miles in diameter) is divided into 4 regions and each is assigned a team. The thing that is unique about this count is that half of it takes place within a phosphate mine. We held our count yesterday.

The most robust birders began “owling” before dawn. I have to admit that when possible I leave that task to others. My small team of 3 met just before sun-up in White Springs (way down upon the Suwannee River). Everyone was bundled against the cool morning temperatures and came prepared with the tools of the day, binoculars, spotting scopes maps, checklists, birding guides, and plenty of food and drink. My partners Chet and Carolyn Harris are from Pennsylvania but like many of our avian friends, they spend the winter in Florida. They are Audubon members in both places. We have done the count together for 4 years now and look forward to spending the day together.

There is a large area to cover so our travel is both by car and foot and we follow a similar route each year looking to include the greatest variety of habitat. We like to find a large number of species as well as a large number of birds but feel it is important to hit the same spots providing continuity of data from one year to the next. Our first stop was the piney woods of  Little Shoals on the Suwannee River. There we greeted the dawn. The combination of cool temps and fog produced less than spectacular results. The Chipping Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chickadees and Woodpeckers were all a-chatter but it was tough to count what we could not see. Eventually the morning began to warm up and as we peeled off layers of clothing the list of species and numbers began to grow.

The morning zipped by. We stopped often. We visited pine plantations, Oak hammocks,  agricultural fields, neighborhoods, river banks, State Parks, and even checked out the water tower in downtown White Springs where  wintering Black Vultures like to roost.  By early afternoon we had checked off close to 50 species. The highlight was a Dark-eyed Junco we found peering through the fence of a very upscale hunting plantation.

We had planned to meet the other three circle teams at 1:30. The task that lay ahead required that we spend the rest of the day together. Our circle coordinator Jerry Krummrich has an arrangement with the Phosphate mining Company, a venture that covers 1/3 of Hamilton County.  This extremely altered habitat offers large expanses of open water providing wintering grounds for waterfowl.   The dikes provide fantastic vantage points above this moonlike landscape. The area to be covered and the numbers to be counted present a daunting task.  John Hintermeister (our neighbor from Alachua County who has been doing bird counts for close to 40 years) Bob Richter from neighboring Baker County And Jerry were responsible for the difficult task of identifying and counting the huge volume of  birds we encountered.  It was serious business.  Only the most skilled can pick out the species at such a distance and estimate numbers close to reality. Betsy Martin,Megan Olson(relatively new birders) Chet and Carolyn and I provided extra eyes and ears critical to covering this immense landscape.  The experts called out the numbers and I wrote them down:  Hundreds of white pelicans and gulls, thousands of ducks (10 species) as well as 2 species of grebes, coots, wading birds, rails, birds of prey, sparrows and what must have been thousands of the ubiquitous Yellow-rumped warbler. It is an odd setting but clearly provides significant winter habitat for all these birds.

At 5:00 p.m. as the sun began to drop towards the horizon we packed up our scopes, climbed into our vehicles one last time and headed to a pre-determined rendez-vous spot.  After sharing a few highlights  we tallied the numbers and turned them over to Jerry who will compile and submit them. At first glance it appears that we will again have seen over 100 species.   The Christmas Bird Count had left us all tired, yet once again oddly energized having spent all day long doing one of our very favorite things.

Our local chapter (Four Rivers Audubon) has added 2 new CBC circles over the past 4 years. We understand the important conservation role that Audubon’s citizen scientists fill.  I am already looking forward to when I reciprocate and join John for the Alachua Audubon count.



The Results Are In! Tallies from the Christmas Bird Count Near Ocala

posted on January 10, 2011 in Birding,Christmas Bird Count

American RobinAll over Florida, birders spent the day (or days!) outside, counting bird species and individuals for Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. The data collected helps researchers understand the changing behaviors of birds over long periods of time. Results are being reviewed and tallied around the state. Did you take part in Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count? Upload your photos, tell your stories, and connect with other birders on our Facebook Page. has reported on our 2010 count in Southwest Marion County:

The preliminary totals for this year’s Christmas Bird Count for the 14 groups of volunteers who counted birds in the 15-mile radius in Southwest Marion County are 20,191 individual birds and 118 different species.

The species spotted most often this year include the Red-winged Blackbird, the American Robin and the Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Thanks to all of our supporters for making this year’s event a huge success. You can take part in next year’s count – we’re looking forward to a great 2011!

Audubon Christmas Bird Count Spans Decades, Generations

posted on December 20, 2010 in Birding,Christmas Bird Count,Events

Christmas Bird Count

Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count is underway across the nation. Birders and environmentalists from around the country are joining other enthusiasts to help scientists better understand the changing nature of our natural world and the always interesting behaviors of birds. The National Audubon Society writes:

The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

In Paynes Prairie, near Gainesville, local birders participating in the count were profiled by the Gainesville Sun. Our staff in that area have reported that they have already set a record for number of species observed and found a flock of 120 plus Rusty Blackbirds – right in downtown Gainesville!

It’s not too late – you can still participate.

Eric Draper: Bird Count Is Great Florida Tradition

posted on January 4, 2010 in Birding,Calendar,Chapters,Christmas Bird Count

From One of the finest traditions in wildlife conservation is taking place. Hundreds of people will join one of 55 different Christmas Bird Count circles all over Florida to collect information about the numbers, types and locations of birdlife.

The 110-year-old Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running scientific survey in the nation and contributes essential data that help scientists determine trends in everything from the state of important habitat to the impacts of climate change. The data collected around the state allows government agencies and organizations, such as Audubon, craft conservation strategies to protect habitats and our air and water.

For citizen science volunteers and conservation professionals who join the Christmas Bird Count, Florida is a special place. Our Sunshine State is home to a remarkable diversity of birds and habitats and it is a flyway for migrating species. Our avian friends bring thousands of visitors to Florida each year. Those birdwatchers in turn spend millions of dollars here. More importantly, they enjoy this special place we call Florida.

Bird-watching is considered the leading outdoor recreational activity, according to surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Right now, throughout Florida, people are watching birds at feeders, visiting parks and beaches, and even going deep into swamps and forests to spot rare species.

My own experience last year took me to the shore of a lake where I saw a great blue heron perched in the distance, high in a leafless tree. The sun was low over the water and the heron was frozen as a dark shadow in the golden light. The citizen scientist in me recorded the observation to put into the electronic records on Audubon’s Web site. The conservationist in me marveled, as the first explorers must have, to see such a majestic creature making such good use of the floodplain forest.

Florida, I thought then and believe now, is a spectacularly beautiful place. Do we Christmas Bird Counters spend days in the field just to serve science? No. Our science purpose gives us an excuse to go out and enjoy what our friends and relatives in other places can only dream of. We may disguise our pleasure by recording our observations, but we are in every minute of the day taking in the beauty of nature’s bounty. And that beauty in winter is experienced better in Florida than any other place.

The birds in the trees are the creator’s seasonal ornaments, jumping from branch to ground and challenging us to know them and their reason for being here. For in their numbers and locations are the discoverable secrets of what is going on in the world around us.

Humans are not only given the gift of observation. We are compelled to use that gift. To look, ponder, compare and share. That curiosity is the source of science. If we are to understand the tremendous changes being wrought on the Earth, one good place to start is by watching birds. For like the legendary canaries that stand watch in coal mines, they will let us know what is right and wrong with the world around us.

To join a count circle near you, visit Or just go outdoors and use your own powers of observation. What you will see is the best reason for living or visiting Florida.

Audubon Prepares for 2009 Christmas Bird Count

Annual Count Yields Citizen Science Data Vital to Conservation

The longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will take place between December 14, 2009 and January 5, 2010. From Alaska to Antarctica, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the hemisphere will add a new layer to over a century of bird population information.

Scientist rely on this remarkable trend data to better understand how birds and the environment are faring throughout North America – and what needs to be done to protect them. Data from Audubon’s signature Citizen Science program are at the heart of numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies. CBC data informed the first U. S State of the Birds Report, issued earlier this year by the Department of the Interior in partnership Audubon and with a dozen other conservation organizations. Audubon scientists analyzed 40 years of citizen-science Christmas Bird Count data, and their findings provide new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems. Northward movement was detected among species of every type, including more than 70 percent of highly adaptable forest and feeder birds.

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when the founder of Bird-Lore (the progenitor of Audubon magazine), Frank Chapman, suggested an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people “hunt” birds only to identify, count, and record them. These Binocular Brigades often brave winter’s chill, ice and snow to record changes in resident populations and ranges, before spring migrants return.

CBC data not only helps identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action; it reveals success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of the previously endangered Bald Eagle, and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts. Counts are often multi-generational family or community traditions that make for fascinating stories about bird observations, trends in data, and the human element of the count.

“Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Birds Count plays a critical role in helping us focus attention and conservation where it is most needed.” said Audubon Chief Scientist, Dr. Tom Bancroft, “In addition to Audubon’s reports on the impacts of Climate Change on birds and our analysis of Common Birds in Decline, it is the foundation for Audubon’s WatchList, which identified species in need of conservation help.

“The Christmas Bird Count is all about the power of Citizen Science” says Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count director. “Our theme is ’I Count’ because the work of tens of thousands of volunteers, extending one hundred and ten years, really adds up for the conservation of birds and our environment.”

The prestigious journal Nature issued an editorial citing CBC as a “model” for Citizen Science. Get involved today!

Migrating Birds Seek Cooler Temps as Climate Changes

beach birding

Autumn in Florida brings relief from the suffocating heat and dripping humidity of summer. We Floridians begin to venture outside once again – just in time for the seasonal arrival of unique and abundant migratory birds.  Some of those birds that fly south only rest in Florida before heading to Central and South America. Some stay for a couple of months until their breeding and nesting grounds up north thaw come spring. Then there are those snowbirds that return to the Sunshine State to breed and nest, remaining with us for six months or more.

However, studies are showing these patterns are shifting as a result of warmer overall temperatures. The analogy of the canary in the coal mine is an apt one – birds often are the first harbingers of changing habitats. “We see trends first in birds because it is so easy to see,” said Elena Sachs, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Bird Conservation Initiative. “We can monitor migration, breeding and timing patterns in migratory birds. For everything to continue to work in sync, the birds, insects, plants and wildlife must change at the same rate. That doesn’t always happen.”

Several studies across the nation point to one thing: rising temperatures over the past 40 years have resulted in drastic changes in migration patterns among some species of birds. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records show the average temperatures for January rose more than five degrees Fahrenheit in the continental United States over the past 40 years.

Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count has resulted in one of the largest repositories of bird-migration data in the world. Audubon released a study compiling the “citizen scientists’” findings. The data, in conjunction with statistics on rising temperatures, is startling: 305 widespread bird species in North America “have moved dramatically northward – toward colder latitudes – over the past four decades.”  “We were able to look at the trends for almost four decades using our counts and NOAA’s figures,” said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation at the National Audubon Society. “If there is no further warming then it’s just a fun study; but that’s not what the experts say. They say this warming trend will continue.”

The 110th Christmas Bird Count runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. The Audubon Society’s Web site will have specific information by November. Visit and click on “Get Involved.” You also can contact your local Audubon chapter for further information on how to get involved.

Read the full article.

Volunteers needed, but don’t let that keep you from reading this.

447px-wood_stork_2Corkscrew is looking for a few volunteers to help out with their Christmas bird count,  Saturday, Dec. 20. If you’re into birds, good people and excellent chili, please contact Sally Stein. If you would like to learn a little more about the event, as well as all the Christmas Bird Count Activities over in southwest Florida, read this excellent piece from today’s News-Press (although we like our ‘tis the see-son‘ headline better for Christmas bird count stories).

Tis the see-son.

posted on December 15, 2008 in Birding,Calendar,Chapters,Christmas Bird Count

Now, don’t get all nutty on us and send in a bunch of angry emails about what appears to be a typo in the headline and what is definitely a Pacific Loon (Gavia pacificia) over there. Both are merely attention-getting gimmicks in an effort to get you to read this story about the advent of Christmas Bird Count Season in Brevard, complete with upcoming CBC dates in the area.