The 113th Audubon Christmas Bird Count was held nationwide between December 14th, 2012 and January 5th, 2013. For over one hundred years, citizen scientists gear up with binoculars, a favorite bird guide and checklists, and brave the elements to count birds in their backyards and neighborhoods. Generations of families have participated; from avid birders to students to scientists to folks who just enjoy the outdoors. The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running wildlife consensus of bird populations in our country. Audubon and many other organizations use the counts to monitor and assess the health and of bird populations. The information and data collected has been found to be critical for population analysis and invaluable source for bird conservation.
Marco Island had two participants this year: Karyn Allman, an avid birder and biologistfor South Florida Water Management District, and Sally Stein, also an avid birder and the Director of Public Programs for Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Both have conducted this count on Marco Island for numerous years. The area they canvas, called the Christmas Bird Count “circle,” is the interior of Marco Island (not the beaches) to Goodland. They started at 7:00 AM on Friday, January 4th, 2013 ending that day at 3:00 PM. In those eight hours, they traveled two miles by foot and 51 miles by car to count birds within the Ten Thousand Islands Marco Island “circle.” It was the first time the weather was warm in many years!
Other volunteers counted along Tigertail Lagoon, the beaches and into the estuaries and river surrounding Marco Island in other designated “circles.” There are over2,000 Christmas Bird Count “circles” organized throughout our nation, into South America and the Caribbean with over 60,000 volunteers participating to count bird numbers and species. The numbers of locations and volunteers is amazing. At its start in 1900, they had only 25 locations and 27 volunteers!
This year on Marco Island, Karyn and Sally documented 68 different species and 998 birds total in the eight-hour period. Starting at the Island Golf Course, traveling through many neighborhoods to Mackle Park, Lee Plummer Park, Indian Hill, Otter Mound to Key Marco and Goodland, the species and numbers were tallied throughout the day.
Duck species, such as Mallard, Mottled, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and, of course, Muscovy, were seen paddling in the golf course and park lakes. Red-breasted Mergansers, Loons, Pied-billed Grebes, Gallinule and Coot were alsospotted using the edges of our urban lakes.
On the wires along the streets, European Starling, Belted Kingfisher, Loggerhead Shrike, Crow (both American and Fish), Grackle (both Common and Boat-tailed), Dove (both Mourning and Eurasian) and American Kestrel were seen.
In the tropical hardwood hammock of Otter Mound many species were flitting around the native trees and shrubs, such as, Ground Doves, Warblers (Yellow-Rumped, Yellow-throated, Prairie, Palm and Black-and-White), Eastern Phoebes, Great Crested Flycatchers, Gray Catbirds, White-eyed Vireos and more.
Commonly seen in residents’ yards were White Ibis, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and even a few Goldfinch.
Great Blue Heron, Great, Snowy, Little Blue, Tricolored and Reddish Herons were noted, with the most unusual sighting being the juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
The Island’s birds of prey did not go unnoticed either, with large numbers of Burrowing Owls, Red-ShoulderedHawks and a couple of Bald Eagles counted.
Flying overhead, Brown and White Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, Anhingas, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Vultures (both Black and Turkey) were tallied. Killdeer were seen in open, undeveloped lots with an occasional Laughing, Ring-billed or Herring Gull hanging around.
It was quite a diverse and productive bird count for Marco Island this year. If you are interested in participating in the next Christmas Bird Count here on Marco Island or in another region of the country, go to birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count. For more information on birds on our island and if you need a bird identified or have identified an unusual bird, please contact Nancy Richie, Environmental Specialist, City of Marco Island at 239-389-5003 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and enjoy the outdoors!