Christmas bird count set for Dec. 15


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The Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Court will be held Dec. 15 in the Virgin Islands, and volunteers are needed to help record the numbers and species found in the territory.

To help novice bird watchers interested in volunteering on St. Croix this year, a free local bird identification workshop will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight at The Nature Conservancy in Estate Little Princess.

The annual bird count has not been done on St. Thomas for several years for lack of volunteers to organize it, but St. John and St. Croix will be participating.

"The V.I. Audubon Club on St. John enjoys doing it; it's very useful information," organizer Laurel Brannick said. "The information is used by lots of people when they're making decisions on important bird areas and other policies."

About 40 volunteers perform the count on St. John each year, most of whom attend the Audubon Club on the island.

"I'll be out there all day with my die-hard crew," she said.

For the first time, people who live on Lovango Cay will be doing the count there.

There is a two-week window every year during which the count can take place. This year, the window is from Dec. 14 to Jan. 4.

The dawn to dusk event counts the number of different species seen as well as numbers of individual species. Birders go out into the swamps and ponds to collect the data. Organizers pick sites known for dense bird populations.

By doing it on the same day and at the same times in a variety of locations, volunteers will not run the risk of counting the same bird twice.

Bill Boyton, this year's coordinator on St. Croix, said they are looking for new volunteers. He is hoping to match up more experienced birders with novice bird watchers.

"Our birder population is aging and leaving island, we really need to add to our birder family," Boyton said.

Organizers purchased eight small, portable field guides to help new bird watchers identify the birds they spot in the wild.

Volunteers will be assigned ponds on the island and given a tally sheet and bird-identification card. On the day of the event, they will do a slow walk through the areas assigned and tally the number of birds of each species that are sighted. The volunteer assignment can take a couple of hours or all day depending on the willingness of the volunteer. People may choose an area close to their home or another area where they feel comfortable watching and counting the birds.

"Some of the people do their backyard, some people just walk their street," Boyton said. "We're just going to places that we can find the most birds."

For more information about the free bird identification workshop, call 773-1989.

To participate in the St. Croix bird count, email garvinlj@gmail.com or call 690-3002.

For information on the St. John bird count email lauren_brannick@nps.gov or call 776-6201 ext. 257.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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