The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 5, 2010

Bird-watchers conduct annual count of county’s feathered residents

ASHTABULA — Twenty-two dedicated bird-watchers took to the county’s byways, forests, meadows and Lake Erie shoreline Saturday to participate in a local and national tradition: the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

Sanctioned count dates this year ranged from Dec. 14, 2009, to Jan. 5. Marc D. Hanneman, who has organized the local count for several years, said he chose Saturday in an attempt to avoid deer and waterfowl hunting seasons and make it convenient for participants. As it turned out, the count coincided with waterfowl hunting, but it was a nonissue given the weather.

“It was one of the harshest counts I can recall,” Hanneman said of the 25-mph wind gusts, subfreezing temperatures and occasional snow.

The local count area is a 15-mile radius centered at Kingsville, which takes in both Ashtabula and Conneaut harbors and the area near the Ashtabula County Airport. The bird counters worked in teams of several people who either drove the back roads or walked public lands throughout the day.

Three counters also watched bird feeders and noted the number of each species observed there. Across the count areas, the weather took its toll.

“It was down significantly in both numbers, and certainly in species,” said Hanneman. “We had 75 or 76 species last year and 52 to 53 this year.”

As in previous years, ring-billed and herring gulls lead the count in terms of numbers: 3,067 and 2,015, respectively. Counters estimate the numbers based on the size of the flocks observed. The only unusual birds not normally seen were a horned lark and snow bunting, plus a pair of short-eared owls. Hanneman was rewarded with that observation at the end of the day.

“It’s one of my personal favorites,” Hanneman said of the rarely seen owl.

Hanneman said local birders had the company of about 11 nature-club members from Lake County who joined the effort. The Sam Wharram Nature Club of Ashtabula County pays the $5 participant fees. Hanneman serves as president of the club.

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