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Monday, May 14, 2007

Pennsylvania Migration Count

Photo Credit: Audbon Society

For those of you that know me personally, you certainly know that I am an avid birdwatcher. As you may or may not be aware, we are currently in the midst of spring migration – when many birds return from their winter feeding grounds to breed.

A variety of factors have affected bird populations over of the years, including climate change and habitat destruction.In an effort to keep tabs on bird populations, various programs to monitor bird have sprung up over the years. The most popular of these programs is probably the annual Christmas bird count.

The Christmas count is useful, but does have its limitations, as it only monitors the birds that are present during the winter months. As I am sure you are aware, many birds leave their breeding grounds and fly south in search of food and other resources. In the spring, they return. To monitor the population sizes of these birds, a small handful of migration counts have cropped up over the years.

This past weekend, I participated in the Pennsylvania Migration Count (PAMC). The PAMC is actually a smaller part of the North American Migration Count (NAMC). The goal of the NAMC is to get a picture of the progress of spring migration, obtain data on the abundance and distribution of each migratory species. It is important to note that all the birds that are counted in a particular area such as Pennsylvania do not necessarily nest or breed here. Some nest a far north as the artic tundra and are simply passing through in much the same way they do in the fall.

My responsiblilites for the PAMC were to monitor three regions in Centre Country - two local parks (Sunset Park near Joe Paterno’s house and Millbrook Marsh just east of Beaver Stadium) and a small pond adjacent to the State College water treatment plant (Centre Furnace “Duck” Pond of Rt. 26). In all, I observed 322 individual from 42 species in a four hour period.

Although most of the birds were expected, such a large number of Mallard Ducks, there were several pleasant suprises such as several Wood Thrush, three Baltimore Orioles, a Pileated Woodpecker, a Solitary Sandpiper, two Spotted Sandpipers, and a Wilson’s Snipe. Click here for the full list.

Later this year, the data from the state will be summarized and publsihed. I will keep you updated.

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