A Celebration of Birds- the CBC

December 24, 2016

Nature Notes by Bill Dunson


Although most people are thinking only about Christmas and family in late December, birders are also enthralled by the CBC or Christmas Bird Count. This is a world-wide phenomenon in which birds are identified and counted within circles that are 15 miles in diameter. The Venice Audubon circle which encompasses parts of Venice and Englewood, FL, is shown in the attached photo. Although the primary intent is to generate data on current status of bird populations, another important function is simply for birders to enjoy an intense day outside with friends working for a common environmental cause.

Each circle is subdivided into several areas, with ours being Myakka State Forest. We enjoyed the peaceful beauty of this undeveloped land while counting 52 species, including three interesting raptors. An adult bald eagle was feeding on some carrion in a field. A rarely seen merlin falcon was perched on a tree snag and allowed me to get fairly close for a photo. The smaller kestrel falcon was on a power line.

Another part of the circle for Venice Audubon is Manasota Key with team leader Ted Burns. As my wife and I were getting into our car at our home on this island, she mentioned hearing a bird call that was interesting. She insisted on looking and saw a medium-sized bird with a long tail in the top of a dead Australian pine. From a distance it did not appear too promising but on closer inspection turned out to be a juvenile scissor-tailed flycatcher, a rare visitor from the western US! Such a spotting of an unusual bird when you are getting into or out of your vehicle is sometimes termed the “parking lot effect” and reminds us to remain vigilant at all times!

Another circle in our area is run by Sarasota Audubon. They likely will record beautiful spoonbills like the one we saw while driving by a pond on Rt 41 in Sarasota, after enjoying a plant walk at Urfer Family Park. So urban areas can attract birds also.

So during this holiday season I encourage you to enjoy our amazing birds in whatever way suits you best. They are a small but astounding part of the remarkable mosaic of life with which we share this planet.

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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