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The Monroe County Reporter
Forsyth, Georgia
December 26, 2018     The Monroe County Reporter
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December 26, 2018

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Page 2B iREporter December 26, 2018 ; MONROE OUTDOORS by Terry W. Johnson The 2018 Piedmont Na- tional Wildlife Refuge/ Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Christmas Bird Count was held Monday, Dec. 17. The United States Fish & Wild- life Service, The Georgia Wildlife Resources Divi- sion's Nongame Wildlife Conser- vation Section, and The Envi- ronmental Re- sources Network (TERN) sponsor our local count. The objective of this annualTERRY W. JOHNSON survey is to tally as many birds as possible during a single calendar day within a count circle that measures 15 miles in diameter. The Piedmont NWR/Rum Creek WMA count circle sweeps across much of Monroe County, a tiny bit of Jasper County as well as a portion of western lanes Count. As such, tiffs survey area encom- passes the Rum Creek WMA, Piedmont NWR, and Juliette, Weather has a tremendous im- pact on the results of the count. Last year the count was held on a mostly cloudy day when temper- atures ranged from the 50s to the 60s and winds were gentle. This year temperatures ranged from 39-66 degrees, 8 mph winds blew from the west and skies varied from dear to partly cloudy. 1he pleasant conditions prompted many veteran participants to comment that conditions seems ideal birding. Unfortunately, things did not work out as ex- pected. At the end of the day, when the count results were summarized some 4,069 birds represent- ing 83 species weie reported. Conse- quently, the total number of individual birds seen declined for the fourth year in a row. In 2017, 93 species and 4,611 birds were sighted. The total numbers of birds seen in 2016 was 4,851 (94 species), 5,387 (85 spe- cies) in 2015, and 5,470 (90 spe- cies) in 2014. Typically, waterfowl top the list of the birds most often seen. Such was not the case this year. Waterfowl proved to be extreme- ly difficult to find. In fact, out of the 27 spe- cies of ducks, geese and swans seen on the count since its inception in 1971, only seven species were located. Out of these, only the Canada goose (177) was found in significant numbers. I should note that five trum- peter swans were found on a pond on the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. Last year two trumpeter swans were sighted on the refuge. This marked the first time this species had ever been verified in Georgia. Topping the list of the 10 spe- cies most often seen was the chipping sparrow. Some 470 chippers were seen this go round. The most commonly viewed bird during Monday's Piedmont NWR/Rum the chipping sparrow, pictured above. (Photo/Terry Johnson) This small, brown sparrow is commonly seen feeding at Mon- roe Count bird feeders. Second place went to the American crow. 209 American crows were tallied. Here is a list of the birds that finished thi'ee through nine in 2018: northern cardinal (198), Canada goose (177), eastern towhee (167), common grackle (157), brown-headed nuthatch (137), turkey vulture (131), and American goldfinch (124). The blue jay and Carolina chickadee tied for tenth place with 120 Creek WMA count was individuals of each species being reported. Record highs were set for six species. These birds were the trumpeter swan (5), hairy wood- pecker (12), blue-headed vireo (19), white-breasted nuthatch (82), common yellowthr0at (7), and Bachman's sparrow (7). This year 21 folks took part in the count, indudmg the count's first two local feeder watchers (Don and Betty Arnold). Among the other first-time volunteers comprising this year's count team were Monroe County residents Debbie Menard, Taron Durden and Dave Seitz. In hindsight, the disappointing results of the 2018 Christmas Bird Count should not be a surprise. During the past few weeks, a number of people have complained theywere , not seeing many birds at their backyard bird feed- " ers. In addition, I have "' spotted very few ducks ever during my weekly Winter Bird Counts conducted on the Rum Creek WMA since the first week in November. We will have to wait until the results of Christmas Bird Counts hdd across the nation " are analyzed to learn i whether the results of T our count were affected by bird population declines, local or conti- nental weather patterns, - alterations of wildlife habitats or some other factors. I am hoping our results prove to be :. an anomaly and not indicative of the plight of our valuable avian resources. If you would like a copy of summary of the 2018 count, please let me know. Terry Johnson is retired Pro- gram Manager of the Georgia Nongame-Endangered Wildlife ! Program. He has written the informative column 'Monroe Out- . doors' for the Reporter for many , years. 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