Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Seniors help count birds for project


Residents' observations part of national event

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        FLORENCE — It was a science project that spanned the continent and Northern Kentucky provided its own citizen scientists for the observation team.

        Twenty Kentucky seniors helped the National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology during the Fifth Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), earning their wings as next-generation John Audubons.

        The bird count, which was held nationwide Feb. 15-18, is designed to build a continent-wide index to help researchers count bird populations and track winter migrations. It is open to both amateurs and experts. Organized locally by Senior Services of Northern Kentucky, the local watchers gathered at the Boone County Senior Center to practice for the weekend-long bird count project.

        Matthew McKown, assistant director of citizen science projects for the Audubon Society, said the bird watches are important.. “I think they're valuable and their value will only increase with time,” Mr. McKown said.

        “If we get this participation over the next 10 years, we'll have quite a record of what goes on.” More than 100,000 people have participated in the project.

        Last year the GBBC received 57,000 checklists, which came from every U.S. state and Canadian province. Mr. McKown said that in 2000, more than 40 percent of those who submitted checklists were 50 or older.

        They watched bird feeders from indoors and used guidebooks to identify the birds they spotted. The seniors were given checklist sheets to continue the project and are reporting their findings to the Audubon Society at the Boone County Senior Center via the Internet.

        Tracy Wiggins, 78, said she was raised in the country and knows a lot about birds. She has her own feeders and wants to help bird conservation. “I just love nature and the things of God, his animals,” Ms. Wiggins said.

        Sonya Turner, Senior Services volunteer coordinator, said that the bird watch is good for seniors who may not be very mobile.

        “I've been real sick and I sit in my room and watch the birds,” said Bertha Broaddus, who has spotted turkey vultures and a blue heron at her lakeside home in Burlington.

        Ms. Broaddus, 84, said that she just likes birds and thinks the information she and others provide will be valuable.

        Ms. Turner said Senior Services intends to expand similar programs to other Kentucky senior centers. The GBBC, used in conjunction with two other bird counts, asks for 30 minutes of bird watching a day, but participants do not need to take part all four days.

        John James Audubon, famed 19th-century naturalist and illustrator of birds, lived part of his life in Louisville and Henderson. He moved to Ohio in 1819, working as a taxidermist for Daniel Drake's Western Museum in Cincinnati, later moving to Louisiana.

        For more information, visit www.birdsource.org.

       



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