by Mickey Smith
On Sunday, December 29, Lamoille County was scheduled to take part, for the first time, in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.
For the past 114 years the Audubon Society has been leading a count of winter birds around the country. Vermont as a whole has long been a part of the count, but until Noel Dodge, of Johnson, stepped up, there has been no one in Lamoille County to coordinate the efforts locally.
Dodge, who is a wildlife biologist by trade, said basically the Lamoille County count’s area is a circle with a 15 mile diameter.
Dodge, a graduate of UVM, has done some contract work with the state involving martens and bobcats, but said for the most part he has specialized with birds including raptor surveys and breeding bird counts.
As many people as they are able to get together will be watching for and counting birds that day. He said the trick is to get as much of the area covered as possible, while not overlapping.
There are two parts to the count, as they are looking for both number of species observed, as well as a census count.
Some groups of up to about five people, will be out in the field during the day, while others will be watching feeders. In those situations, they are looking for high counts of a species. Basically, Dodge said, they want to know what the largest flock someone has seen during the day. The species count helps them find unique species that are not common to the area. Last year, Dodge said they saw a Velvet Kingfisher which is not normal for this area, this time of year. He said this is where they often rely on area birdwatchers who have an idea where species have been seen historically.
The Audubon Society likes an area to have at least 10 people taking part. Dodge said last year they made a practice count in preparation for joining the real count and had 20 to 25 people take part. He said he has heard from seven or eight new people this year, so he hopes to be close to 30 this year.
Once the count is over, Dodge collects the data and sends it on to the Audubon Society for compilation to be posted on their website.