CONCORD — Stock up those bird feeders and dig out your binoculars for New Hampshire Audubon's Backyard Winter Bird Survey. This annual statewide survey will take place on Saturday, February 8, and Sunday, February 9. Biologists need assistance from citizens all over the Granite State to get a clear picture of what's really happening with our winter birds.
Anyone can participate in the Backyard Winter Bird Survey by counting the birds in their own backyard on the survey weekend and reporting on-line or sending the results on a special reporting form to NH Audubon. To receive a copy of the reporting form and complete instructions on how to participate, send a self-addressed, stamped, long envelope to:
New Hampshire Audubon, Winter Bird Survey
84 Silk Farm Road,
Concord, NH 03301
Forms are also available at NH Audubon centers in Auburn, Concord and Manchester, and on-line. Find more information about the survey at www.nhaudubon.org under Birding.
Data from the Backyard Winter Bird Survey is used to track changes in the distribution and abundance of many species. Each year about 1,300 observers across the state count the birds coming to their feeders. "The strength of the survey is that we can look at trends over the long term," says Survey Coordinator, Rebecca Suomala. "We now have more than 25 years of data and we can see the patterns of ups and downs in different bird species."
Last year, Tufted Titmouse and Northern Cardinal were tallied in record numbers. These two species were once found only in the southern US but they have expanded their range northward into nearly all parts of New Hampshire. It was their expansion that originally prompted NH Audubon to establish a survey to document their increase. They are now common south of the White Mountains and are starting to reach even the northernmost parts of the state in low numbers. The Survey shows that Carolina Wrens and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, two more recent southern arrivals, are following in their footsteps. Common Redpolls, a northern species that invades New Hampshire in the winter, also reached a record on last year's survey, but they won't be expected in big numbers this year. "This species visits the state every other winter, so we won't be expecting them in 2014," said Dr. Pamela Hunt, Senior Biologist at NH Audubon. "Seed crops that these species eat are good to the north so these northern finches won't need to move as far south to meet their needs."
The Backyard Winter Bird Survey takes place during NH Audubon's 100th Anniversary. NH Audubon was founded on February 26, 1914 as part of a movement to protect and restore migratory bird populations that had been decimated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Feathers, wings and entire birds were used to decorate ladies hats resulting in the death of 200 million birds each year. NH Audubon was started to protect birds and it still continues that mission 100 years later. Having accurate information is critical to that effort and the Backyard Winter Bird Survey is one tool for collecting important long-term data. Bird populations have changed considerably over the last 100 years – Northern Cardinals and Tufted Titmice were unknown in the state then! "Thanks to the Backyard Winter Bird Survey we can see how their populations have increased and we can watch for species that are in trouble," said Dr. Hunt.