Audubon needs bird survey help

DERRY NEWS/File photoA chickadee flies away from a bird feeder with a sunflower seed in its mouth. The New Hampshire Audubon Society is looking for people to join in with the annual backyard bird survey program to help Audubon count the birds of various species fluttering in and out of yards this winter. 

CONCORD — What’s happening with the birds this winter? While you’re at home during the pandemic, you can have fun counting birds and helping New Hampshire Audubon at the same time.

Take part in the annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey on Saturday, Feb.13, and Sunday, Feb. 14. Biologists need assistance from citizens all over the Granite State to get a clear picture of what is happening with winter birds and are anxious to see what this year's numbers show. 

“This winter we have seen an influx of visitors from the north,” said Dr. Pamela Hunt, senior biologist with New Hampshire Audubon.

These are species such as common redpolls and pine siskins that nest in northern Canada and stay there when food supplies are good. In years with poor food crops, they move south for the winter in what’s called an 'irruption.'

“Sometimes we see lots of these northern species and other years we see none,” Hunt said.

The extensive white pine cone crop has attracted numbers of red-breasted nuthatches and some people are seeing them at their feeders for the first time in many years.

“We want to see how widespread these northern irruptives are this winter, as well as follow the populations of our year-round residents,” Hunt said.

Survey coordinator Becky Suomala hopes to see pine grosbeaks in the survey numbers this year.

“They feed on fruit instead of seeds and I’ve been seeing them at crabapple trees in many places,” Suomala said. “Sometimes they can be so tame."

The annual survey is a way for the Audubon to find out what birds are showing up at neighborhood feeders and all New Hampshire residents are invited to take part by counting the birds in their own backyard on survey weekend and reporting results online or sending the results to New Hampshire Audubon.

Each year about 1,500 observers across the state count the birds coming to their feeders.

Reports of a lack of birds are just as valuable as reports of many birds.

“If everyone reported only when they have a lot of birds, we wouldn’t be able to see the declines,” Suomala said.  "The most important thing is to participate each year regardless of how many or how few birds you have."

The Backyard Winter Bird Survey helps biologists track changes in the distribution and abundance of year-round resident birds. Results from past years are on the web site. To receive a copy of the reporting form and instructions, email your name and address to bwbs@nhaudubon.org or call 603-224-9909. Forms are also available at nhbirdsrecords.org/backyard-winter-bird-survey

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