Archive for Friday, January 15, 1999

BUFFS OF A FEATHER COUNT TOGETHER

January 15, 1999

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Area residents are seeing, and counting, a variety of species -- from cardinals to woodpeckers -- while participating in an annual bird count.

Even in the middle of the city, living splashes of red, blue, black, yellow and white can be seen among the barren trees of the Kansas winter.

But some area bird watchers will be doing more than simply enjoying colorful visitors to their feeders during the next few days.

They are taking part in a statewide count of wild birds that helps scientists understand trends in their numbers.

"It's just fun to tabulate what you actually have out there," said Janice Conrad of Lawrence, one of about 1,000 people across the state who are participating in an annual Kansas Winter Bird Feeder Survey though Sunday.

Counters are keeping an eye on their feeders and recording the greatest number of each species they see at one time.

Participants spend two days writing down each species and their numbers during the count. Results will be mailed to an ornithologist at Emporia State University.

The count is sponsored by the Kansas Chickadee Checkoff, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Kansas Ornithological Society.

Richard Johnston, a Kansas University professor emeritus in biology, said bird counts such as the one under way, help scientists understand trends in species.

"I think this appeals to people in that they are participating in something that otherwise would be unattainable," he said.

Large-scale recordings, such as the annual winter bird-feeder count, "may flag a species in trouble or find one that is recovering from trouble," Johnston said.

Most participants, even those with years of experience, use field guides to positively identify species, Johnston said.

"Ever since the field guides came out in the 1930s, they really revolutionized the hobby of bird-watching," he said. "Nobody today, no matter how much experience they have, goes through an experience of field watching without field guides."

Johnston said about three dozen species of birds can be observed in eastern Kansas this time of year.

Conrad, who's participated for several years in the winter bird-feeder count, said she's seen about 20 different species so far at her Lawrence home in the 1500 block of Crescent, near the Kansas University campus.

Dan Thalmann, who lives on the southwest side of town near 31st and Kasold, will participate in the survey on Saturday and Sunday, he said.

Thalmann said he usually sees 10 to 15 species during bird counts.

"I think it's an easy way to contribute to some baseline ... research," he said. "Anything to help science along."

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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