Archive for Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bird lovers flock to count

A soaring inventory of nature

The Dec. 19, 2009, Christmas bird count found several species of birds in the Lawrence area, including bald eagles.

The Dec. 19, 2009, Christmas bird count found several species of birds in the Lawrence area, including bald eagles.

December 20, 2009


Owl calls

Steve Roels, a KU graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, demonstrates various owl calls.

While there was some scientific value in the data collected at the annual Christmas bird count in Douglas County on Saturday, event coordinator Stan Roth said the main intent was to indulge bird lovers.

“It’s a chance to get people outside and enjoy their hobby. We use science as an excuse,” he said of the event sponsored by the Kansas Biological Survey.

Roth was one of about two dozen bird lovers scattered across the area Saturday, recording the various species found in 12 different sectors around Lawrence. He said the local bird counters will probably find about 90 bird species, and they compare the data to other years’ counts, helping to identify bird patterns in the area. There also were about 35 bird counting teams across the state and hundreds in the United States counting birds Saturday.

Roth said the bird counters use a variety of techniques to identify the various bird species. In addition to actually seeing a certain type of bird, the counters listen to bird sounds and use bird behaviors as identifiers.

Kansas University graduate student Steve Roels was on the count with his wife, Sarah, and their dog, Flora. He said his ears are the best tool in spotting birds.

“Most things we won’t actually see,” said Steve, who’s worked for years honing his bird identifying skills. “Once you get really good at it, it’s so automatic.”

The skills were demonstrated by Sarah, who after hearing a few bird sounds above, instinctually said, “Two robins, following a sterling.”

Steve is also able to mimic bird sounds, which can help attract birds. He said he can make numerous bird calls, but he’s best at imitating owl sounds.

And even when not on a count, all his bird training compels him to identify any bird he hears.

“You can’t turn it off,” he said.


marcdeveraux 6 years, 6 months ago

Hooray for Mr. Roth , glad to hear he is still there counting. . Mr.Roth is a lawrence legend among many of his ex students.

Mike Myers 6 years, 6 months ago

I think it's Canada Geese rather then Canadian if you want to be proper about it.

svenway_park 6 years, 6 months ago

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MartyT 6 years, 6 months ago

It is indeed Canada, not Canadian - a tidbit of pedantry taught to me by the man himself.

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