PREBLE COUNTY — Students from Twin Valley South High School counted birds in the woods near Fort St. Clair and the Preble County Historical Farm Grounds on Tuesday. The results of their count will be sent to the National Audubon Society.
“This will be 22 or 23 years that we’ve done this in Preble County,” Preble County Educational Service Center instructor Daryl Michael told The Register-Herald.
The local bird count is part of a nationwide effort in which groups all over North America try to record the numbers and species of birds they can see and hear within a 15-mile radius, according to Michael. The counts generally take place between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.
“There are probably over 50 that take place in Ohio alone,” Michael said.
The Audubon Society’s website describes the Christmas Bird Count as “the nation’s longest-running community science bird project,” saying that information compiled during the count fuels the society’s work throughout the year. A summary of last year’s 120th count reports 2,646 counts conducted by groups totaling over 80,000 individuals.
The purpose of the count, according to Michael, is to make note of changes that may be taking place in the behavior of local birdlife.
“What birds are we not seeing that were here 20, 30, or 40 years ago?” Michael asked. “And what new regulars are we seeing? We’re looking for habitat changes, and what birds are staying here in the winter that used to go south.”
Increasing numbers of eagles have been counted in recent years, according to Michael.
“Eagles seem to have a greater and greater presence in the area, so it’s a great sight to see them and to hear them,” Michael said.
Previous counts have involved students from Tri-County North and Preble Shawnee school districts, according to Michael.
“Most schools really are not permitting field trips and things right now, but Twin Valley South’s science teacher, Katherine Ackerman, has been a strong supporter of this activity throughout the years,” he said. “She normally has 20 or 30 students that will go out on count day.”
Ackerman, who said she’s been taking part in the event for at least nine years, reported that seven students – three juniors and four seniors – participated in this year’s count.
“They were happy to be able to go, and the Historical Society did a great job putting bird seed in the feeders to draw the birds out and providing us with hot chocolate.”
Putting out the feeders was especially helpful, according to Ackerman.
“On these cold, dark, gloomy winter days, the birds like to hide sometimes,” Ackerman said.
Tuesday morning was quieter than normal for finding birds nonetheless, according to Michael.
“We had two Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, 20 wild turkeys, three immature bald eagles, two ring-billed gulls, and 80 mourning doves, just to give a sampling of what was counted,” Michael said.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish