By Stephanie Braswell Edgerton for The Island Connection
The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the longest-running annual bird census in the world with the first CBC held in 1900. Over 2000 of these counts are now conducted each year between December 14th and January 5th across the Western Hemisphere. Each count area is defined by a 15-mile diameter circle and all birds seen or heard are recorded. The Sea Islands CBC was initiated in 2012 and is managed by Town of Kiawah biologists. The 6th annual Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count was held on January 4, 2017.
Participation is key to a successful bird count and participation was at an all-time high this year with 73 volunteers. The Town also had ten feeder/backyard watchers compared to the one or two in previous years. The Post and Courier article that was printed in December about the Sea Island CBC was helpful in reaching out to a wider audience.
This year, participants recorded 38,643 individuals of 158 species within our 15-mile diameter circle that included Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, Johns Island, Wadmalaw Island, and Deveaux Bank. Common Goldeneye and Whimbrel were new species for the count. Surprisingly, Common Goldeneyes were recorded in three areas: two on Kiawah, one on a Johns Island pond, and one in a tidal creek on Seabrook.
Waterfowl had the lowest count in the CBC’s history due to the lack of scaup and scoters in the waters off Kiawah. It is not uncommon for thousands of scaup and scoters to be seen in the ocean off Kiawah in the winter. Shorebird numbers experienced their highest count ever, which was mainly a result of a roosting flock estimated to be 10,000 strong on the east end of Kiawah. We also saw a shift in gull numbers. Laughing Gull numbers were way up compared to other years, while Ring billed Gull and Herring Gull numbers were down. An astounding number of American Robins were reported (3818) with more than 2000 of those coming from Johns Islands. All species of woodpeckers experienced record breaking high counts with most showing a dramatic increase over the previous five-year average. See the table below.
Many participants gathered at Town Hall after the count to enjoy a chili dinner that was sponsored by the Kiawah Conservancy. This post-count dinner is a chance for volunteers to share stories about the birds that they had seen and get a preliminary count of how many species had been tallied over the course of the day.
The Town of Kiawah would like to thank all the volunteers for continuing to make this event a success. Not only is the bird count fun and educational for participants, it also contributes valuable scientific data to aid in bird conservation across the country. If you are interested in participating in the Sea Islands CBC next year, please contact Aaron Given, Town of Kiawah Island Wildlife Biologist at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tweet