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#424654 - 12/08/11 09:27 AM 112th Christmas Bird Count
Marty Online   happy
Thanksgiving is just a few days off and Christmas is right around the corner.  So it seems appropriate to feature the Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena), festive in holiday colors, for a post about the Christmas Bird Count.  Yes, it's that time of year again ... and we're planning for 21st Christmas Bird Count to be held in Gallon Jug and Chan Chich Lodge.  The date we've selected is  December 31.  So just think, we're going to count birds all day, including the Slaty-tail, and retire to beautiful Chan Chich Lodge on New Year's Eve to compare results and raise a Belikin beer.  What could be better?

Not familiar with Christmas Bird Counts?  Here's more detail from the National Audubon Society: 

Citizen Science in Action
The count period for the 112th Christmas Bird Count will begin on December 14, 2011. 

 From December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.

From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition -- and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.
We'd love to have you join us ... or join a count closer to your home.  Check out the National Audubon Society's website for more details about how to go about signing up online, past count results, why Christmas Bird Counts are important and much more.

My thanks to Frank Buck for the use of his Slaty-tail image!


#427676 - 01/13/12 09:51 AM Re: 112th Christmas Bird Count [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Summary of the 2011 Gallon Jug Christmas Bird Count

The 2011 Gallon Jug Christmas Bird Count was held, in conjunction with the National Audubon Society, on December 31, 2011.  This marked the 22nd year of the Gallon Jug Estate Christmas Bird Count (GJE CBC) since it began in 1990.  Over the years there have been ups and downs in species, individual birds counted as well as in the number of participants.  Along with the variation in number of observers, there has been a range of good, bad and mixed weather conditions that influenced bird activity and detectability.

Species numbers have ranged from a low of 171 to 238 (Figure 1), averaging 203. Individuals  counted have previously ranged from 1718 to 4772 (Figure 2), averaging 2,849.  This was one of the years when intermittent heavy rain impacted bird detectability and bird activity as well as “observer” activity.  All participants experienced rain that seemed to begin just when we thought it was safe to step out of the vehicle again.

Given the slow start of the count day and the many hours of light to heavy rain, we were pleased that the 183 species recorded this year was not the lowest on record (2006 and 2007 were tied at a low of 171). However, the number of individuals counted was at an all time low with 1,646.  An additional 35 species were recorded for the Count Week, but not seen on the count day.

Figure 1.  Summary of unadjusted species recorded for each year of the GJE CBC.

Figure 2.  Summary of unadjusted individuals recorded for each year of the GJE CBC.

This year’s Top 20 are listed in Table 1 and can be compared with 2010.  During the 2010 CBC there were scant frugivores (= "fruit eaters") as a result of the impact of Hurricane Richard (October 24, 2010).  As the forest regenerates, the birds are returning and many of the frugivores that had evidently moved elsewhere in 2010, made it back into the Top 20 list for 2011.

The top species this year as in 2010, was the Ocellated Turkey. While the individual numbers recorded this year were somewhat lower, many were no doubt huddled out of sight under vegetation trying to stay dry.  This was not the case for many of the observers who were soaked to the skin.

Notably low this year with only 10 counted, was the Gray Catbird, ranked 5th in 2010 with 94 individuals. Last year the White-whiskered Puffbird was notable with a record 32 individuals recorded.  The average number of individuals of this species per count for the previous 20 years was only 9. This year we had none.  However, 2 White-necked Puffbirds were recorded.

Table 1. The 2010-2011 Top 20.  Comparison of species with the highest individual numbers.


Ocellated Turkey

Olive-throated Parakeet

Montezuma Oropendola

White-collared Seedeater

Brown Jay

Red-lored Parrot

Tropical Kingbird

Cattle Egret

Social Flycatcher

Turkey Vulture

Roadside Hawk

Keel-billed Toucan

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Yellow-throated Euphonia

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Plain Chachalaca

White-breasted Wood-Wren

Black-headed Trogon

Melodious Blackbird



Ocellated Turkey

Cattle Egret

White-collared Seedeater

Melodious Blackbird

Gray Catbird

Turkey Vulture


Tropical Kingbird

Montezuma Oropendola

Wood Thrush

Clay-colored Thrush

Brown Jay

Black Vulture

Olive-throated Parakeet

Mangrove Swallow

Vaux's Swift

Great-tailed Grackle

Ruddy Ground-dove

Blue-black Grassquit

We had a total of six parties (aka “teams” or groups counting birds) with a combined time of 34 observation hours. Party results ranged from a minimum of 20 to a high of 72 species and individuals ranged from 38 to 624. Last year the number of parties and hours counted were significantly higher.

In order to compare the CBC results over time, the data is standardized by the number of party hours for each species. This is how results are posted on the National Audubon Society's CBC  web site for each year’s results. Party hours for the GJE CBC have ranged from 22.75 to 77.25 with an average of 52 per count year. By using the data standardized per 50 hours, even  with reduced hours of counting due to the rain, this year’s count of individuals, while down a bit, was actually not bad.

Figure 3. 2011 GJE CBC summary based on standardized number of individuals.

Based on the effort all participants put forth and standardizing the data we actually had an increase in species per party hour over last year (Figure 4).  So while there were fewer of us for a shorter time, we counted more species than the teams did last year under considerably more favorable weather conditions.

 Figure 4. 2011 GJE CBC GJE CBC summary based on standardized number of species.

As always we thank all participants, including Chan Chich Lodge guests and guides, and our Corozal contingent who traveled to be here on Count Day.  One their way to Gallon Jug, they stopped at the rice fields near Blue Creek to see the Gadwalls and Redheaded ducks, rare species for Belize.  They reported that Gadwalls were still around but the Redheads had apparently moved on.

Thanks also to Chan Chich Lodge for their continued sponsorship of the GJE CBC. We wish to especially acknowledge Victor Emanuel Nature Tours as they have contributed to all of the GJE CBCs since the beginning.  Our special thanks go to VENT leaders Brian Gibbons and Bob Sunderstrom who provided the VENT trip report that contributed to the Count Week birds, as well as their efforts during the day of the count.

Submitted by:
Bruce W. Miller PhD.



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