Around the Island

The Orient Christmas Bird Count is approaching

DON BINDLER PHOTO A snowy owl in flight Thursday.
DON BINDLER PHOTO |  A snowy owl captured in flight on Shelter Island last January.

The killing of game birds and non-game birds on Christmas was a long held custom by sportsmen and others.

Then in 1900, this annual event was turned into a non-consumptive count by National Audubon ornithologist Frank M. Chapman who envisioned this census of birds as an accurate way to collect data on bird populations across the United States. Today, it is one of the longest running citizen science projects in the world.

Our own Orient Count was started in 1904 by Roy Latham and is one of the oldest continually running counts in the country. Roy Latham has been acknowledged as one of the premier naturalists of New York State. To learn more about Roy Latham go to the New York State Museum’s website, and search his name.

Since then, leadership of the count has been passed along to others, including Paul Stoutenburgh who mapped the 15-mile diameter count circle in the early 1960s. The baton was then passed to Mary Laura LaMonte who ran the count for two decades before North Fork Audubon Society board member Pat Hanley took it over.

This year marks the 118th Christmas Bird Count run by the Audubon Society. Counts will occur all over the United States on any day between December 14, 2017 and January 5, 2018. The Orient count will be held on December 30, 2017 and typically runs from early morning until sundown. Pat mentioned that in the past few years, bald eagles, snowy owls and harlequin ducks have been sighted. Ultimately, the idea is to have fun enjoying nature while at the same time helping science and birds.

To volunteer for the bird count, contact Pat Hanley at (631) 312-0824 or at [email protected]

Submitted by Rick Kedenburg of the North Fork Audubon Society