Annual bird count nets 92 species

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 19th annual bird count took place in Decatur County on Dec. 29 with 92 species of birds identified.

From nearly dawn to dusk 17 bird enthusiast tallied their count from their specific areas inside the designated 15-mile radius centering at the junction of 10 Mile Still and Spring Creek roads in Decatur County.

Oscar Dewberry, a retired wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department Natural Resources, said the count was up from last year when around 85 species were identified.

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Dewberry serves as coordinator of the event and initiated the first Decatur County count that took place in 1990. Dewberry set up the count through the Audobon Society, a national organization whose mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats.

“I’m a biologist and interested in birds, and I contacted the society to set it [the bird count] up,” Dewberry said. “Anyone interested in birds is welcome, and it is a great learning experience.”

He explained that bird counts are conducted all across North America. In choosing the location of the local count, he said he picked an area that would include Bainbridge, Decatur County and parts of Lake Seminole.

During the count, participants test their skills incorporating not only the look of the birds but their songs or sounds into the identification process, said Dewberry.

Participants in the count convene each year coming from as far as Atlanta, Ga., to offer their skills.

For the past few years, a local group have taken on the bird counting charge.

Teresa Adkins and her two children, Levi and Caleb; Cathy Ray and her two children, Emily and Daniel, four siblings, Branch Austinson, Anders Austinson, Josiah Austinson, Stennes Austinson, and Joey Sloan all conducted their bird counts this year from many areas around Bainbridge including the Earle May Boat Basin, the Big Slough and the Decatur County Fairgrounds.

Equipped with binoculars, pen and paper to keep their tally and a number of bird identification books, the group spotted more than 60 different species of books.

“It was a great day to get out, enjoy some fresh air and exercise and enjoy God’s creation with friends,” said Cathy Ray.

The top three birds sighted during the overall count were the red-winged blackbird with 20,654, the American Coot with 10,115 and the brown-headed cowbird with 325.