2015-12-10 / Nature

Christmas Bird Count on the Horizon

By Jack Kelly


Last year's bird count volunteers Matt Grimes, Patty O’Neill, Barry Murphy and Paul LeToille observe waterfowl along the coast of the Esplanade in Middletown. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Last year's bird count volunteers Matt Grimes, Patty O’Neill, Barry Murphy and Paul LeToille observe waterfowl along the coast of the Esplanade in Middletown. (Photos by Jack Kelly) The all-volunteer, 116th annual Newport/Westport Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count will be conducted on Saturday, Dec 19. This local event gathers data on avian populations which are found within the confines of a 15-mile circle that has its center in Little Compton. Approximately twothirds of Aquidneck Island is encompassed in that area, including orchards, farm fields, salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, ponds, brooks, scrub brush and forests. Last year’s count produced 131 species, which was slightly down from previous years. The cold, windy weather may have played a role in the final tally.

The Audubon Society uses the same circles year after year for its measurements. They are strategically drawn across North America and South America and in other parts of the world in an effort to establish the health, vitality and sustainability of bird species. Ornithology, the study of birds, is the only scientific discipline that relies on the work of volunteers to gather the vast bulk of its data.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. The count is open to all bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts of any experience level. Teams are matched up to ensure that everyone has a good time and can learn from the program. Many of the area’s long-time bird watchers will be involved in this year’s endeavor and they enjoy sharing their experiences and expertise.

For anyone wishing to assist in the effort, participants will be meeting at 7 a.m. in the Norman Bird Sanctuary parking lot. Remember to dress warmly for the season and wear sturdy walking shoes. For more information, contact Paul L’Etoile at paul@ribird.org.

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