More from our friends at the Santiva Chronicle:
Cold and windy isn’t something Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society birdwatchers are accustomed to, but that’s what they got on Saturday, Dec. 19, the day of the annual Christmas Bird Count on the barrier islands.
The wind is responsible for a smaller species count than usual. Only 88 different species were recorded by the 129 birders who were divided into 40 teams to cover Sanibel, Captiva and the Causeway Islands.
“The wind was blowing all day. We usually record around 100 different species, but on a windy day like this they just hunker down and are harder to see,” said Bill Jacobson, count compiler for more than a decade.
Last year’s count found 102 species and 14,152 birds. Jacobson’s preliminary figures show that 14,494 were counted this year on a day when the temperature barely reached 70.
Brown Pelicans and Osprey continue their success stories on Sanibel. Last year’s 805 Brown Pelicans were considered a high number, but that number was more than tripled this year with 2,752 counted.
Last year’s Osprey count was 365 and Saturday’s was 341, which should put the local count in the running for the most in the nation on one count again this year.
As was the case last year, migrating tree swallows led the way with the most individuals with 3,033. Last year’s tree swallow count was 1,833.
“The change in the weather and the wind probably moved them in,” Jacobson said. “This happens. We’ll get 500 to 1,000 of them in one whack.”
Birders who braved the blowing sand and biting wind on the beaches this year came away with counts of 1,000 Sanderling, 11 of the rare Reddish Egret and 10 of the rare Snowy Plover. The Snowy Plover number is down from last year’s 28.
“The wind probably affected that number,” Jacobson said of the Snowy Plover. “When that bird hunkers down it is very hard to see.”
The San-Cap Audubon count also serves as the first official Saturday bird walk of the season. After the first of the year the walks will be held every Saturday at the best birding spots in the area. The very popular Audubon lecture series on Thursday nights also begins after the first of the year. For more on both, visit San-Cap Audubon’s website.