OUT: Birds-eye View February 15, 2009

Audubon camera in monument trained on feeding fowl

Courtesy of Grand Valley Audubon Society
THIS FEEDER CAM, the latest addition to Project Feeder Watch, a citizen science project by the Grand Valley Chapter of the Audubon Society, provides constant monitoring of a bird feeder near Colorado National Monument.

It isn’t as funny as Jay Leno, but it beats watching a Senate committee hearing.

It’s Bird Cam, live from a Grand Junction backyard near you.

If you ever wanted to sit and watch birds for hours, or at least watch places where birds are likely to show up, you now can go to mms://unreal.streamguys.com/cornell2 and stare at a bird feeder near Colorado National Monument.

Our bird feeder cam, which offers a good enough picture to enable this beginning birder to identify some recent visitors as house finches and pine siskens, is all part of the Grand Valley Audubon Society’s Citizen Science program, which is coordinated nationally by National Audubon Society and Cornell University.

“We’re pretty involved (in the Citizen Science programs) and part of the work we do is with Cornell,” said Bob Wilson of the Grand Valley Audubon Society.

The local chapter’s projects include the Christmas Bird Count, spring migration counts and this weekend’s Tumacanbac raptor field trips. The final Tumacanbac of the year will be at 9 a.m. today. Meet at the Bureau of Land Management parking lot at 2815 H Road.

The feeder cam is a part of Project Feeder Watch from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

The project is a winterlong survey (this year’s goes through April 3) of birds that visit feeders across North America.

This is Citizen Science at it’s most accessible and the information gathered helps scientists track broadscale movements and changes in bird populations. You can get more information at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/.

Project Feeder Watch also supports studies on the impacts of climate change on long-term bird distribution and abundance.

Much has recently been published about bird-distribution changes because of climate change, including some changes in familiar Colorado birds.

An Audubon Society study released Tuesday found that more than half of 305 birds species in North America, a feathery mix including robins, gulls, chickadees and owls, are spending the winter about 35 miles farther north than they did 40 years ago.

American robins, for example, have shifted 206 miles north all across its continental range while its numbers in Colorado during the winter have increased by 1,704 percent as more robins winter farther north.

Bird ranges change for many reasons, and here in the Grand Valley we’ve seen many changes as urban development overtakes rural habitat and brings birds associated with backyard bird feeders rather than scrub lands.

But researchers are saying the only explanation for why so many birds over such a broad area are wintering in more northern locales is global warming.

The Audubon study says that over the last 40 years, average January temperature in the United States increased by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. In some northern states, where the temperature increase is more pronounced, birders are seeing more southern bird species while the northern species are heading into Canada.

In an interview that appeared on MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29104238), Greg Butcher, the lead scientist on the study and the director of bird conservation at the Audubon Society, said the results are “as close as science at this scale gets to proof.”

“It is not what each of these individual birds did,” Butcher told MSNBC. “It is the wide diversity of birds that suggests it has something to do with temperature, rather than ecology.”

This weekend, too, is the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Participants count birds and report their sightings online at http://www.birdcount.org.

Also, several fascinating Web cams are offered by Xcel Energy. You can sneak a peak at a Great Horned Owl’s nest, watch young bald eagles and join the chorus for ospreys, among other species. The bird cams can be see at http://birdcam.xcelenergy.com/owl.html.


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