13,200+ birds spotted in Audubon count

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Jan 04, 2012 - 02:43 PM

Photo: John Schmerfeld, center, of Arlington, and Will and Kim Smith of Gloucester were among the birders who gathered at dawn on Sunday in Mathews for the annual Mathews County Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

John Schmerfeld, center, of Arlington, and Will and Kim Smith of Gloucester were among the birders who gathered at dawn on Sunday in Mathews for the annual Mathews County Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Birders combed parts of Mathews County and Ware Neck on Sunday, tallying birds and bird species for the annual Mathews County Christmas Bird Count. Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the event drew 41 participants, even though it fell on New Year’s Day.

By 9 a.m., John Schmerfeld of Arlington and Will and Kim Smith of Gloucester said they had seen a brown-headed nuthatch and a lot of raptors, including a bald eagle, a red-tailed hawk, and a Cooper’s hawk. While taking the survey at Town Point Landing, they spotted a bufflehead and a killdeer, among other species.

The weather was "awesome," said Kim Smith. In the past the group has dealt with rain, fog and temperatures in the teens, she said, adding with a laugh that one year the wind was blowing so hard "the birds couldn’t even fly."

Local coordinator Joyce McKelvey said there were eight to 10 fewer participants this year than in past years due to the holiday and other factors, but that six new participants kept the number from dropping further, and all the sectors had good coverage. Several participants were up before dawn to listen for owls, she said, and 12 American woodcocks were heard in full display in two locations.