14,000 birds spotted in annual Audubon count

by Charlie Koenig - Posted on Jan 02, 2013 - 12:36 PM

Photo: Joyce and Don McKelvey, compilers of Sunday’s 113th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count in Mathews, from left, consult with expert birder Charles (Zig) Ziegenfus at Bethel Beach. Volunteers spotted 14,000 birds of 108 species. Photo by Charlie Koenig

Joyce and Don McKelvey, compilers of Sunday’s 113th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count in Mathews, from left, consult with expert birder Charles (Zig) Ziegenfus at Bethel Beach. Volunteers spotted 14,000 birds of 108 species. Photo by Charlie Koenig

Approximately 14,000 birds of 108 species were recorded in Mathews County and the Ware Neck area of Gloucester during Sunday’s 113th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, according to Joyce McKelvey, who compiled the numbers along with her husband, Don.

The event drew 45 participants, who braved chilly weather that remained cold as winds picked up throughout the day. The local count is part of the National Audubon Society’s survey, which is held from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 each year worldwide.

The Mathews circle’s numbers were up slightly from last year, when approximately 13,200 birds were spotted by 41 volunteers.

Birds of note, McKelvey said, included a Western Kingbird on Gwynn’s Island, a Marbled Godwit, a Black-crowned Night Heron, a Short-billed Dowitcher and a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Bethel Beach, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Hudgins, nine Willets and a Coot at New Point, and an American Bittern in the Glebe.

Only 521 Eastern Bluebirds were spotted during the day, a moderate number. McKelvey said that volunteers counted a large number of Yellow-rumped Warblers. A promising sign for the local bird population was the large number of Bald Eagles, 37, reported—up from 30 last year. Notable by their absence, she said, were any Mute Swans.