2006-04-27 / Front Page

2nd annual Big Day about to take flight

Some 193 bird types have been observed in E. Bruns. to date

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK - The countdown is on for the second annual Big Day Bird Count.

The bird tallying event will be held May 6, when bird enthusiasts and anyone else looking to lend a hand will roam the township to identify as many bird species as possible. The data is used to analyze trends and even point out possible environment problems. But it's also just to know what birds are living in or passing through East Brunswick, which are most common and which are not.

Environmental Commission member and event co-organizer Richard Wolfert said this year's event will begin at 6 a.m. for those who wish to go along with the organizers. Wolfert, commission member David Moskowitz and Monroe Township resident Ray Deeney will lead the pilgrimage, which is open to members of the public. Others may record their findings on their own anywhere in the township, even their own backyards for example.

Last year's bird count found 75 species, and the group spent some 11 hours on the prowl. This year, the group expects to find even more.

"With a more reasonable migration day, we think we [can locate] 100 or more species," Wolfert said.

Over time, some 193 bird types have been identified in the township. These range from the abundant year-round (mallard, turkey vulture, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, house sparrow) to the rare (ring-necked pheasant, purple finch, Swainson's thrush).

Weather patterns are among the many factors that determine how much migration is taking place at a certain time.

"The migration last year was awful," Wolfert said, adding that only a small number of each species was spotted.

The bird count, he said, is a good indication of what's going on in East Brunswick. Organizers are trying to contribute to the "ever-growing data" about the environment of the region. Studying what types of birds are around is one "barometer of the health of a region."

Identifying which types of birds are around, and when, may make it possible to determine how other facets of the environment are doing.

"Everything is connected," Wolfert said.

For one thing, global warming has already affected birds in East Brunswick. Because of the fairly recent phenomena, birds are migrating earlier to East Brunswick. Twenty years ago, the migration would have occurred much later than the first week of May, he said.

Another example is the fate of the species known as warblers. Certain warblers are now found in "significantly diminished numbers," Wolfert said.

"That should be a cause for concern," he said, adding that it's important to identify the environmental reasons for such situations and ward them off.

Development may also reduce the numbers of birds migrating to certain areas.

The bird count is open to all residents, and they do not have to walk for the entire 11 hours, or even leave their homes. Wolfert said the count will incorporate data from people who simply look in their backyards and identify species. One does need some knowledge and an eye for birds, though.

The group will begin the count at the Edgeboro Landfill, and move on to Farrington Lake, Dallenbach Lake, Frost Woods Park and other locations in the township. If enough people show up, the group may split into teams.

The bird count is being held a week before the New Jersey World Series of Birding, when bird watchers spend 24 hours in various locations looking for birds. They then converge in Cape May to hand in their logs. Wolfert said he chose to have the East Brunswick count a week earlier because some people are also interested in taking part in the statewide event.

Wolfert, who recently ran some beginner bird walks to teach people how to identify species, said he would personally be happy to see a lot of "Shore birds" during the count.

"I'd like to see as many species of warblers as possible. Seeing hawks and falcons is interesting too," he said.

Those interested in learning more or taking part should visit the commissions' Web site at njnaturenotes.com.

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