Local bird watchers needed Saturday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 30, 2010

NATCHEZ — Locals looking skyward Saturday won’t be searching for airplanes or Superman. Smaller flying objects — birds to be exact — are more likely to catch their eyes.

Local birders are participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count for the National Audubon Society.

Organizer and founder Beverly Aldridge started the event locally with her husband David in 1966, and each year since groups of bird watchers have ventured out with pen and paper in hand to tally what types and how many birds they see.

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“I enjoy doing it just to see the birds because they are so beautiful,” Aldridge said. “But then, also, I like to know that I’m making a difference because the numbers we turn in accumulate over years and that establishes a scientific record.”

The winter bird numbers are reported to the National Audubon Society and used to determine increases or declines in different species in different areas across the United States and in Canada.

Aldridge said there are currently 17 birders signed up to participate Saturday, but many more are needed. Aldridge said the count is good for experienced birders and beginning birders.

“(Beginning birders) need to call us and we will assign them to another group with someone who is experienced,” she said. “We won’t meet in one specific area, because we like to be spread out all over the area.”

The local bird count covers a 15-mile radius that ranges from the south end of Lake St. John, Hole in the Wall Plantation and Thornburg Lake south to the site of the former International Paper Company and Trinity baseball field. The circle runs from Selma and the Natchez-Adams County Airport in the east across the river to Whitehall Lake and Grassy Lake in the west.

The area was established by David Aldridge to include a variety of landscapes, Beverly Aldridge said.

“We have lakes, woods and pasture areas so that we get the greatest variety of birds,” she said.

This time of year there are a large number of species that could be spotted and what type of birds show up in the area changes from year to year, Aldridge said.

“We could have a lot of robins or it could be red-winged black birds,” she said. “There are a lot of diffent ones that it could be, and that is one of the reasons we do this count.”

There was one year the Natchez region had the largest number of robins in the U.S., Aldridge said.

Anyone who wishes to participate should contact Aldridge at 601-446-7576 or Bill and Dottie McGehee at 601-446-7012.

“We have lost a large number of our experienced birders in the recent years, so we really need new birders to get started so we can keep this count going,” Aldridge said.

Groups or individuals that participate should report their numbers to Bill and Dottie McGehee. Birders should dress for the weather, bring binoculars and, if available, bird ID books. Participants should also bring water, hot beverage and snacks for their comfort.