- SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -
People may be staying closer to home this holiday season, but the National
Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count shows birds are doing some
- Birds are being spotted in places hundreds and even thousands
of miles from their traditional habitats. Scientists really don't know
- ''It's shaping up to be very interesting,'' said Geoff
LeBaron, the national coordinator for the annual Christmas-time tally.
- West Coast birds are flying over the East Coast. Arctic
birds are being spotted in Texas. The prize for the most out-of-place bird
even though it showed up before the local Christmas count goes to a long-billed
murrelet, which was seen this week paddling around Cayuga Lake near Ithaca,
N.Y., instead of the Sea of Okhotsk off northern Japan.
- Normally, the little black and white seabird gets no
closer to the U.S. than the Kamchatka Peninsula. It has been reported less
than 40 times in North American waters, most often off the Pacific coast.
- The Christmas Bird Count, now in its 102nd year, tracks
changes in the continent's bird populations over the years by using local
birders who look for birds in 15-mile diameter circles between Dec. 14
and Jan. 5.
- So far this year, more than 50,000 participants have
logged more than 1.8 million birds from the Caribbean Islands to Nome,
Alaska, in a count that may be remembered more for its oddities than any
trend it reveals.
- A flurry of western hummingbirds and flycatchers have
appeared on the East Coast. The Macon, Ga., count recorded Georgia's first
broad-billed hummingbird, a tiny Mexican flyer that usually edges no further
into the U.S. than the southern tip of Arizona.
- Minnesota counters spotted a Eurasian brambling. A western
tanager turned up in Maryland. An Arctic tern was taking the sun in Galveston,
Texas. Chicago came up with a Townsend's solitaire from the high-mountain
West. British Columbia birders were crowing about a blue jay found 3,000
miles west of its usual haunts in the eastern woodlands.
- Some ornithologists suspect this winter's freaky weather
and changes in the jet stream have contributed to the wandering, ''but
we don't really know (the cause),'' said Wayne Peterson, a field ornithologist
with the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
- The weather was apparently a factor when calliope hummingbirds,
usually found in the Pacific Northwest, that were attracted to late-blooming
flowers in Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan.
- At the same time, a shortage of seed and other food in
the far north, perhaps caused by this year's drought, has sent a flood
of Arctic species from tiny boreal chickadees to snowy owls south into
New England, LeBaron said.
- LeBaron led a count in Rhode Island and Massachusetts
last weekend that spotted a varied thrush, a Pacific Coast cousin of the
robin, and barnacle goose that may be visiting from the high arctic in
- Another barnacle goose is hanging around the campus pond
and dairy barns at the University of Connecticut and others have been spotted
on Long Island and in Gloucester on the Massachusetts coast.
- Weather aside, LeBaron suspects the growing popularity
of birding, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists as the fastest
growing outdoor activity, is playing a part in the spurt in reports of
rarities. Some birds, he said, just may not have been noticed before.
- ''More and more people are out looking,'' he said. ''And
as they grow in their appreciation of birds and all nature they aren't
only able to notice a different looking bird, they are able to identify
- On the Net: Christmas Bird Count: http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc