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January 31. 2014 8:12PM

Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Audubon Backyard Winter Bird Survey next weekend

The New Hampshire Audubon's Backyard Winter Bird Survey is scheduled for Feb. 8-9.

According to Becky Suomala, survey coordinator, the society needs help from as many bird watchers state-wide as possible. She suggests stocking up bird feeders and digging out your binoculars in preparation for identifying and counting birds. Becky wrote: "Anyone can participate in the Backyard Winter Bird Survey by counting the birds in their own backyard and reporting online or sending the results on a special reporting form to N.H. Audubon. To receive a copy of the reporting form and complete instructions on how to participate, send a self-addressed, stamped long envelope to N.H. Audubon Winter Bird Survey, 84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, N.H. 03301. Find more information at www.nhaudubon.org under the birding page.

"Data from the survey is used to track changes in the distribution and abundance of many species. Each year about 1,300 observers across the state participate. The strength of the survey is that we can look at trends over the long term. We now have more than 25 years of data, and we can see the patterns of ups and downs in different bird species.

"Last year, tufted titmouse, and northern cardinal were tallied in record numbers. These two species were once found only in southern U.S., but they have expanded their range northward into nearly all parts of N.H. It was their expansion that originally prompted NH Audubon to establish a survey to document their increase. They are common south of the White Mountains and are starting to reach even the northernmost parts of the state in low numbers. The survey shows that Carolina wrens and red-bellied woodpeckers, two more recent southern arrivals, are following in their footsteps. Common redpolls, a northern species that invades New Hampshire in the winter, also reached a record on last year's survey, but they won't be expected in big numbers this year.

"Dr. Pamela Hunt, Senior Biologist at NH Audubon, said: 'This species visits the state every other winter, so we won't be expecting them in 2014. Seed crops that these species eat are good to the north so these northern finches won't need to move this far south to meet their needs.' This year's survey is occurring in the same month as N.H. Audubon's 100th anniversary, having been founded on February 26, 1914 as part of a movement to protect and restore migratory bird populations that had been decimated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Feathers, wings and entire birds were used to decorate ladies hats resulting in the death of 200 million birds each year. NH Audubon was started to protect birds and it still continues that mission. Having accurate information is critical to that effort and the Backyard Winter Bird Survey is one tool for collecting that important long-term data. Bird populations have changed considerably over the past 100 years. Reports of a lack of birds are just as valuable as reports of many birds," Suomala concluded.

For more information, call 224-9909.

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After reading our column on the subject of furnishing water for birds during the winter a gentleman from Hampstead commented: "I wanted to share some information with you pertaining to heated bird baths. I purchased a 20-inch diameter heated bird bath with metal stand, model API 970, made by Allied Precision Industries in October 2012. I paid $59.99 on sale. This is the second winter I have had it and can report that not once has the water frozen, regardless of ambient temperature or wind chill. In spite of the sub-zero temperatures and frigid wind chill factors early this winter, the birds have reveled and socialized in and on the rim of the bird bath all daylong.

"The bowl is especially designed to attract and encourage birds to land. A textured surface and shaped rim allow a bird's talons to easily grasp and perch, while the gradual slope promotes bathing.

"Crack-proof even in sub-zero conditions, the bowl measures 20 inches in diameter by 2 inches deep. A 30-inch high metal stand with a 15-inch power cord comes with it. Also it can be mounted on a wooden deck railing. A built-in thermostat and 150 watts of power prevent the bird bath from becoming a skating pond, even in the coldest days. Completely hidden from surface view, the heating element automatically keeps water temperature between 40 and 50 degrees F. and will shut off power if the bowl is empty.

"Since the heating element is embedded in the bowl, the entire bowl acts as a huge thermal sink which accounts for the incredible performance of this unit compared to the spotty performance of an immersion heater. Made in USA."

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.



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