Bird is the word at the EDC.
Dave Hartgrove remembers when driving around in the car would result in a bug-splattered windshield. These days, not so much.
Hartgove, an official with Halifax River Audubon for many years, was manning a booth at the Great Backyard Bird Count on Feb. 15 at the city’s Environmental Discovery Center in Central Park.
The longtime birder said that in 1993, he would hear so many chuck-will’s-widows, a nocturnal bird, that he couldn’t count them.
“Now it’s only a few,” he said. “It’s because of the drop-off in insects.”
Nationally, it’s been reported recently that there has been a large decrease in birds, and Hartgrove has seen a similar decline locally. But he points out that some species, such as the ibis, have increased in population.
Fewer insects hitting windshields means less food for birds.
Melissa Lammers, also of Halifax River Audubon, said people can help by having native plants in their yard to attract insects, rather than tropical plants.
“Birds need insects to provide protein to their babies,” she said.
To find what plants are beneficial to insects and birds, visit Audubon.org/plantsforbirds.
Rob Bird, of Audubon, said people can just plant a small area, and don’t have to re-do the whole yard.
The Great Backyard Bird Count occurs over a four-day period each year to provide information for the Audubon Society, and the EDC has partnered with Audubon for the past three years. The first year, there were 100 attendees and the second year there were 200, according to EDC Coordinator Duane Price, and he was expecting more this year.
Central Park is recognized as a stop-off point for migratory birds, Price said, and the lakes at Central Park attract a lot of waterfowl.
The bird counts help Audubon when talking to legislators about loss of habitat and other problems, said Steve Blackledge, who was helping visitors at one of the watch stations. He said he has noticed much fewer birds in recent years at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.
Also at the event, bird experts took attendees for hikes. Joan Teague was leading a group when they stopped to see several different species.
“That’s the way birdwatching goes,” she said. “You’ll see a bird and then see a lot more. There’s safety in numbers.”
Taking part in the hike was Monique Morrella, who said she had started taking birdwatching lessons from Teague last fall.
“Now I’m a bird addict,” she said. “When you look through a scope you can see their eyes and how beautiful their feathers are.”
Also at the EDC event was a migration challenge game, showing how difficult the journey is for birds and other educational tents as well as games for the kids.