Tag Archives: Christmas

Definitely wouldn’t do that with kudzu…

Today we are hearing from Mallory Gyovai, an AmeriCorps intern at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.

Invasive species management is a prevalent issue at any national wildlife refuge, but it is especially important at Canaan Valley NWR. With its unique ecosystem that has been noted as “a little bit of Canada, gone astray”, the battle against non-native and invasive competitors is fought fiercely. Generally, our invasive species list targets those hard to remove ones, like Japanese stilt grass and autumn olive, but we also target different areas of the refuge that need to remain in the successional habitat that they currently are. So, when the biology team began to discuss the grasslands and shrublands located throughout the refuge, the presence of juvenile non-native Scotch pines within those ecosystems were also mentioned.

AmeriCorps intern Mallory Gyovai showing off a “Charlie Brown” Christmas Tree/Credit Lauren Merrill

AmeriCorps intern Mallory Gyovai showing off a
“Charlie Brown” Christmas Tree/Credit Lauren Merrill

That is when an idea struck. What if we removed the pines, which are the most common species of Christmas tree in the United States, and host an event that gives back to the community? It would be an invasive species management themed tree giveaway that would offer the community a chance to get together, enjoy hot chocolate and candy canes, learn about invasive species management on the refuge, and provide trees to people who may not have otherwise been able to get one! Instead of letting the “Charlie Brown” looking trees lay where they are, we loaded up trucks and brought them to our Visitor’s Center.

Refuge visitor loads a Scotch pine

Refuge visitor loads a Scotch pine

The event lasted two days, in the midst of a snowstorm, and we had 64 brave souls come out and pick up 57 of our trees. They were sent home with information on how to recycle their tree after the holiday season, a little piece of Canaan Valley NWR, and warm wishes from the volunteers and staff. This small gesture for our community went a long way, and many people were so grateful for the opportunity. Who would have thought that one person’s nuisance invasive species could be another’s holiday tradition?

Wednesday Wisdom – Wangari Maathai

Many people are focussed on giving during this time of year, but what will you give back to the natural world that helps sustain you? As Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai said, it’s the little things that make all the difference. These children are doing their part by participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count – what will your little thing be?

Original image by Jennifer Jewett/USFWS

Original image by Jennifer Jewett/USFWS

One bird, two birds. Red bird, bluebird.

One bird, two birds. Red bird, bluebird.

Today you’re hearing from Patrick Comins, the director of bird conservation for Audubon Connecticut and chair for the Friends of Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Hear Patrick explain what being a conservationist means to him.

“This year, let’s try something different. Instead of hunting birds during the holiday season, let’s “hunt” birds only to identify, count and record them.”

Something like this was said by an early leader in the National Audubon Society – Frank Chapman. That year, 27 observers tallied 89 different species in 25 counts across the country. Now 113 years later, his alternative, called the Christmas Bird Count, continues to add to a long-standing data set helping scientists understand how birds and the environment are faring throughout the Northeast and beyond.

The traditional count wrapped up last Saturday, Jan. 5, with these “Binocular Brigades” braving winter’s chill, ice and snow to record resident and wintering birds before spring migrants return. Just over 70 volunteers at the annual count in New York’s Central Park documented 5,721 birds, more than last year and with some unexpected visitors: common redpolls and white-winged crossbills.

In Connecticut alone, 11 Christmas Bird Counts were held opening weekend. A great highlight of the count in Connecticut is the Le Conte’s sparrow, found by Jamie Meyers and David Lawton in Bloomfield, Conn., as part of the Hartford CBC circle. This bird was only the second ever recorded in one of these counts in Connecticut – and only the 7th record in the state overall!

One bird, two birds. Red bird, bluebird.

A Le Conte’s sparrow. Credit: Joseph Cala

Last year, 63,227 observers participated in 2,248 counts, including 410 in Canada, 1,739 in the U.S., and 99 across Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. They found 2,298 species across all counts combined, including more than 650 species in the U.S. alone.

Many national wildlife refuges are represented within the Christmas Bird Count and winter bird count circles throughout the country, and wherever that happens, the refuge is always a hub for that particular count.

Why is this? Our national wildlife refuges are the nation’s crown jewels of habitat for birds and other wildlife; where better to look for rare birds or large numbers of birds than your local refuge?

Places like the Pondicherry Unit of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire, the Milford Point Unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National

One bird, two birds. Red bird, bluebird.

Patrick in front of the Watershed on Wheels with U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut, Brigantine Unit of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland are all legendary as birding spots in the birding community and synonymous with critical habitats.

Bird counts are a great way to track the important functions of stopover, foraging and wintering habitats that your refuge is providing to birds that we all care so much about.

There’s still time for you to join in the tradition started over a century ago. Several winter bird counts extend into the month of February. Check out the Great Backyard Bird Count. I’ll be participating and compiling information from Connecticut!

Read more from Patrick.