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Shorebird count is Monday

POSTED: February 10, 2008 5:02 a.m.
John Henderson / Coastal Courier file photo/

The birds that will have their beaks counted Monday may be this pelican caught taking off from a marsh island by Liberty County resident John Henderson.

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BRUNSWICK — A small army of bird watchers will scour Georgia’s barrier island beaches on Monday. Their mission: Count and identify every waterbird they see.
The midwinter waterbird survey is an annual census done since 1996 and valued for the information gleaned on waterbird populations and roosting areas. Participants, many of them volunteers, counted an estimated 63,130 birds and about 80 species last year. Rare species such as red knots and piping plovers highlight the Georgia coast’s importance as a haven for wintering and migrating waterbirds.
Waterbirds include shorebirds, seabirds, wading birds and waterfowl.
The survey led by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is joined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Georgia Ornithological Society, Audubon Society, St. Catherines Island Foundation, and groups representing Little St. Simons and Little Cumberland islands.
“We rely on the best birders in the state to help us out,” said Brad Winn, coastal program manager for Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.
At high tide Monday, when most waterbirds are concentrated in smaller areas, birders packing scopes and checklists will scan sand, sea and sky along the 14 barrier islands for about four hours. Data collected will serve as a midwinter snapshot of waterbird populations. Species sporting leg bands — namely piping plovers, red knots and American oystercatchers will be noted and referred to researchers.
The survey meshes with Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint for wildlife conservation in the state.
“The beaches are very fragile habitat, and many of the (waterbird) species we’re surveying are in our Wildlife Action Plan,” Winn said.
Making a donation through the “Give Wildlife a Chance” State Income Tax Checkoff or buying a wildlife license plate supports such efforts. Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, which works to conserve nongame species, receives no state appropriations, relying instead on federal grants, donations and fund-raisers like license plate sales and the tax checkoff.
The bald eagle and hummingbird tags are available for $25 at all county tag offices, by checking the appropriate box on mail-in forms or through online renewal at http://mvd.dor.ga.gov/tags.
The “Give Wildlife a Chance” tax checkoff is line 26 of the long tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500EZ). Simply fill in a dollar amount.
 

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