The Christmas Bird Count

The President’s Hoot
Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
January 2005

Yesterday, Nita and I participated in Audubon’s 105th annual Christmas Bird Count. We look forward to it every year as we get an opportunity to systematically bird with friends for a full day (early morning before sunrise to after sunset) over a specific area to see as many species and count their numbers. While it is not a scientific study, we usually do the exact same area every year and so know what birds to expect at particular sites. For us, it is like visiting old friends during the holiday season. This year, we were at first saddened as in our area in Sebastian, we saw where the Eagles nest and tree we have been observing for many years had been destroyed by the hurricanes. But thanks to a concerned citizen, we found that they have built another magnificent nest in a handsome pine tree not far way. A beautiful female was sitting on the nest with the male proudly being protective and looking for a meal close by. This was not an easy feat as development is rapidly covering over this major wildlife area with houses, cement, and St. Augustine grass.

The Eagles were able to adjust to the two hurricanes and build a better nest in a better tree nearby, but they cannot adjust to the proposed and approved endless creeping sprawl of housing developments. The area where the Eagles are nesting is already platted for development. Our important habitats and wildlife can adjust to storms, fires, and earthquakes and survive, but many of our plant and animal species will not be able to adapt to their land becoming covered over with cancerous concrete with parking lots and spacious or overcrowded homes.

For the last two years, we are also saddened to see so much encroachment of sprawling homes in and around our best birding habitats. The ducks and snipes found around the North County Library are now gone forever with developers completely filling in wetlands for houses and manicured storm water retention areas.

How can we help everyone be accustomed to living with the diversity of native species in their back yards? Or do we need to find ways to help developers to preserve more of our native vegetation and building green? One way we can act now is to be present and participate in our local government (i.e. at the planning and zoning, city, and county commission meetings) to facilitate saving these biodiverse areas. If you could join me even 1 or 2 times per year when really needed, to speak up briefly on issues before the planning and zoning, city, and county commission meetings, please call me at 388-1572 or email me at

Only those that live in this community will have an interest in protecting its beauty and tranquil greenery. We the people, through our city, and county governments, must participate and set some standards by which growth is balanced by parks, sidewalks, bicycle paths, trees and natural habitats. Otherwise we face a community of housing units, strip malls, parking lots and traffic congestion with no Eagles to watch over our neighborhoods.

Bald Eagle by Bob Montanaro.

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