Houston had its annual bird blitz last weekend, and a successful one at that.
Cindy Verbeek, the Houston Project Coordinator for A Rocha Canada told Houston Today that this year was the highest species count ever, with 108 species counted in 48 hours in the Houston area, breaking last year’s record of 96 species.
This year the bird blitz event saw a total of 40 participants including the Outdoor Kindergarten class from Silverthorne Elementary School. This also made the highest participant count ever for the bird blitz.
“Because of COVID we could not have group birding for beginners, so experienced birders from Smithers and Houston chose their favorite birding hotspot in the area and went on their own or with their small bubble,” said Verbeek.
The groups then met afterwards around a campfire each night with whoever counted on that day to tell stories and compare notes. There were a maximum of 7 people at a time around the campfires, keeping in mind the COVID restrictions.
“Birds are an indicator species of ecosystem health and their numbers are declining. Keeping track of the species that are here at the same time each year gives us an idea of migration patterns and species presence which can all feed into conservation and protection of migratory birds,” she said.
Once COVID restrictions have lifted Verbeek is hoping to be able to have more birding times with beginners and that way she believes that next year’s bird blitz will be much more accessible.
“If you are new at birding the best thing you can do is find an experienced birder and go out with them. Barring that taking pictures and entering them into an app like iNaturalist will help identify species and also record what you see so that scientists can use the sightings to inform their research and decision making,” she said.
There were 12 new species seen this year that have not been previously recorded in the 5 years of doing this blitz including the Northern Pigmy Owl, Sawhet Owl, Brown creeper, Virginia rail and Magnolia warblers which are all known for this area but difficult to find. The species most recorded was the American Robin in first place and the Song Sparrow, Northern Waterthrush and Pine siskins taking a close second.
“There were no species that took us completely off guard for this area although the Virginia rail at the Duck pond was new one for Dennis (my husband) and I which was exciting,” she said.
Verbeek has been doing these bird watches for seven years, of which the last five years have been opened up into the Bird Blitz event. Over the years, the bird watchers from this group have recorded 134 different species.