Jackson County birders conduct Christmas count

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The annual Christmas bird count wraps up on Wednesday across the country. Now in its 111th year, the annual wildlife survey gives groups like the Audubon Society a better idea about the overall health of the bird population.

Some Jackson County birders took part in the annual survey on Tuesday. They spotted a woodcock just after sunrise. But the highlight of the day was probably the American bald eagle they watched feeding atop a tall pine tree.

"A bald eagle!  I'm pretty sure, it's got a white tail," said an obviously excited, Claire English, who spotted the eagle through her scope.

"There it is!" she cried, as other birders scrambled to get a look.

Bird watching on the Mallette farm off Seaman Road in Jackson County is an adventure. The big bird scopes spotted images of the bald eagle far across the field.

The WLOX camera managed to capture a red shouldered hawk, some Canadian Geese and a Kettrel, a small member of the falcon family.

"There could be some ring necks. This would be a place for ring necks too," said longtime birder Charles Brenke.

Join a group of dedicated birders and you'll quickly see why each outing is an adventure.

"The biggest thing about learning birds is knowing what should be there. Then if you see something different, it stands out. You can go scratching and looking in your book," said the 80 year old Brenke.

"Oh no. That's a Kinglet.  That's a Kinglet!" said Mark Lasalle, as he looked through his binoculars.

"I enjoy constantly learning more birds. I'm the educator at the Audubon Society, but I continue to learn. There are so many birds. You go out with someone like Charlie, who's been birding for 70 years, there's always more to learn," said Mozart Dedeaux, with the Audubon Center.

"Look, that could be a Rutted Duck," said an excited Brenke.

The birding adventure often involves searching for birds, in this case, walking a field of broomsedge in search of sparrows.

"Try to figure out what a bird is. What it looks like. Distinguishing the field marks on the bird. Cinching an ID. Learning the calls they make. That's a big part of birding," Claire English explained.

The annual Christmas bird count involves circles of bird spotters.

"They're seven and a half miles in radius, or 15 miles in diameter. And it's always the same circles. And we spread out in teams of people to try and count as many different birds and species as we can," said Audubon Center Director Mark Lasalle.

"Tomorrow is another day. Maybe you'll do better or worse or see something new or different," said Brenke.

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