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Birds Are Telling Us Something

If you are an area resident 60 years of age or older, chances are you’d never seen a Canada goose in the wild until after you left high school. And bald eagles? We see them in pictures but, except for those lucky enough to have visited Alaska in their youth, not in the flesh.

Now, the Ohio Valley has enough Canada geese that they’re something of a pest.

We also have bald eagles, within an hour’s drive of Wheeling.

Matter of fact, there are at least 93 bald eagles in West Virginia. So say members of the Brooks Bird Club, which has strong roots in Wheeling but members throughout the tri-state area.

While most of us were focused on finding the perfect Christmas gift during the past few weeks, BBC members were looking for something else: as many feathered friends as they could find. The club participates in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. This year, it began Dec. 14 and ends Jan. 5.

The BBC is good enough to send me copies of their publication, “The Redstart,” which is chock-full of news and information about birds.

I’ve never had the energy to be much of a birdwatcher, but I do have a casual interest in all wildlife. I found a quick read of the most recent “Redstart” to be fascinating — and encouraging. We’ll get back to that.

Tidbits from last year’s Christmas bird count:

n By far the most commonly spotted bird during the count in West Virginia was … the American crow, at 29,245 sightings. Next was the lowly European starling, at 16,699. Third, at 6,931, were Canada geese.

n During last year’s count, 82 Great Blue Herons were spotted. That’s another bird few of us gray-hairs ever saw in our youth.

n Vultures — both the turkey and black variety — were seen 2,654 times. In comparison, only 2,393 Northern Cardinals, West Virginia’s state bird, were observed by the birders.

n Who (outside the birding/ornithology crowd) knew there is such a thing as a Hairy Woodpecker? Last year’s count included 125 of them.

n Of note during last year’s count were sightings of some unusual birds, including eight Double-crested Cormorants. Two of them were seen around Wheeling. Also seen here were 77 Ring-billed Gulls, with only one of the birds seen elsewhere in the state.

Why should anyone care about all of this? Because it indicates we’re doing something right regarding the environment. Birds — and some other animals — not seen for many years in West Virginia are coming back.

That, friends, is great news. My thanks to the BBC for delivering it.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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