VCU Rice Center

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Audubon Christmas bird count at the Rice Center

December 16, 2012 was not an ordinary day, but the date of the Hopewell Christmas Bird Count (CBC), a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society. The CBC is an early-winter bird census, where volunteers throughout the Americas count all the birds they see and hear within a designated 15-mile diameter circle. CBC participants are organized into groups — or field parties — by the organizer or compiler of each count. Each field party covers a specific area of the 15-mile diameter circle on a specific route. It’s not just a species tally — all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. The data collected by observers over the past century allows researchers, conservation biologists, and interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

The VCU Rice Center is located within the Hopewell CBC count circle. This year’s count day for the Rice Center group started with ominous weather, but soon after sunrise it cleared and allowed the participants to comfortably walk the property and accomplish the count. It was agreed among the experienced birders that for the Hopewell CBC as a whole, the total count, as well as the species count, were both somewhat low, missing some species that are normally noted — these included wild turkeys, screech owls and Baltimore orioles. On a brighter note, there were three new species added to the count: a rufous hummingbird, an ash-throated flycatcher and a Tennessee warbler. Another highlight was seeing the red-headed woodpecker at the Rice Center.

Faculty, students and volunteers have participated as part of an organized field party at the Rice Center for a number of years. This year, Hopewell CBC compiler Arun Bose expressed his gratitude for those who participated and helped on the count, including Cyrus Brame and Lauren Billodeaux (USFWS), Mark Batista (Chesterfield County Parks), the VCU Rice Center’s Cathy Viverette, Len Smock and Lesley Bulluck, and CCB’s Bryan Watts and Mike Wilson. A number of VCU students also participated: Benjamin Duke, Ryan Weaver, Deborah Pridgeon and Jennifer Fjelsted, as well as VCU graduate Leeanna Pletcher.

For further information on the CBC, please visit http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

For further information about the local count that includes the Rice Center, please visit http://www.richmondaudubon.org/HopewellCBC.html.

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