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2014-01-16

First ever Love Creek Christmas Bird Count successful

By Martin Hagne & Rebecca Flack Co-compilers

Pictured: Courtesy Hagne & Flack
This picture demonstrates some of the variety of geological sites included in the bird count.

Courtesy Hagne & Flack
This map details the area covered in the Love Creek Christmas Bird Count.





The first ever Love Creek Christmas Bird Count (CBC) finished up on Dec. 19, 2013. First year counts normally start off a bit slow but not the one held at The Nature Conservancy's Love Creek Preserve just west of Medina in Bandera County!
Christmas Bird Counts have been held all across the United States and Canada since they were started in 1900 by Frank Chapman with the then budding Audubon Society. Over the years they have grown from the 27 counts held that year, to now over 2,300 counts held every year across the world. The 112-year tradition is now the longest biological study ever held.
CBC's are held every winter to count wintering birds in a set area. The counts will build a trend of bird species over time, and allow biologist to follow ups and downs in populations. If large population changes continue over time, it allows biologists to look for a cause, and hopefully fix the issue. It also gives landowners a biological survey of bird species on their properties.
Each CBC circle is 15 miles across. The circle is broken up into sections and team leaders go in the field with as many counters as possible. Each count is held for 24 hours, from midnight to midnight. Every bird seen or heard is identified and counted.
As co-compilers, we started planning this new count this past fall. Not sure if the count would even be approved in time for this year's count season between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, we had to kick planning in high gear with not much time to spare when we got word our count was approved.
Flack, the Southern Hill Country Project Director for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), manages the Love Creek Preserve located in northwest Bandera County. The Lost Maples State Natural Area, owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), is located nearby. Hagne, a long time birder and field biologist now working for the Flying L Guest Ranch, volunteers at the TNC preserve. Those combinations, along with many willing private ranch owners, made it perfectly clear where this CBC circle should be located - northwest Bandera County!
The new count was divided into 21 sections, and includes the TNC preserve, the TPWD park, close to 20 private ranches, and all public roads. Many landowners came out and took part alongside birders to count on their ranches.
A count down chili dinner followed the count at the Love Creek headquarters, where counters listed all the birds found and had bragging rights to the rarest birds found!
This inaugural year's count netted 102 bird species, a very good number for any Hill Country count!
About 50 counters took part, from TNC employees and biologists, to birders and ranch owners, most as volunteers, to help make this count a huge success in the first year.
If you are interested in learning more about this count, and maybe taking part in next December's count, you can e-mail either Hagne at martinhagne@sbcglobal.net or Flack at rflack@tnc.org