On Sunday, these two amateur ornithologists are leading Floyd County’s Christmas Bird Count for the National Audubon Society, the first local tally since 1978.
The local count, which covers 177 square miles, centers at the abandoned Hardee’s on Martha Berry Boulevard at Turner McCall Boulevard, said Kinney, a science teacher at Darlington Upper School.
From there, 10 teams averaging three volunteers will fan out across Rome and Floyd County, identifying as many different bird species as they can see or hear in 24 hours, said Kinney.
“We’re looking for wintering birds and also native species,” said Dobbs, a retired naturalist with a doctorate in bio-geography from the University of Georgia.
Dobbs said she hopes the group can identify 100 different species. There are 19 other counts statewide that end Jan. 5, she said, “so a little friendly competition never hurts.”
Audubon’s bird count began 102 years ago on Christmas Day as an alternative to bird hunting, a popular pastime of that era, according to the society’s newsletter.
Today, there are more than 50,000 volunteer groups in the United States alone and more than 1,800 different circle counts throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Each local group of ornithologists, or bird watchers, tracks and catalogs bird species during one day.
When all counts are final, the data is sent to the Audubon Society for study.
Final results will be published on its Web site. The society uses count information for studies ranging from migration routes to native bird species populations throughout the study, said Kinney.
“But it takes a long time to collect data that backs up any scientific fact,” he added, “and it gives us a chance to give something back to the birds.”
He said the last count of this size in Floyd County was in 1978.
“We want to get our ducks in a row,“ said Kinney of the fledgling project. “We do have a lot of team volunteers who are good bird watchers, amateur experts.”
Among the team members are Darlington School students enrolled in Kinney’s science classes. Part of their final grade depends on their participation, he said.
But, he added, most of his students are interested in the project despite grade incentives.
“Darlington School’s campus lends itself to this, of course,” Kinney said of the hardwood forests located throughout Darlington School’s lower campus, Rome and Floyd County. These forested areas are described as perfect habitats for birds and people.
“And the count is like hunting without guns,” said Kinney, who classifies birding as an extreme sport. “That’s what I tell my kids.”
For more information about the National Audubon Society or the local bird count, visit Kinney’s Web site at www.darlingtonschool.org/faculty/okinney, or log on to www.audubon.org or www.birdsource.org