It has been deemed the arch nemesis of bird watchers, but Owen Kinney spotted one of the 5-inch birds Sunday as it made its way up a pine tree on the mountain campus of Berry College.
While Kinney was studying the canopy of a pine thicket, he spotted the tiny forager behind a brown thrasher, spiraling its way up a tree.
The natural history teacher at Darlington was one of about 20 people in Rome taking part in the 103rd annual Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the National Audubon Society.
This was the second local count and can be one of many steps toward recording bird patterns for this area.
Last year the citizen group identified 92 species of birds and 18,697 individual birds; however, the brown creeper was not included among those numbers.
Although the number of species identified was lower this year, only 75, Kinney was excited to be able to add the long-tailed bird to his list of more than 250 individual birds he personally identified Sunday.
The team of bird counters will meet later to tally its work for a compiled list that will be submitted to the Audubon Society.
Their numbers may not be very precise, Kinney said, but they still help scientific observers identify patterns in the ecosystem.
Kinney and his group of bird watchers assembled at dawn to begin scanning fields and tree lines, prepared to scribble the description of every bird they happened upon.
“We don’t pretend to know where they are,” he said. “We just count the ones that happen to be where we stop.”
Officials were interested to find out how much of an effect West Nile would have on populations. Several species were not seen this time that were spotted a year ago, but Kinney said he couldn’t begin to speculate why.
“Who knows how many are out here?” he asked, as he peered through a spy scope to view a Savannah sparrow.
“The methods we use may be simple and not very rigorous from a scientific standpoint, but they are an excellent method for discerning patterns,” he said.
If the bird count continues and participation increases, Kinney said, he would like to see the formation of an Audubon Society chapter in Rome.
Results of Sunday’s count may be found on the Audubon Web site: www.audubon.com