The responses I have received to this year's annual Benton bird feeder study which was started in 1987 by my column predecessor Allen Benton has been amazing. With the addition of the use of e-mail to receive data, I was able in many instances to acknowledge the contributor as well as immediately record the sightings sent. Once again this popular activity attracted a good number of responders. I appreciate the comments and referrals to the history of this popular reader involvement project, such as the thanks for continuing Allen's work. Having been a former college student of Allen's several years ago I was most honored when I was asked to continue his column and this valuable project alerting us to the bird movement throughout our county as well as North America during the winter season thanks to the reports received from you. The data collected also alerts us to weather changes and migration patterns of visiting birds as well as the status of the population of native birds. It also gives you the readers an opportunity to partake in collecting scientific data that helps keep the rest of us aware of bird movement across Chautauqua County and North America as well as changes in a specific bird status and availability. Due to changing weather patterns and weather conditions in Northern Canada as well as our part of the country, we do not always observe the same birds each year. This year particularly, I have already received early reports of uncommon irruptive finches appearing at local bird feeding stations. One of those birds, the Pine Siskin, is not normally a regular local visitor. Over seventy-five participants either sent by U.S. Mail or by internet the listings of the birds sighted. I wish to thank all of you for your involvement. While this is not considered a scientific study, it truly represents a respective analysis of bird movement in our area during the present winter season. This should provide interesting data for a later comparison when we investigate the breeding bird analysis sponsored by several local and regional organizations later in the year.
I am most appreciative to each and every one of you that chose to contribute sightings. The following list of the top ten birds is a compilation of each of the species reported: The top six birds observed at feeders this year in order of reported abundance were the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal and Dark-eyed Junco. If anyone has sighted a bird that they believe has appeared in greater abundance than these six, I am very interested in knowing about it and the general location and habitat that the bird was sighted in. Please let me know of such a situation. Several of you chose not to expand the list by counting each of the individual birds, but listed the total number of species sighted. Twenty-eight species of birds in total were recorded for a total of two-hundred and seventy-three individual birds. While most of the birds on this list are fairly common feeder visitors over the years, the appearance of the Red-bellied Woodpecker is an interesting addition to the list as it was normally considered a southern species. A few years ago Allen Benton and I discussed this sighting as an extremely unusual sighting in our area. Whether this change in appearance is due to climactic factors or feeding habits remains to be studied. Finally the inclusion of both the Downy and Hairy woodpeckers shows the relative size and bill length differences of both birds, with the Hairy Woodpecker having a slightly longer bill and a larger size.
Photographs and article suggestions can be sent to me by U.S. Mail at 38 Elm St. Fredonia N.Y. 14063, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Above: A blue jay rests on a branch.