James Reddoch, center, leads a bird walk as part of the Mahoosuc Land Trust birding program in Bethel. Kathy Tarantola photo


BETHEL — The Mahoosuc Land Trust is looking to get more people interested in its birding program, especially to track the state’s declining songbird population.

James Reddoch of Albany Township and Boston, who writes a weekly column about birds, leads periodic bird walks. Most recently he led one at the Valentine Farm in Bethel on Global Big Day, May 4.

On that day people around the world document as many birds as possible and the information is made available to scientists who track trends and population changes.

Global Big Day is sponsored by eBird, an online database maintained by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Reddoch said close to 30,000 people took part in Global Big Day last year and more than 7,000 birds were documented.

At Valentine Farm, about 15 birders observed 25 species in about two hours. Reddoch said 90 species have been identified at the farm and nearly 240 in Oxford County.

“The goal with birding is really simple,” Reddoch said. “It’s learning and training yourself to make observations — in this case, observations with birds as the focus.”

He said Cornell created a free bird-identification application called Merlin, which asks about color, size, behavior, and time and place of sighting.

“Those five questions will help narrow it down,” Reddoch said.

His fascination with birds has a lot to do with how he was raised, he said.

“My family loves the outdoors,” he said. “We spent more time outdoors than indoors growing up. We ran around barefoot, having a blast, the way I was raised was to be outdoors.”

Reddoch said he saw many animals over the years, but birds were “all around” and readily available to study. In this area of Oxford County, many different birds are flying in specifically to eat bugs, he said.

“We may make fun of the black flies and mosquitoes that we have here, but there are birds coming from the tropics that come here because of the insects that they can use to raise the next generation,” he said.

Reddoch also said many of those species are experiencing significant drops in their total populations. It does not mean the species will become extinct, but the declining population is something that needs to be monitored, he said.

To ensure a good habitat for birds moving forward, he said, people need to get out in nature and document their own data.

“Average citizens can keep data and put their observations into databases that are used by scientists to monitor and make recommendations about what we can do,” he said.

‘Without measurement there is no management,” he said. “We just want to measure, period.”

For more information about the birding program, contact Mahoosuc Land Trust in Bethel at 824-3806.

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