Don Comis on Great Backyard Bird Count
On Sunday while I am taking photos at the George Washington Birthday Marathon and Relay, I run into Don Comis who is on a walk to count birds for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. He tells me about the birds he has seen and a few other related things.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual program to count birds during the Presidents’ Day weekend. It is organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon Society, and for four days from Friday to Monday, bird watchers track birds in their local communities. The results are entered at a website and can help scientists study a variety of questions regarding birds and the environment. Comis says that he has been doing this bird count since 2007, and for the past two years he has been the only person entering data from Greenbelt. This year he started on Friday, and today he is walking from his house on Laurel Hill Road to Greenbelt Lake and back, a three-mile hike. The birds he has seen today include cardinal, mourning dove, white-throated sparrow, robin, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, crow, bluebird, mallard duck, ring-billed gull, ring-necked duck, hooded merganser, grebe, Canada goose, and tufted titmouse. He mentions that bluebirds are particularly beautiful and hooded mergansers at Greenbelt Lake, with their black and white pattern, are quite exotic looking. Since Friday he has seen twenty-one species.
I ask him whether there is a bird watching group in Greenbelt, and Comis mentions that local residents Michel Cavigell and Peter Blank lead bird walks. He says that there are a few other major bird counts beside this one including Audubon’s Christmas count and mid May count, and he tells me that he used to write a nature column for the Greenbelt News Review and wishes to resurrect it. He has also hoped to write a biography for Chandler Robbins, a scientist at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge who is a senior author of “The Field Guide to Birds of North America” and an organizer for the North American Breeding Bird Survey. He says that with NASA/Goddard, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and Patuxent Wildlife Refuge, Greenbelt has a lot of resources nearby.
Greenbelt’s counts in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count can be found here.