Since moving to the area a year ago, Frank Doherty has come to truly appreciate Wendell Park.
The retired wildlife biologist has been an avid bird watcher ever since junior high. And the park, he says, is an ideal birding destination.
“You have several different ecosystems there, with the swamp, the deep forest and the open field,” Doherty said. “That’s what you want, is as much diversity as possible.”
Having participated in Wake County birding events for years, Doherty attempted to lead one at Wendell Park in October but didn’t get a good response.
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He’s now hoping a second attempt – one affiliated with the National Audubon Society – will draw more interest.
Doherty will lead a Christmas Bird Count Saturday, Dec. 17. The event will start at 8:30 a.m., meeting at the Wendell Community Center and covering the Hugh T. Moody Nature Trail. People need only to bring a pair of binoculars, and perhaps a warm coat.
“He’s done his homework out here,” said Wendell Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Polaski. “He’s scoured the park and knows most of the species we have around. Now he’s trying build interest in it. We’re hoping more people will show up this time, given the nature of what it is.”
A useful study
According to the Audubon Society, Christmas bird counts have been an annual affair for the organization since 1900, when early conservationists held bird censuses in response to traditional Christmastime bird hunts.
Nowadays, the organization reports tens of thousands of volunteer birders participate in Christmas bird counts across North America from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5.
The bird counts help the Audubon Society and other groups keep tabs on the health of bird populations. Coupled with other bird studies, the information gathered plays a part in identifying conservation issues and environmental issues, like climate change, that also affect humans.
“With the Christmas bird count, you record the species and the number of species seen in a given location, and then that information is given to the Audubon Society,” Doherty said. “All those numbers are compiled and it helps with climate change and ecology things. A lot of things can be determined by population studies.”
In a year’s time, Doherty has observed 55 species of birds at Wendell Park. The rarest bird he’s seen there is a great egret – a large bird similar to a blue heron, but with all-white plumage.
Doherty’s personal definition of successful birding is based on quality, rather than quantity.
“I’ll go out in a given day at the park in Wendell and try to see 20-25 different species, but I don’t care if it’s one or 50 birds,” he said. “It’s how many species you can see, not necessarily the number of individuals.”
He hopes others will participate in the bird count and find out for themselves what they like about birding.
“Once you get this in your system, it’s hard to get out,” Doherty said.