The preliminary count is in for the Venice/Englewood Christmas Bird Count, conducted Dec. 16 by about 100 volunteers with Venice Audubon Society.

Birders spotted a total of 133 count-day species, plus five additional species during the count week for a grand total of 138 and a total of nearly 22,000 birds in the 15-mile diameter count area.

This was the 119th Christmas Bird Count conducted nationally by Audubon, and, as always, it was made possible through the dedication of scores of local birders led by individual area leaders, many of whom have participated in the Venice/Englewood count for decades.

Area leaders included Ken Blackshaw, Kate Borduas, Tom Duch, Bill Dunson, Margaret Dunson, Nancy Edmondson, Bill Fairbank, Bill Heyd, Deb Johnson, Robert Kraft, Dave Lancaster, Gloria Markiewicz, Claire Norton, Ann O’Leary, Charlie Sample, Eileen Teel and Mike Weisensee. For the fourth year, the count was led by chief compiler Bob Clark.

For the first time, an area along the east side of the Intracoastal being developed by Venice Area Beautification Inc. (VABI) as an “Urban Forest” was the special focus of a count group led by Ann O’Leary, assisted by Jack Foard and others. The count of 40 species and 235 total birds will serve as a baseline as the area continues to be developed over time.

Highest counts for the overall area included over 4,400 tree swallows, 1,500 white ibis, 1,000 common grackles, 800 glossy ibis and 700 black-bellied whistling ducks.

The Christmas Bird Count is not a competition; it is a science-based annual program to help survey bird species and populations throughout the country. It is always interesting, however, to see which teams identify the most species during the count.

Honors this year go to teams led by Ken Blackshaw and Deb Johnson, both counting 82 species.

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