"Mad Island Christmas Bird Count celebrates 25 years" by: Mike Reddell

Sentinel photos/Jessica Shepard
Matagorda Mad Island Marsh CBC founder Brent Ortego, left, joined Matagorda Birding and Nature Center president Eva Malina in receiving a copy of the Commissioners' Court proclamation declaring the first Monday after Dec. 13 as the official Matagorda County Mad Island Marsh Christmas Bird Count day.

   There was plenty to cheer about at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Matagorda County Mad Island Christmas 
   Bird Count that drew 75 people Saturday night, Feb. 3.
   Not only was December’s Mad Island CBC the No. 1 bird count in North America, it means the event has been the top-ranking U.S. bird count for 20 of its 25-year history. 
   The birders, volunteers and property owners who’ve made the CBC the success it is were recognized during Saturday’s celebration banquet at the Bay City Civic Center.
   Banquet speakers told of the 117-year history of Christmas Bird Counts in this country and the history of the Mad Island event, how the counts have contributed to the knowledge of bird species in this country and the world.
   Texas Master Naturalist Brigid Berger coordinated the banquet, recognizing those who contributed, presenting awards and introducing the speakers.
   Berger asked all birders who have participated in the Mad Island CBCs to stand, finally working down to the seven or eight birders with 20 to 25 years’ experience.
   David and Marilyn Sitz, who founded the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center (MCNBC), and longtime CBC birders were honored at the banquet – and for their recent 50th wedding anniversary.
   Francis Sandlin, who is 96, was recognized as the oldest birder. 
   Geoffrey S. LeBaron, the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count director, told how the Audubon started a program in 1900 “to conserve rather than shoot” wildlife by counting birds at 25 locations.
   “Every year since, people have gone out and counted birds and species,” LeBaron said.
   December’s 117th bird count included 74,000 participants in 20 countries, identifying 2,536 species and counting 56 million birds.
   While the Mad Island CBC had this country’s highest total at 220 species, the most number of species counted worldwide was at Mindo-Tandayapa, Pichincha, Ecuador, with 456 species.
   LeBaron stressed the bird count data bases contribute to understanding bird ranges, avian population shifts and were part of the Audubon’s 2014 Climate Change Report.
   More than 300 peer-reviewed federal and state agencies use the CBC data, he added.

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