Tracking birds is one important indicator scientists follow to monitor our environment. And keeping tabs on the different birds in our area requires a special passion. "I am a birder. No doubt about it," said Mark Jones, who has been an avid bird watcher for almost eight years. "We're a group of people that really enjoy being out of doors and do everything we possibly can to benefit birds." That includes counting them. This weekend Jones and other local birders set out on the national Audubon Society's 108th annual bird count, an attempt to determine which birds flock to our area this time of year. The small group met at Greenfield lake on Saturday. Some were professional scientists but others, like Jones, bird for kicks. "I really love the atmosphere and the feeling I get from being able to see something that's wild," Jones said. On Saturday they planned to cover close to 17 miles in New Hanover County. Last year they counted close to 200 different species. When it comes to spotting birds, Jones usually has an eagle eye. At dawn, he spotted a hawk from miles away. For birders like him, that's all part of the fun. "When you get yourself a nice pair of binoculars, birding steps up another level because you can see a bird that's one thousand feet away like it's right next to you," said Joe Abbate, birder and biologist for Cape Fear River Watch. "It's not so much about seeing the ducks at the pond," said Jones. "It's [about] seeing the birds I can't get close to." Wilmington's bird count is one of several taken across the country. The data compiled is archived at the Audubon Society and Cornell University and used for environmental research.
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