Jim Stasz

P.O. Box 71, North Beach MD 20714.

Have you ever wondered "What is the Shape of migration?". It all depends on your viewpoint. Waterfowlers have benefitted from the extensive studies of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in their role for managing the Nation's game species resource. Hawk watchers may think of it as "Rivers" and space themselves on ridges and prominent peninsulas like the Marin Highlands, Whitefish Point, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Cape May, to count the flow. Shorebirders look at it as "Island Hopping" and go to the "islands" of Bodega Bay, Mono Lake, Bear River, Galveston, Cheyenne Bottoms, Higbee's Beach, and Pea Island. All of these have led to efforts to preserve and protect critical habitat for migration: we now have the National Wildlife Refuge System, Hawk Mountain, and the Delaware Bay Beaches. But what of Songbirds?

By what paths do neotropical migrants move from Central and South America to their breeding grounds? Do American Redstarts line up in military style and move north in a solid front, leaving occupying forces along the way? Perhaps Wood Thrushes are like blood flowing through major arteries before anastomosing into capillaries. Think of Kingbirds lining up like the runners in the New York Marathon and visualize the spread after the starter's pistol. Maybe Purple Martins move like ducks, geese and swans, with colonies making a series of short hops along a predictable route. It may seem wild, but do Bobolinks move like shorebirds, with a series of widely spaced discrete essential stops?

Most of you have participated on the Christmas Bird Counts sponsored by the National Audubon Society. The rules are simple: spend a day in the field counting birds in a specified area, and keep track of hours & miles on foot, car, boat, feeder watching. The North American Migration Count is like the Christmas Bird Count, but with a few twists. The Area for any one count is not a 15 mile diameter circle, but an entire County [Parish in Louisiana]. The big twist is the timing: unlike Christmas Bird Counts, which are spread over several weeks, this count is done on just a single day.

The choice of the second Saturday in May has been made to try to find the peaks of movement of neotropical species while they are still where most of the birders are. It will not be peak everywhere: the Northern States will be getting the first glimmer of Spring and the Deep South will be in early breeding season, but the overall goal is of importance to everyone.

Purpose: paraphrased from Chandler S. Robbins, Maryland May Count Coordinator 1952

To give each and every Birdwatcher the opportunity to enjoy a day's birding during Spring Migration with the knowledge that the result of their findings, together with the birds counted by others, would fit together like the pieces of a puzzle and reveal the status of bird migration on a specified date.

The goals of the North American Migration Count are:

o To obtain a "snapshot" of the progress of Spring Migration.

o To obtain information on the abundance and distribution of each species.

o Initiate more participation among Birders within a state and between states.

o Create challenges and goals among Birders while collecting useful information.

o Aid in organization and centralization of data.

o Have fun.

o Establish the second Saturday in May as a "National Birding Day".