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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

The People With Binoculars In That Parked Car Weren't Spying On You - They Were Counting Birds

Julia Kuroda

Every winter for the past 121 years, people across the country have fanned out to list the birds they see. This is the national Audubon Christmas Bird Count and it runs every year from Dec. 14-Jan. 05. There were fewer count circles this year because of the pandemic, but that didn't stop Sinnissippi Audubon Society President Jennifer Kuroda and her daughter Jackie Kuroda from participating.

The Kurodas were assigned the Sandy Hollow Golf Course in Rockford. From dawn till dusk, the mother and daughter counted 232 birds, with 19 species represented. 

"It was mostly your typical backyard birds," Kuroda said. "People that have bird feeders out are attracting chickadees and juncos, plus cardinals. Those are the common birds you'll see during bird counts when you're doing residential areas."

Kuroda added that they counted more than one bird of the same species.

"Even though we had 19 species, we had 10 or 12 birds of the same species and maybe a big flock of Canada geese," she said. "That's typically what we saw."

Because Kuroda and her daughter were assigned a golf course, they spent most of the day walking the course. It was a cold day. In the morning,  it was 9 degrees and it only warmed up to 16 degrees. If they needed to warm up, they counted birds from their car, but only for short periods of time.

"When you're in residential areas -- in a car, with binoculars -- you get a little worried that people might think that you have other intentions than looking at birds in their yard," she said. "I always feel like we need one of those magnet signs on the side of our car that's like 'Christmas Bird Counter' or something."

Though downtown Rockford wasn't part of the Kuroda's beat, Jennifer said another citizen scientist saw Louise the peregrine falcon. Louise overwinters in Rockford was spotted at the news tower in Rockford so that bird was counted, too. The peregrine falcon is the official city bird for Rockford.  

Kuroda said it's important to monitor for birds in a variety of areas, not just residential areas, atop a newstower, or forest preserves. 

"You never know what might turn up," she said. "There are definitely rare species of birds that move through the area because they're off course for whatever reason and end up here. And you never know what's going to show up at your bird feeder.

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