The Great Wilton Bird Count is underway!

The Wilton Land Conservation Trust is running a “Big Bird Year” bird count, trying to see how many different species can be spotted in Wilton throughout 2018. The organization’s goal is to highlight the natural beauty and significance of Wilton’s open spaces–and the hope is that as many residents will participate.

What’s unique about this project, say Land Trust officials, is that a Big Year is typically a solo effort by one individual who tries to spot as many birds as possible in a calendar year. It also usually covers a broad area, like a country or a state. The Wilton Land Trust instead hopes to make it a community event that engages as many members of the Wilton community as possible.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Land Trust started accepting reports of any bird species seen by anyone in Wilton, determined to find the answer to the question of how many birds live in or visit Wilton during a year, Every bird species seen in Wilton–every sparrow, warbler, duck and owl–will be counted throughout 2018, and next New Year’s Eve, Wilton will know the answer!

“The Land Trust is proud of what we have accomplished, preserving over 800 acres in town,” says Peter Gaboriault, the Land Trust’s president. “Our founders had the foresight back in 1964 to form the Land Trust. Thanks to their vision and the generosity of our members, we have been able to save some important fields, forests, and open spaces throughout Wilton. These open spaces protect our quality of life, our drinking water, and provide critical habitat for the animals and plants who live here, too.”

Participation in the Big Year is open to everyone, and the Land Trust will be organizing bird walks all year long to help the community take part.

“People can report what they have seen at their bird feeders or when they are out around town. Our goal is that this will be a community effort, with many people joining in,” explains Donna Merrill, Land Trust executive director.

According to Wilton Land Trust birder Tom Burgess, “The very best place to start is in your own backyard.”

Just like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, bird species are an indication of the state of the environment around us. For example, the national bird, the bald eagle, was threatened by the use of dangerous pesticides like DDT back in the 1960’s. It nearly disappeared from most of the United States decades ago, and was mostly limited to Alaska. The eagle was officially listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered in 1967. Thankfully, the bald eagle recovered and was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007. Now the bald eagle can be regularly seen here in Wilton, which was unthinkable not that long ago.

“We are hoping to see over 200 different species in 2018,” Burgess says. “Some of those birds are in Wilton all year long, while others may be here for a season, a day, or for a few seconds as they fly over us. And then there are birds which only come here sporadically, so we just have to hope we see them when they come for a visit.”

Land Trust officials will be keeping track of the progress on the organization’s Facebook group page, “Wilton Land Trust Bird Year.”  People can report what they have seen on Facebook, via email, or by phone at 203.451.2516.”

January Bird Spotting in Wilton Yields 56 Different Species

Although winter may not seem to be a good time to bird-watch, there are many birds that only visit here at this time of year. When some northern birds head south for the winter, they end up in Wilton. As spring arrives, they leave to return to their breeding grounds. And as they depart, other birds arrive back from their ‘winter break’ down south.

In January Wiltonians spotted 56 different bird species in town–well on the way to meeting the Wilton Land Conservation Trust challenge to Wiltonians to identify 200 different birds within our borders in 2018.

One Nod Hill Rd. resident (with a bird feeder) reported seeing the following number of birds on Jan. 1:

6 Juncos
12 Mourning Doves
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Hairy Woodpeckers
6 Sparrows
6 Chickadees
4 Cardinals
2 Crows
4 Blue jays
4 Titmice
….and a pileated woodpecker in the Gregg Preserve (below).