Each spring, the Allen Bird Club hosts two very different bird counts. The first is held in the greater Springfield area during the peak of songbird migration in May. The second count, in early June, is perfectly timed to capture the presence of breeding birds in the Little River Watershed IBA (Important Bird Area) located in the hill towns west of Springfield.
Birders of all experience levels are welcome to participate in both counts. They are modeled after the Christmas Bird Count, in that members, or teams of members, bird assigned sections of the count area all day, then gather together in the evening to feast and share accounts of the exciting birds they have found. Unlike the Christmas Bird Count, the spring census begins the evening before the count day, making it a true 24-hour event. To join in the fun, contact Seth Kellogg in advance of the counts for details and a territory assignment.
The May Bird Count is a long-time favorite with members of the Allen Bird Club. During the 1950s and early '60s, members conducted an informal, fun census of birds in Springfield during the peak of the May migration. In the spring of 1963, Club legends Helen and Mort Bates proposed expanding the census to include as much of the Springfield Christmas Count Circle as possible. The numbers and species reported were compiled and recorded for the first time, and the “May Census” was born.
The count no longer covers just the original circle area. To compensate for the intense suburban development in the towns and cities in the original circle, it now includes the more bird-rich areas in all the towns and cities in central Hampden County. During the 51 years of the count's existence, almost all the surveys have been conducted on the third Saturday of May. This has enabled us to capture statistics for all the different species breeding in the valley, as well as for most of the migrant species pausing here on their way north. In 2014, our teams counted nearly 10,000 individuals belonging to 135 different species. This is birding at its best during the prime time of the birding year — an experience not to be missed by anyone interested in finding and identifying lots of bird species.
The Important Bird Area program is a worldwide conservation effort led by BirdLife International. Administered in the United States by the National Audubon Society, the program confers recognition on sites providing critical habitat for a wide range of bird species. The Little River Watershed IBA is one of these officially designated sites. In June of 2004, the Allen Bird Club inaugurated an annual count to help monitor the status of breeding birds in the Little River IBA. The count area includes the forests, fields and wetlands in the hills and valleys in parts of Southwick, Granville, Russell and Blandford. The first eleven years of coverage have produced counts averaging 110 species and between three and four thousand individuals. In addition to collecting important data about the evolving status of breeding birds, the Little River count offers another exciting opportunity to bird in some of the wilder areas of our region. There is no better way to get to know all the different kinds of habitat where resident species prefer to build their nests and raise their young.