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Residents flock to count birds on the Fox River

Doug Marecek Montgomery participates bird count with his daughters Sammy 10 Bethany 2  Fox River during The 2014 GreBackyard

Doug Marecek of Montgomery participates in the bird count with his daughters Sammy 10, and Bethany 2, on the Fox River during The 2014 Great Backyard Bird Count in Montgomery, IL on Saturday, February 15, 2014 | Sean King / For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 18, 2014 6:20AM

More than 30 people showed up in icy cold weather Saturday morning to take a stroll along the Fox River to count birds in Montgomery.

John Amman, a member of the village of Montgomery Historical Society and a bird enthusiast, first brought the idea to trustees in early January. At that time he was asking for volunteers and some publicity from the village to help him organize the event.

“I think it was very successful and a great attendance for the first one,” Amman said. “I had asked for volunteers and people to come out with zoom cameras and binoculars. We had people show up ready to find the birds and several were able to count the number of sightings.”

The groups were divided into teams based on the amount of time they wanted to walk the river’s edge in order to count the birds taking up residence. Before they left on their trip, sheets listing the birds were given out along with a brief discussion of what type of birds they might see and how to differentiate between different kinds of birds.

One group found several European starlings on the roof of a home on River Drive. The black birds have golden flecks on their wings.

Back in the community room at Village Hall several groups had completed their survey and were looking at various pictures of birds, identifying them and talking about their experience.

Cindy Bickle said this was her “first foray with a group,” but said she has been a bird watcher for years.

“I think this is great education, conservation and it is a wonderful thing to do for the spirit,” she said.

When asked how she can be patient while waiting for the sightings she remarked: “bird watching is like fishing, you just wait.”

Tim Balassie is a Kane County Audubon Society member and has been with the organization for some 17 years.

“We saw a lot of birds today, not bad,” he commented.

He detailed the list of the species spotted including various types of ducks and geese and two sightings of bald eagles.

Sami Marecek, one of the youngest members of the tour at age 10, said she came “because I want to see a bald eagle.”

Unfortunately her tour group did not spot a bald eagle. However, another participant eagerly shared his picture of the bald eagle he had discovered.

Various families took part in the project and said it was a great family event. Wes and Sherri Stewart brought their daughter Myah and began to discuss interesting facts about bald eagles with the group. Wes said there have been a number of juvenile eagles spotted near Boulder Hill.

Over the past month there have been a number of sightings of bald eagles and nests along the Fox River.

“There are more eagles now than there has ever been, or at least since the 1960s” Balassie said. “We have never verified, but it is conventional wisdom that the rise is because there has been an elimination of DDT and other types of pesticides.”

The information gained from the Montgomery bird counting will be added to national numbers as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count. While this is the first year for Montgomery to take part, the national event is celebrating its 17th year.

Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, the annual event has helped researchers learn more about birds and how to protect them.

Last year more than 34 million birds were counted across the country.

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