For The Love of Nature – A History of the “Oldenburg Franciscan” Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count

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“From December 14 through January 5, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations: the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission – often before dawn – to spy and count winter species. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.” (National Audubon Society)

Oldenburg Franciscan collaboration with the National Audubon Society began in 2007, when, after several years of leading nature hikes at Michaela Farm, Wayne Wauligman and Sr. Ann Marie Quinn, OSF, organized the first Oldenburg Christmas Bird Count.  The National Audubon Society accepted the registration and Wayne and Sr. Ann Marie were off and counting.  They have helped keep the Count on course since then, and on December 31, 2011 they held their fifth such count, with the dedicated volunteers finding 55 species within the fifteen-mile diameter circle. Twenty-seven of those species were found just on Michaela Farm!

Here are some of their findings:

  • For each of the past five years at least one Bald Eagle has been found. This species is in an uptrend.  (See images in our photo gallery, courtesy of Christmas-bird-counters and nature photographers Chris and Tracey Fox of Batesville, IN).
  • Bobwhite Quail have been difficult to find and are exhibiting a long-term decline in their range.
  • They found a colony of Red-headed Woodpeckers.
  • Ever hear of a Pied-billed Grebe?  Four were found.
  • They even found Ring-billed Gulls!
  • Twenty-eight Bluebirds were seen.
  • There were only 187 Canada Geese!

“From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition — with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.” (National Audubon Society)

Lunch at the Oldenburg Franciscan Center serves as a time to tally finding findings, share  sightings, and learn about birds from each other’s experiences.  Each of the citizen scientists who annually brave snow, wind, or rain to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.

For more information on the science aspect of the Count, follow this link to the National Audubon Society web page:  http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

The Oldenburg Christmas Bird Count is only one of many nature hikes and conservation efforts that Wayne has led with the Sisters of St. Francis at Michaela Farm.  His collaboration with the Sisters began in 1993 at the invitation of Sr. Claire Whalen, OSF.  Since then, Wayne has held many more fun-loving and educational nature events.

Wayne says, “Some of my favorites include the time children, accompanied by their parents, learned about nature by seeing firsthand the exploding seeds of “Touch-me-nots” or Jewelweed, a female 10 inch praying mantis camouflaged on a Seedum flower head, and an uncommon Red-headed Woodpecker that flew right in front of us when I mentioned its name. On another hike I showed Sr. Claire a small frog called the Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) with a cross on its back.”

Wayne looks forward to continuing his treks!

About Wayne Wauligman:  Wayne is from Cincinnati and was educated by the Sisters of St. Francis at St. Catherine of Sienna grade school. In the fifth grade Sr. Mary Claude asked her students to write down and pass forward a career goal. He put down “dentist.”  He has now been a dentist in private practice for thirty-eight years in Cincinnati. In 1992 Wayne came to the Sisters’ Infirmary to personally thank Sr. Claude for her technique of imprinting his career. He also ran into two other sisters from St. Catherine’s, Sr. Mary George and Sr. Thomasine. The rush of memories was pleasantly exchanged. Shortly after that Wayne gave a showing of the birds of the Oldenburg area by bringing the Sisters trays of bird skins from the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History. That was the start of yearly hikes and natural history sessions at Michaela Farm.  Sisters Claire Whalen and Ann Marie Quinn have organized these events over the years.

Wayne’s daughter Whitney, a third year dental student, will soon join him in his general dentistry practice.  When not at his office, Wayne volunteers for various parks and natural history organizations as well as dentistry for the under-served.  He is currently the vice-president of the Cincinnati Dental Society.  He serves on the board of Oxbow Inc., a land trust and nature education organization in Lawrenceburg.  The Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas has kept him busy for the previous five years.  His wife Paula supports him in these endeavors, but “tolerates” is sometimes a good word.  He anticipates further years of dentistry with his daughter as well as his natural history volunteer work.

Wayne will be back at the ‘Burg on Thursday May 17, 2012 to teach about birds and butterflies and creating home habitats that are good for God’s creatures!  Wayne will also lead our Christmas Bird Count again next year on December 29, 2012.  Mark your calendars & tell a friend!

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