Good evening,

        In recent weekends I've had the pleasure, and the not-so pleasure, of conducting two Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) routes in Manatee and Hillsborough counties.  I recently posted about another, the Sandy BBS, which runs through Sarasota County.  Below is some of the more interesting data I am able to share with you.
        For those of you unfamiliar with BBS I'll briefly explain.  BBS routes are run all over the country and with over 90 of them mapped for Florida.  Many have been in place since the 1960's, some have just been mapped.  It works like this - the participant starts at a particular spot at precisely the same time (usually around 6:00 AM) on or near the first of June, and begins by counting all birds seen or heard within 1/4 mile of that spot.  After three minutes of counting the participant drives to the next spot, gets out of the car, stands along the road, and counts again for exactly three minutes, etc., etc., etc..  The participant counts at 50 pre-designated different spots and records the data.  The route usually takes about 4 hours or so.  The data makes its way to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

        The Pleasant Grove BBS starts at HWY 301 and CR 672 (or 4 miles north of Sun City Center).  This particular BBS I have data only since 1987.  The habitat is mixed from a few farmlands sections to a mile or so of pine woodlands and mixed woods, to suburbia.  In fact, shopping centers are now in place where just five years ago there were trees and shrubs.  For many species of birds the data hasn't been recorded long enough to make any definite statements.  Here's a few, however, I find interesting. 

Common Nighthawk - In 1987 there were 21 recorded along the route.  This year, just five.  There has been a faint, but steady decline from year to year.
Chimney Swift - As many as 30 were observed/heard as recently as 1984, but the numbers have declined sharply since.  Just four this year.
Loggerhead Shrike - A high of 22 were seen along the route in 1988.  The last few years its been below 10, and just seven were seen this year - six from one spot!
Eastern Towhee -  From the steady 20+ birds in the 1980's to only five this year.
Eurasian Collared-Dove - The species first arrived on the BBS in 1993.  Today, the #'s are 30+.
Barn Owl - In 1993 I first found the species flying around a gravel-making building just before daylight.  I haven't seen the species there now since 1998.  And I even went there 20-30 minutes before I started my route the last few years and tried to elicit a response.  No go.

More interesting is the data from Myakka Head BBS.  This route was first run in 1966.  Rather than bore you with a wordy report, below are the highest numbers for some selected species in the early years, and how many I found this year.

Northern Bobwhite  106 in 1969   -  26 this year.
Mourning Dove - on the rise from 20's and 30's in the early years (just 12 in 1971) to 72 this year.
Eurasian-Collared Dove - the first year the species was found was in 1994 (just six) and this year there were 44.
Common Ground-Dove - 40 in 1969.  Zero for the past couple of years.
Red-bellied Woodpecker and Great-crested Flycatcher - both holding steady.
Common Nighthawk - from the 20's and high 30's in the 1960's to 8 this year.
Eastern Bluebird - 34 in 1966.  Zero this year.
Loggerhead Shrike - 31 in 1979.  Two this year.
Common Yellowthroat - 67 in 1966 to a steady 20's to 30's in the 1990s.  26 this year.
Northern Cardinal - Slight increase.
Eastern Towhee - 94 in 1966, 92 in 1969 to just 47 this year.
Bachman's Sparrow - From 67 in 1966 to four this year.
Eastern Meadowlark - From over 100 in many years to usually 50 to 60 in recent times.  56 this year.

The Myakka Head BBS runs the final 15 miles of its 25 mile route west on HWY 70 from Myakka City.  The Panther Ridge subdivision (and others) is making a huge impact.

bird on,

Ron Smith
St. Pete, FL
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