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Outdoor notebook: Annual bird count underway

| Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 10:46 p.m.

around the game commission

• The Game Commission is urging birders and wildlife lovers to take part in the Audubon Society's 114th annual Christmas Bird Count. It began Friday and runs through Jan. 5. The count is the longest-running wildlife census in the nation. It serves to assess the health of bird populations and allows researchers, conservation biologists and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years. Volunteers who want to participate can locate a local count by visiting

• Game Commissioners will hold a workgroup meeting at 8 a.m. Monday at the agency's headquarters in Harrisburg. The public can attend or watch the proceedings live via webcast at Commission president Ralph Martone of New Castle encouraged hunters and trappers to watch the meeting, then offer comments via email or letter for the agency's next meeting on Jan. 27-29. Public comment will be taken at that meeting.

around the fish and boat commission

• Each year, the Fish and Boat Commission hands out a Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award to someone who has “made outstanding contributions to the protection, conservation, and enhancement of the aquatic resources of the Commonwealth.” It is the agency's highest honor. This year's award went to Fairview sportsman Robert Hetz. He is a charter member of the 3-CU Trout Club, which is the largest cooperative nursery in partnership with the commission. It stocks steelhead in Erie's tributary streams.

• Running an illegal commercial fishing operation on Lake Erie proved costly for some men. Waterways conservation officer Brook Tolbert investigated the case and, after securing search warrants, discovered illegal gill net usage, unlicensed trap nets, improperly marked nets and the illegal catch of protected species. One illegal gill net stretched over 3,000 feet. Following a two-day trial, the defendants were found guilty. Fines and restitution of more than $10,000 and seven years of probation were sentenced by the Erie County court. Tolbert received an “outstanding service award” from the commission for his work.

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