Saturday, December 7, 2013

114th Christmas Bird Count - Guest Blog Post

December 22. It is -14°F with 20 mph winds. Alaska? – No, Wisconsin. But why is a car driving slowly down the road with windows wide open, passenger with head tilted at the edge of the opening as though hoping to hear something? As the car passes by, a sign can be seen in the rear window: “Caution, frequent stops. Christmas Bird Count in progress”. 
Sometime between December 14 and January 5, bird enthusiasts from across the United States will take a day to count every bird they see within a designated circle. About forty counts take place in Alaska – from Prudhoe Bay to Ketchikan, from Shemya Island to Eagle Community, and in many places in between. They will be joined by counters in Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America. 
Photo By: Cathy Mauer 

Christmas Bird Count circles are fifteen miles in diameter. In order to cover the whole circle, most circles are divided, with each area within the circle being covered by a separate group. Not all counters drive. Some ski, snowshoe, ride bicycles, canoe, or walk – or a combination of the above. Feeder counters stay home and monitor the birds that come to their bird feeders. Counters not only watch for birds, they also listen. 
Photo By: H.M. Wild 
Some counters do one count; some do many. While some participants have been doing the same count areas for many years, newcomers are quite welcome to join the counts. Participants may be expert birders or beginners, who learn to identify new birds while helping spot, count, and record the birds seen.
Photo By: H.M. Wild 
Many people end the day with a get-together meal where they compile results and share stories from the day – unusual birds, who got their car stuck, how cold (or hot) it was, wildlife sightings, … The compiled data is sent to a National Audubon Society database. Researchers and other individuals use the information to assess changes in bird populations and distribution, variability in migration patterns, and other factors. Research results have been used to help set management strategies and monitor effects of climate change. With over 100 years of counts, the data are especially valuable for the study of long-term trends.

This is the 114th year of the Christmas Bird Count, which was started to replace a late 19th century Christmas holiday tradition of the “side hunt”, in which hunters chose sides and went out to shoot the largest number of birds and animals possible. The first Christmas Bird Count on Christmas Day in 1900 had twenty-seven birders who held twenty-five counts at locations ranging from Toronto, Ontario, to Pacific Grove, California. They had about ninety species on all the counts combined. The 113th year had over 2,300 count circles and over 70,000 participants. Over 60 million birds were counted.
Photo By: Parke Ruesch 
Whether the count total is 232 species, as in Matagorda County, Texas, or 1 species (Common Raven), as in Prudhoe Bay, a Christmas Bird Count is a way everyone can contribute to our knowledge of birds and their conservation, an opportunity to enjoy time with friends and meet new people, and a great reason to get outside, even if it is 14° below.

Want to know more about Christmas Bird Counts

Photo By: H.M. Wild 
Share the love with your friends and family, be sure to “like” Honey Mama Runs Wild on Facebook, and tell me what YOU want to know about being active all winter long in the Alaskan Interior. 

Please Come Along on with us on Our Journey Home!

Looking for other ideas for an awesome holiday, check out: 

"Honey Mama's Top 25 Ideas to Combat Cabin Fever on a Budget!" Winter Series 

"Use what talents you possess  the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best" - Henry Van Dyke