For those who have never seized the opportunity the CBC involves heading out early with a small team to a specifically selected area (the same each year) on a designated date (between Dec. 14 and January 5) to count all the birds, that’s right, every single bird seen! This provides a snapshot of how and what our feathered brethren are doing. Using data reaching back to 1900, scientists continue to identify trends in avian populations.
Each count circle is 15 miles in diameter and the teams cover as much of the area as possible within a 24 hour period. It stands to reason that many pairs of eyes and binoculars are needed to get the job done. Teams travel on foot or by boat, bicycle, horse or whatever else suits the terrain. The more variety of habitats explored the great number of species are likely to be seen. Birds can be found in woods, pine plantations, agricultural areas, urban and suburban neighborhoods, on or near rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, islands, public and private lands and even the dump.
The consistency of being with the same team each year has its benefits. If you are a repeat counter you will delight in seeing some the same “snowbirds” returning each year. And if you are new you can learn from those who already know what to anticipate. On the personal side, there is a special bond that develops within the team during the experience that is rekindled each year on the same date, an annual reunion.
For all the information you need to know (and more) about this extraordinary citizen science program you can visit the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count website. If you are considering joining a Christmas Bird Count, the Florida Ornithological website has posted a list of locations and dates.
Most (though not all) counts welcome newcomers. If you don’t feel that you know enough about bird identification there is always need for a “recorder.” So, if you have the time and enthusiasm, why not add a CBC to your holiday calendar. There is no better way to learn more about birds, experience a new area and enjoy the camaraderie of a knowledgeable team.
And at the end of the day one counter wrote: “The Christmas Bird Count had left us all tired, yet once again oddly energized having spent all day long doing one of our very favorite things.” With over 70 counts scheduled in Florida alone there are more than enough to fill the 12 days of Christmas!