Just like falling leaves, colder temperatures and Christmas songs, the annual migration of birds for the winter is a sign of the season. It’s a great time of the year for bird watching, and those who enjoy that pastime can help out the Audubon Society during the annual Christmas Bird Count. The event is scheduled Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 at locations throughout North America, Texas and the Brazos River basin.
This is the 119th annual bird count. Like all previous events, this year’s count depends on volunteers to provide important information about the numbers and types of birds located in specific areas. The Audubon Society notes that all participants must make arrangements in advance in order for their information to be included in the official tally. Each count takes place in a specific 15-mile diameter circle and is organized by a count compiler. Volunteers follow assigned or agreed upon routes, counting each bird seen or heard that day. Regardless of species, each bird is counted during the day, according to the Audubon Society, which helps to determine the total number of birds within the circle on that day.
Why is the count important? The annual count has made a visible impact on some bird populations. The Audubon Society notes that Christmas Bird Count results helped to highlight rapidly declining numbers of the American Black Duck, which led to hunting restrictions to help the species recover. Also, an increase in the American Bald Eagle population was noted by CBC results following the ban of the pesticide DDT, according to the Audubon Society.
CBC counts were also able to track a substantial increase in the Snowy Owl in the past five years.
Whether you have participated in the bird counts before or not, you are welcome to take part in the event, according to the Audubon Society. Beginners will be able to join a group that includes those with experience in bird watching and counting.
“The Christmas Bird Count is a tradition that everyone can participate in,” said Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Bird Count director. “Adding observations to more than a century of data helps scientists and conservationists discover trends that make our work more impactful. Participating in the Christmas Bird Count is a fun tradition for anyone and everyone.”
In 2017, nearly 77,000 people observed more than 59 million birds during the count, with 2,673 species observed. A new species was recorded during the 2017 CBC for the first time in North America – the Mistle Thrush, which is widespread in Europe.
While that bird was seen far from its usual location, those who observe birds during the CBC may be able to stay much closer to home. Some people will need to travel to participate in the event, while others will not.
“If your home is within the boundaries of a (Christmas Bird Count) circle, then you can stay at home and report the birds that visit your feeder on count day as long as you have made prior arrangement with the count compiler,” according to an Audubon Society web article.
One of the most popular locations for the annual count is Brazos Bend State Park in Fort Bend County, which ranks among the top 5 percent of counts in the nation, according to the Brazos Bend CBC website.
Participation in the event has been free since 2012, so the Audubon Society relies on donations to help make the Christmas Bird Count a success. The count serves as “an early-winter bird census, where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period … to count birds.”
In order for the birds counted to be officially recorded, it is important that participants make arrangements in advance with a circle organizer.
“Since each CBC is a real census, and since the 15-mile diameter circle contains a lot of area to be covered, single-observer counts (except in unusual circumstances) cannot be allowed,” according to the Audubon Society. “To participate in the CBC, you will need to join an existing CBC circle by contacting the compiler in advance of the count day.
A map of the CBC circles, along with contact information, can be found here https://www.audubon.org/conservation/join-christmas-bird-count. Those who want to help count birds but cannot participate in the CBC will have another chance. The Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count will take place in February 2019. More information is available here https://www.audubon.org/conservation/about-great-backyard-bird-count.
More information about the Brazos Bend count can be found here http://www.brazosbendcbc.com/?fbclid=IwAR0zMS9jwi4cBMUIZ8edJ4w6-Kn1k6fdbDyWU_tQ7K7UC1Q95jISLivhU0A.