Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Christmas Bird Counts Are Now in Progress
December 19, 2009
by Steve Grinley
One of the more exciting and historic birding events of the year is the annual Christmas Bird Count. The Christmas Count is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The 110th CBC began this past Monday (with one in Sturbridge, MA) and continues through the fifth of January. Groups of birders and individuals count species and the number of birds throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The results of the Christmas Bird Count is the longest running database in ornithology, representing over a century of data, and reveals trends of winter bird populations. Over 50,000 observers participated in this all day census. The first count was held on Christmas Day in 1900 and was conducted in 27 different communities- including three in Massachusetts. Today, thirty-four Count circles are entirely or partially in Massachusetts.
Each Count circle is 15 miles in radius and, locally, there are Counts on Cape Ann, which is tomorrow (Sunday) and the Newburyport count is Sunday, December 27. You can participate in a count by joining a team in the field, or reporting birds at your feeders. There is a $5.00 fee per field participant per count. Feeder watchers do not need to pay the fee, and all observers 18 and under may count for free. These fees help to cover the costs of generating materials for compilers, producing an annual CBC summary issue, and maintaining the CBC web site and database. There is a Countdown at the end of the day when all the teams in a Count circle gather to tally their day‘s findings.
This should prove to be an interesting count year. Up until a week or two ago, the milder than normal weather had kept many fresh water lakes and ponds open, and duck numbers could be strong. That is, unless the continued cold weather freezes the fresh water and drives the waterfowl out. The milder weather and ample food supply up north has also delayed winter migrants such as bald eagles, snowy owls and winter finches from arriving in Massachusetts in any significant numbers. Only one snowy owl has been seen on Plum Island so far, but maybe the count will turn up more. Few bald eagles have been spotted yet this season.
Many folks have commented on the lack of activity at their feeders, but the recent cold snap is changing that. If the potential snow storm materializes this weekend, it will drive even more birds to feeders. There still seems to be natural seed available, as well as good crops of winterberry, privet, and other wintering fruit. Good counts of fruit-eating birds should be expected. If you have any interesting birds in your yard or at your feeders, you may consider calling or E-mailing the Count compiler to let them know. If you see a group of people with binoculars walking around your neighborhood during the next couple of weeks, you can rest assured that they are just taking a census of the birds.
If you are would like to participate in the Cape Ann Count, contact Jim Barber at email@example.com. For the Newburyport Count, you can contact the compiler, Tom Young at 603-424-4512 or by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions or would like additional information, you can also contact me at the store. As I do each year, I will follow-up in a few weeks with the Count results once they become available.
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