The Christmas holidays bring us a bevy of welcome annual traditions. Even now I can smell the cookies, hear familiar caroles and see the decorated tree. I hear the western screech owl too, for I also join in the Christmas Bird Count. These are exhaustive one day surveys of all the individuals of every species of bird that can be found in a locality. Christmas Bird Counts began 109 years ago in New York City as a holiday alternative to the excesses of the so-called “side hunt”. From that first inspiration, the Christmas Bird Count has spread to all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and beyond. Last year, most of the 2100 counts were in the US, totting up 57 million individual birds representing nearly 2000 species. Here in Utah, we reported 180 bird species. Provo holds honors as Utah’s first Christmas bird count, held in 1903. Today, hundreds of Utahns participate in 20 local counts, from Saint George north to Bear Lake.
I always join Bridgerland Audubon’s count in Logan, which has been running for 52 years. Last year, we finally topped 100 bird species in our allotted count circle of 150 square miles, the effort of 61 birders. That’s remarkable for a chilly winter’s day, considering that many of our feathered friends, such as hummingbirds, flycatchers and more have hightailed it south for the winter, but note that some northerly species, such as roughlegged hawks, view Utah as the balmy endpoint of their fall migration.
Christmas Bird Counts offer something for everyone, from novices to seasoned birders, and from simple feeder counts to backcountry walkabouts. I’ll be up in the predawn, listening for owls. Every count’s data contributes to long-term research about winter dispersal patterns of birds, their population trends, and impacts of troubles like West Nile virus, which is especially hard on crows, magpies and jays. If you like birds, join in the fun and make the Christmas Bird Count one of your holiday traditions.
All counts are scheduled between December 14 and January 5. Utah’s Christmas Bird counts are listed on our website: just search for Wild About Utah. Our Logan count is on Saturday, December 20. That evening, we’ll flock together for a big potluck and count compilation party.
Photo: Courtesy BridgerlandAudubon.org www.bridgerlandaudubon.org
Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society – Jim Cane
Christmas Bird Counts in Utah, Utahbirds.org, Milt Moody, Webmaster, http://www.utahbirds.org/cbc/cbc.html
The 109th Christmas Bird Count: Citizen Science in Action, National Audubon Society, Inc. http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/index.html
Idaho Circles: http://app.audubon.org/cbcapp/findCircles.jsp?state=US-ID&start=1
Utah Circles: http://app.audubon.org/cbcapp/findCircles.jsp?state=US-UT&start=1