Christmas Bird Count 2016

winter_birding

By Al Crist

Beth and I have had some great experiences this year, but I think the best is yet to come. I always say that the best day of the year is the day of the Tippecanoe Audubon Christmas Bird Count. You should consider giving it a try. It’s really a lot of fun and also a great opportunity to improve your winter birding skills.

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is how Beth and I first got involved with Tippecanoe Audubon. We had both been so-so casual birders for many years and finally decided that we wanted to get a little better at it. We didn’t know anyone in Tippe Audubon but signed up anyway hoping we wouldn’t be too embarrassed by our fairly pitiful birding skills. Well, we needn’t have worried. We had so much fun, met a bunch of helpful and welcoming people, and did learn a lot too. It inspired us to dive deeper into this wonderful hobby and get involved with Tippecanoe Audubon. Truthfully, I’d say I’m now a slightly better than average birder and realize how much I still don’t know. That’s one of the joys of birding; there’s always a lot more to learn.

Here’s how the CBC works at Tippe Audubon. You and your team members (usually 2 to 4 people) will spend most of the day counting birds within your count area, with the vast majority of your time spent in a car slowly cruising city streets and country roads on the lookout for birds. If you’re a novice birder, you’ll probably be paired up with one or two more experienced birders who will be extremely eager to help you out. When you see birds, you stop and count the number of each species. If it’s a good-sized group of birds, you might get out of the car for a few minutes to make sure you’ve spotted everything and then you’re back in the car and off down the road. Snacks and a thermos of hot coffee or tea are a good idea. Beth and I stop for lunch at a local restaurant and afterwards we begin our afternoon session. The afternoon always seems slower, bird-wise, and by 2 or 3 pm most groups are finishing up, but if you’re gung-ho you can count until dark. Enjoy a day when your biggest concern is getting the count and species identification close-to-correct on the birds you see. No other chores. No other worries to think about. A day solely devoted to observing wildlife. What a great day!

The National Audubon Society has been sponsoring the Christmas count since 1900. That’s 115 years, and counting, of data on the population and distribution trends of North American bird species. Last year over 2,300 counts were conducted over the three-week period that counts can be made. The long-term perspective made possible by the CBC is vital for conservationists. It helps to form strategies to protect birds and their habitat — and helps identify environmental issues, with implications for people as well.

Circle December 31st on your calendars and get in touch with Dave Hicks at djhicks@manchester.edu or 260-982-2471 to sign up. Won’t you join us for “the best day of the year”!

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