Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wild Wednesday ~ Christmas Bird Count

In days of yore, it was a tradition to go out on Christmas day and shoot as many birds and animals as you could. The person with the most corpses on hand at the end of this "side hunt" was the winner. 'Cause nothing says "Christmas" like killing stuff. 

Enter Frank M. Chapman, an officer in the Audubon Society, who in 1900 proposed that instead of killing birds, people should go out on Christmas and count them. Thus the Christmas Bird Count was born. Each year around Christmastime, birders in the Americas head out for one full day of bird censusing. The data gathered over more than 100 years of CBCs helps scientists assess changes in populations over time. It's the original citizen science.

Doesn't it sometimes seem like all of human history is made up of half of humanity doing really terrible things and then the other half trying to repair the damage? The key is to be on the right side of history, I guess. The CBC is on the right side.

C and I participated in a couple of CBCs a long time ago, first in Colorado, and then again after we moved to Maine. Then things got in the way (ahem, kids) and we didn't do a count for years. Last year, as part of my Maine Master Naturalist training, I joined a couple of friends on the count, and then this year I signed C and myself up for the same old route we took 16 or so years ago.

Our count territory was a crooked sliver of pie cut from a big circle drawn around Augusta. It was mostly a rural route, so we mostly drove, but got out and walked now and then, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. E and Z joined us for the first few hours, but when they started getting antsy in the back seat and hurting each other, we took them home (with strict orders to play outside and do their housework--no screen). Over the course of the day, we saw 21 different species. The highlights were a red-tailed hawk (which we found due to an insiders tip-off), two bald eagles, a great blue heron, and a brown creeper.

C made a short video about our experience:

To find out more about the Christmas Bird Count, including how to join in next year, see the Audubon Society.


  1. That's really cool. We live in a very birdy place so I could see doing that, but I don't know if I would be any good at identifying species - I know so little about birds. It might be fun to do with the Girl Scouts, too.

  2. You should definitely look into it, LSM! There are always experienced birders willing to take on newbies.


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