Enthusiastic bird watchers. Photo courtesy of Beth Cortright
In the 1800’s, many in North America participated in a common holiday tradition of going out on Christmas day and competing to kill as many birds as possible.
At the turn of the 20th century, American ornithologist Frank Chapman suggested that perhaps it would be a better idea to simply count the birds rather than shoot them. Chapman enlisted the help of 26 like-minded bird enthusiasts and in December of 1900 held the first annual Christmas Bird Count.
For the last 116 years, the National Audubon Society has been conducting these Christmas Bird Counts every winter. Volunteers gather to count and identify every bird they can find in a fixed 15-mile diameter circle over the course of one calendar day. Every year has attracted more volunteers than the last as well as more count circles.
This past holiday season drew approximately 75,000 people to counts in over 2,300 circles from the Arctic Circle to the southern tip of South America, including 33 counts in New Mexico. The CBC is now the nation’s longest-running citizen science project and the data from the CBC archives have proven invaluable to ecologists and ornithologists studying the changes in bird populations and ranges over the last century.
The Christmas Bird Count is coming back to Los Alamos for the third time since 1953!
There will be a core group of experienced birders leading field teams to various locations throughout Los Alamos County and surrounding locales for a full day of birdwatching.
The event is open to all experience levels; even if you don’t know how to identify the local birds, the CBC field team leaders can assist. Every volunteer will be assigned to a team that includes at least one expert.
There is no better way to learn how to recognize the local winter resident birds than to spend a day out amongst them. Some teams will be hiking up in the mountains or down to the river, others will take leisurely strolls in town. We can tailor the amount of physical effort required to match your tolerance for physical exertion.
Even if you don’t want to hike at all, we need feeder watchers! If you have bird feeders in your yard and prefer to contribute from the comfort of your home, that’s great! Or, come to the Los Alamos Nature Center and count at their excellent wildlife viewing room. The more people we can get watching birds on December 17, the better.
The count will begin just before sunrise on Saturday, December 17, and will go through sundown. There will be a get-together with pizza after the count where we will compile all of the data from the count teams and share stories about what we saw and heard. There is no charge for participating, though a small donation will be requested if you choose to stay for the pizza.
Anyone interested in taking part in the Christmas Bird Count, either on a field team or as a feeder watcher, should contact Mouser Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.