Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas is coming! Calling all Birders! Christmas is Coming!

Birders, Roger Smith and Brad Dalton, on the 2013 Santee CBC -- Santee National Wildlife Refuge -- December 20. 2013

                 Yee haw!  Yes, Christmas is coming!  And all birders should be doubly excited -- I know that I am!  Not only do we celebrate this important holiday in all the traditional ways --  spending time with family & friends, feasting, caroling, decorating, going to see the lights, shopping, etc. -- we birders have an extra little spark of excitement in our eyes as we anticipate 3 weeks, from December 14 to January 5, of Christmas Bird Counts!  South Carolina serves as a wintering destination for many species that breed further north.  This 115 year old Citizen Science project serves a worthy purpose as we take a census of these birds in their winter habitat.  The data accumulated via these counts help scientists to estimate the health and viability of bird populations and then serve to inform important decisions on methods needed for conservation.

                To help those of you who do not know much about Christmas Bird Counts, I have found 6 short videos on the Audubon site to help you learn more about this rich (and exciting!) opportunity to experience the great outdoors, to see fabulous birds and to contribute to their welfare by participating in a count.  The first 2 videos embedded below will help you to understand the history of this wonderful annual event.

The video below tells the story of one of our oldest birders in the US.  It is an endearing film.  I hope that I am still birding with my beat-up binoculars when I am that old!  Watch and be inspired!

Audubon's Christmas Bird Count told by Chan Robbins from Audubon Science on Vimeo.

         And kids!  We need to encourage the children to go find the birds with us!  They are the future care-takers of this planet and we need to engage their interest in the beauty and in the necessity of conserving our natural world.  When you watch this video, you will see how one Audubon member in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is helping local children to learn about the importance of birds.

Kids who bird on Audubon's Christmas Bird Count from Audubon Science on Vimeo.

              The next video will show you what a South Texas Christmas Bird Count looks like both out in the field and at the countdown afterwards.  Not all Christmas Bird Counts can host countdowns but the feelings of camaraderie and satisfaction are strong in a room of birders having completed the counts for their territories!  It is a positive experience indeed! 

The next two videos show what it is like to count birds during an irruptive year.  An irruptive year is one in which massive numbers of normally northern dwelling birds move further south than usual.  This most often occurs when food supplies are insufficient in their normal winter habitats.  The first of these two videos shows a birder in the snow-covered North Woods of Maine.  You cannot help but note the sheer joy in this man's expressions as he listens and looks for species which in irruptive years move down from Canada! 

Christmas Bird Count Irruptive Species from Audubon Science on Vimeo.

This second of these 2 videos on irruptive species carries an inspirational message as photographer, Bob Sacha, talks about and shows his photos of irruptive owls.  Watch this one and you will be awed and hopefully moved to action.

Audubon CBC-IrruptiveSpecies@BobSacha from Audubon Science on Vimeo.

As he says, these birds are the messengers, and it is our responsibility to act on the message!  And we can start by doing such activities as participating in Christmas Bird Counts and in sharing our love of birding and our desire to conserve the planet for all life forms.

            Finally, while writing this post, I found one more video on Christmas Bird Counts, called Counting on Birds.


This special hour long documentary, which first aired last Fall on New Hampshire Public Television, was produced by NHPT's Windows to the Wild with host Willem Lange, (a impressive nature series similar to our SCETV's Patrick McMillan's Expeditions).
Willem Lange birding in New Hampshire during the filming of Counting on Birds -- Photo credit:  New Hampshire Public Television

The 30 second clip below serves as a short teaser. 

This show traces the history and the goals of the Audubon Christmas bird count and then depicts how people from New Hampshire, Ecuador and Cuba participate in the Christmas Bird Count!  You can actually watch the whole program on line below within this blog.

Or better yet,  by clicking on the  Counting on Birds logo above, you can see the high definition version on the NHTV's site!  For more on this documentary, visit the Counting on Birds website.

            So, Calling all Birders -- novice, expert and everyone in-between!  Christmas is coming!  Christmas Bird Counts begin December 14.  Once you begin, you cannot stop!  I promise -- the CBCs give a whole new meaning to the Christmas season.  You have a 3 week opportunity to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and help with the census taking on our wondrous birds.  Local area (Charleston) residents interested in participating should check for information on the calendar on the Charleston Audubon page.   Carolina birders can make use of the Carolina Bird Clubs list of Christmas Bird Counts to find one close-by.  Others should visit the National Audubon Christmas Bird Site to find a count close to home and to learn more.  Or, you can check with your local birding organizations.

            Carl and I have presently signed up for 5 different counts within a 2 hour drive of home.  I am contemplating adding a 6th one.  This just may be my favorite time of year!  If you could see me, you would see the gleam of excitement and anticipation in my eye.  Come out and experience the joy with us in this best of treasure hunts -- Christmas Bird Counts!  Calling all birders ..... 

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