Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Bird Count

Two Common Loons were seen on Bolton Landing’s 2010-2011 CBC.  One was seen on the Old Forge count, which is unusual for the time of year.  This winter-plumage COLO was photographed in early January.  (© Dave Spier)

Christmas Bird Count -- © Dave Spier

It's time again for the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  Not that it actually occurs on Christmas Day anymore, but now it can be any day from December 14 through January 5 (i.e., 11 days before and after Christmas).  The CBC was invented in 1900 as an alternative to the Christmas side hunt in which teams of men went out and shot everything in sight.  The biggest pile of feathered and furred animals won.  More of the history can be found on the Audubon website.  You also can follow links to individual counts and past results.

The Christmas Bird Count is an annual citizen-science project now in its 112th year.  Such a long-term perspective allows ornithologists to monitor population trends - some good, some bad.  Please consider joining one of the five local counts inside the Adirondack Blue Line [note: the Ferrisburg, VT CBC circle extends west across Lake Champlain into the Adirondacks], or one of the many peripheral counts in New York if you can make it.  If you lack confidence, it's often possible to be paired with an experienced observer.

Counts inside the Blue Line:

Bolton Landing - code NYBL
Elizabethtown - code NYEZ (Sun., Dec. 18)
[Ferrisburg, VT - code VTFE (Sat., Dec. 17)]
Old Forge - code NYOF
Saranac Lake - code NYSL (Sun., Jan. 1)

Closest peripheral counts:

Fort Plain (Fri., Dec. 30)
Massena-Cornwall - code NYMC (Tue., Dec. 27)
Plattsburgh - code NYPL (Sun., Dec. 18)
Saratoga Spa - code NYSS
Thousand Islands - code ONTI
Watertown - code NYWA
Wilson-Lake Plains - code NYWL

Counts are conducted in predetermined 15-mile diameter circles during a 24-hour period (midnight to midnight).  In fact you can start at midnight by listening for owls! (but most people wait till at least dawn).  For easier coverage, the circles are divided into sectors (sections) and participants can bird as long (or short) as desired, but time and any mileage must be recorded.  To cover administrative costs and keep the count going there is a $5 participation fee for anyone over 18.

If you live within the 15-mile diameter circle of a particular count, you also can choose to stay home and just watch your feeders and count all the yard-birds including any fly-overs.  All species count.  Keep track of the maximum number of individual birds of each species seen and the length of time you spend watching for birds.  Contact the compiler in advance so he/she knows to expect your data; final results can be phoned in the evening.

(Most) counts are followed by a compilation dinner or meeting.  For example, the E-town post-count meeting will be at the Deers Head Inn Restaurant (7552 Court Street) in Elizabethtown, NY around 5:00 pm.  Contact Charlotte Demers in advance.  For the Massena-Cornwall CBC, contact Eileen Wheeler.  For Fort Plain, it's Tom Salo.  For Saranac Lake, Larry Master.

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