It’s that time of year again.
No, I’m not referring to Black this, or Cyber that. I’m talking about the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which also happens to be the world’s oldest continuous citizen science project.
Now in its 114th year, the Audubon Society’s CBC has produced astonishing amounts of data for bird conservation. For the 111th count (the most recent year for which a formal summary is available), birds were counted at 2215 separate locations in Canada, the US, and South and Central America. In total, counters spotted more than 61 million birds that season.
The data is used to monitor bird populations to check for trends, and has been instrumental in devising policy. For example, when it was discovered that American Black Duck wintering populations were in decline, changes were made to hunting rules to protect the species.
The count takes place from Dec 14, 2013 to January 5, 2014. To participate, you need to sign up at the Audubon Society website to find a count location near you. (To search for locations near you before registering, you can use this link.) You’ll be asked to follow a predetermined route through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird you see or hear all day. If you happen to live within a circle, you can also register and submit a count of birds at your feeder. Each count is conducted in one calendar day; data is then collected by the local compiler and sent back to the Society.
Not an experienced birder? No problem. Counters are organized into field parties such that newbies are put together with experienced birders and each party covers a part of a circle. You’ll be in good (although possibly chilly) hands.