Each year around Christmas time, groups of birders across the country and around the world participate in a winter count of the birds in their areas. They spread out over an area 15 miles in diameter to count their observations. The data is compiled by the Audubon Society and a report is issued each year. The count has bene conducted each December since Christmas Day in the year 1900, making this one of the longest-running citizen science effort in the world!
I have been participating in my local count for the past dozen years or so. My assigned route is southwest of Grantstburg, and encompasses most of Fish Lake Wildlife Area. We usually do our count a week or so before Christmas, and our count this year took place on Saturday, Dec. 14th.
I was worried that all the snow we have gotten would impede my count since much of my route is within the wildlife area and the roads do not alway get plowed, but luckily they were cleared of the larger amounts of snowfall we had over a week prior.
The group of observers meet up for lunch and to compare notes on our observations, and it turned out that my route provided a good number of birds compared to most other teams in my area. My list included 18 species, most of which were not surprises. I saw one Rough-legged Hawk and one Red-tailed Hawk, and the best bird was a Great-horned Owl in broad daylight. Otherwise it was mostly Blue Jays and Chickadees. My list will be added to the others, and sent in to Audubon and included in their annual report.
The first Christmas Bird Count was conducted by 27 people in 25 different locations across North America and recorded 90 species. Today more than 30,000 people worldwide participate and count nearly 2500 species and over 65 million individual birds each year. If you want to help next year, contact your local chapter of the Audubon Society.