EGIONAL—Dust off your binoculars and pull out your long johns. The Christmas bird count season is nigh. This year marks the 118th consecutive bird count, a tradition begun by the National Audubon …
REGIONAL—Dust off your binoculars and pull out your long johns. The Christmas bird count season is nigh. This year marks the 118th consecutive bird count, a tradition begun by the National Audubon Society in 1900 as an alternative to News Year Day bird “shoots,” which were common entertainment at the time.
Instead of shooting birds, Audubon members started counting them and over the years their efforts have become one of the largest and certainly longest-running citizen science projects in the world. Now expanded across the globe, it annually gets tens of thousands of birders, including many here in the North Country, out into the field every year between mid-December and early January.
For area birders, the North Country offers plenty of opportunities to take part in a CBC. First up is the Ely count, set for this Saturday, Dec. 23. The Cook count is set for Saturday, Dec. 30, which is followed by the famed Isabella count, set for Sunday, Dec. 31. Finishing up is the Eagles Nest area count, set for Thursday, Jan. 4. (see accompanying chart for contacts on the count coordinators).
The Eagles Nest count may be centered in Eagles Nest Township, but each count encompasses a 15-mile wide “count circle,” centered on a specific point.
The Eagles Nest count circle includes a large swath of Embarrass as well as Breitung Township, and anyone interested in covering these areas should contact count coordinator Beth Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ely-based ornithologist Bill Tefft, who helps with the Eagles Nest count, said they are particularly interested in finding people to cover the Tower-Soudan area.
CBC participants count all the birds they see on that day within the count circle.
Some birders spend the day skiing or snowshoeing through the woods. Others drive the backroads, and still others count the birds at their feeders from the comfort of their living room.
While the count is open to all and is free of charge, all participants will want to contact the count compiler ahead of time so they know where you plan to count, or can assign you a count area. Many count groups have a get-together at the end of the day to share snacks or a meal, swap stories of their adventures, and tally their birds.
In any of the CBC count circles, organizers can tally birds seen on the count day, as well as birds seen within the count circle during the count week. Anyone within the count circle can call count organizers with unusual birds they might have spotted during the count week.
So far, the winter season has been a good one for northern finches, according to Tefft. “Pine grosbeaks appear to be around in good numbers,” he said. There have also been numerous reports of modest flocks of crossbills, which are feeding on spruce and red pine cones. “We know that across the state, there were reports of white-winged crossbills as well,” said Tefft. Redpolls have also been showing up at feeders a bit earlier than usual this year.
Red-breasted nuthatches, which are known to be highly cyclical in the area, appear to be experiencing an up year, noted Tefft.
So get outside and enjoy the winter season!