Those who enjoy bird watching can help document important numbers while celebrating the holidays during the annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Audubon Society.
The event is being held Dec.14 through Jan. 5 and will take place throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Counting locations include several spots in the Brazos River basin, from Bailey County on the Texas-New Mexico border to Freeport on the Gulf Coast and several points in between.
The Brazos basin is a wintertime home to a variety of migratory birds, some of them endangered, and you can help researchers by doing a headcount of birds that you observe. Thousands of other volunteers participate in the event, which is being conducted for the 117th time.
Those who are beginners will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.
The bird count began as an alternative to an old tradition called the Christmas “Side Hunt,” in which hunters would see how many birds they could shoot. The Audubon Society notes that Frank Chapman, a scientist and writer, proposed instead that people identify, record and count the number of birds they saw, starting a new holiday tradition. The event grew from 27 volunteers in 1900 to tens of thousands today, who participate regardless of weather conditions.
The data collected helps researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and others who are interested to study bird populations and to see how they have changed over the years. Information gathered is also used for the WatchList, a joint effort of the Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy, which identifies bird types with declining populations and which may be facing extinction.
Participants must make arrangements to participate in advance with the person organizing the local counts, but anyone can participate. Each count takes place in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. A map of expected counting circles can be viewed here.
Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It's not just a species tally -- all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.
For more information about the event, go here.