REGIONAL—Did you know that the wild turkey population in Minnesota has increased almost ten percent annually since 1979? Or that the evening grosbeak population has declined more than five …
REGIONAL—Did you know that the wild turkey population in Minnesota has increased almost ten percent annually since 1979? Or that the evening grosbeak population has declined more than five percent a year, while purple finch numbers have dropped about 3.5 percent a year during that same period?
If you’ve fed birds, or paid attention to their comings and goings over the years, you may well already have a sense that there aren’t as many evening grosbeaks as in years past. You may have even been surprised in recent years to see a small flock of turkeys picking insects along a North Country highway and recognized how unusual such a sighting would have been in the past.
But putting scientific heft to our anecdotal observations takes much more data, and that’s where the tens of thousands of bird enthusiasts who take part in the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count come in. In fact, the trends cited above are determined mostly from the results of the annual count, now in its 121st year.
Each of the Christmas counts is held within a 15-mile wide count circle, centered on a specific point. 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.
The bird counts are held in a two-week window right around Christmas, and this year the counts in northern St. Louis and Lake counties are all after Christmas. The Cook and Ely area counts are set for Saturday, Dec. 26, while the Aurora count is set for Wednesday, Dec. 30.
The long-running Isabella count is set for Saturday, Jan. 2.
See above for contact information for individual counts.
It’s a fun way to spend a day, but it’s also important scientific work that has helped professional researchers document changes in bird populations over the decades— and those population trends for hundreds of species are now available on Audubon’s CBC website with an interactive archive that lets you explore changes in bird populations at state, national, or global scales. The best way to find the interactive page is to go to Audubon.org and search for “Christmas Bird Count.” Once there, click on the “Christmas Bird Count Trends Viewer.”
Local Christmas bird counts
• ELY—Saturday, Dec. 26. Contact Bill Tefft at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-235-8078
• COOK— Saturday, Dec. 26. Contact Julie Grahn at 218-666-2450 or email@example.com.
• AURORA— Wednesday, Dec. 30. Contact Steve Falkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• ISABELLA—Saturday, Jan. 2. Contact Steve Wilson at 218-753-6110 or email@example.com.