Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Count the birds

Christmas Bird Counts set to begin across the area starting Saturday

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 12/18/19

REGIONAL— It may seem like the natural world goes to sleep in a North Country winter, but for the relative handful of bird species that remain here through the worst of the season, the focus …

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Count the birds

Christmas Bird Counts set to begin across the area starting Saturday

Posted

REGIONAL— It may seem like the natural world goes to sleep in a North Country winter, but for the relative handful of bird species that remain here through the worst of the season, the focus now is on finding food and shelter. And for bird enthusiasts around the area for the next two weeks, the focus will be on finding those birds as they go about their quest for survival. It’s all part of the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), now celebrating its 120th year.
The CBC is actually many counts— hundreds, in fact—now held all across the Americas, from the northwestern tip of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic to the Drake Passage off the southern tip of South America. Here in the North Country, counts are planned for Ely, Cook, Isabella, and Aurora.
First up is Ely’s count, set for Sat, Dec. 21, so you’ll want to contact Bill Tefft (218-235-8078) right away if you’d like to take part in this popular count. If you need more notice, there are other area counts coming up over the next ten days. See contact information in the sidebar below.
Each of the Christmas counts is conducted 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.
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 that data becomes more valuable with time and consistency.
You don’t have to be a bird expert, since in many cases you could be teamed up with an experienced birder, which could make the count a great way to expand your knowledge about our feathered neighbors and how to identify them. Winter is a good time to learn to identify our year-round resident birds, since the number of species found in the area this time of year is much lower than during the summer months. So, don’t waste another day sitting at home. Get out and take part in this year’s Christmas Bird Count.

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