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REGIONAL— Birders around the area will be pulling out their binoculars and warm winter gear over the next couple weeks to take part in the 123rd annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored and …
REGIONAL— Birders around the area will be pulling out their binoculars and warm winter gear over the next couple weeks to take part in the 123rd annual Christmas Bird Count, sponsored and organized by the Audubon Society.
The annual count is one of the most effective ways for birders of all skill levels to take part in a valuable citizen science project that has helped researchers better document the population trends and shifting ranges of North American birds, and that information isn’t just available to scientists. Audubon has compiled decades worth of summarized data from the annual counts and makes it available on its website, where anyone can look up the population trends of their favorite, or least favorite, birds over time.
Did you know that the red crossbill population in Minnesota has jumped sharply over the past ten years, while the gray jay population has fallen by nearly two-thirds? This is just some of the information that can be easily retrieved on Audubon’s interactive online data base, available at www.audubon.org/conservation/where-have-all-birds-gone.
As the name suggests, the bird counts are held in a two-week window right around Christmas each year, and this year the counts in northern St. Louis and Lake counties, other than Ely are all scheduled for after Christmas. The Ely area count was held early this year on Dec. 15, while the Aurora count is set for Thursday, Dec. 29. The Cook count will be held Saturday, Dec. 31, while the long-running Isabella count is set for Sunday, Jan. 1.
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.
New or prospective birders are always welcome to take part in the Christmas count, which is free of charge, but you’ll want to reach out to the count coordinator beforehand. Don’t worry if you’re just a novice. You could well be teamed up with an experienced birder, which is the best way to learn about bird species in the area and the habitats where you’re likely to find them. It’s a fun way to spend a day, but it’s also important scientific work that has been critically important in documenting changes in bird populations over the decades.
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