Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Bird Count

History of Christmas Bird Count
The first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was initiated by Frank Chapman, an officer at the newly formed National Audubon Society, on December 25, 1900. Before the turn of the 20th century, people would celebrate Christmas by killing birds and whoever brought the most feathers of all kinds would win the contest. Frank Chapman decided to end this tradition by conserving birds instead of killing them. Since then, CBC has been conducted over 100 years (1900- to present) with over 36 participant countries today. The results throughout the years provide valuable data for the winter ranges of birds.

The method of CBC
Counts can be conducted at any time between Dec 14 to January 5. Each count circle is defined a diameter of 15 miles or 24 kilometers of an area and count is performed by a compiler with volunteers. The compiler will break volunteers into smaller groups. These groups will follow their assigned routes and perform the bird count. The data and weather condition will be submitted to National Audubon Society. There is a $5 donation for each participant age 18 and older. Fee is to support the publication of the data in Christmas Bird Count Issue of National Audubon Society Field Notes. Feeder watchers are not required to pay the fee.

I did my first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) at the newly opened Big Creek Greenway in South Forsyth County on Christmas day. I thought there would not have too many people during the holiday. I was then surprised to see that there were a lot of folks out in the park on Christmas day. There are total five phases of this park project and now phase 1, 2 and 3 are open to the public. Not like the Big Creek Greenway Trail in Alpharetta/Roswell, Forsyth county Big Creek Greenway is a 12-foot wide concret and boardwalk path wandering through a deciduous forest and the Big Creek and expands about 6.8 miles for the phase 1-3. It will be a total 15 mile long trail at the completion of phase 4 and 5. See the slide show below or you may click the right bottom corner to see detail of each picture taken during my walk. There are restrooms at both trailhead entrances located separately at Bethelview Rd and McFarland Rd. See the Trail map here.

During my CBC, I spotted over 50 Cedar Waxwings, Woodpecker family reunion (10 Downy, 6 Norther Flickers, 6 Red-bellied)with total 21 species of birds in two hours. I thought if I had more people with me that day, I might have more species.

Get the historical CBC data here:
Make a Graph
by Count Cirlce
by Species
Or find historical results on Map

Final note, I sent out an email to ask Joel McNeal (one of the regional reviewers) how to count birds. Trust me, it is not easy as most people think. Joel suggested this cool game at Bird Counting Game for a practice. After trying about 20 minutes, my error rate dropped to under 10%. I will be curious in finding out other people's result after playing this game. Also read on Bird Counting 201 from eBird for a good guideline regarding how to count birds. 

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