Help count birds for science during Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count


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The Fayette Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) invites birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

On Dec. 14, birders and nature enthusiasts in Fayette County will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate.

“This is the sixth season of the count in Fayette County,” said Brigitte Hisey, natural resource specialist, Fayette SWCD. You don’t have to be a great birder. We have someone in each group that helps the group. You just have to have an interest.”

This year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count will mobilize over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled in Fayette County will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.

To date, over 300 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with Christmas Bird Count data. Bird-related citizen science efforts are also critical to understanding how birds are responding to a changing climate. This documentation is what enabled Audubon scientists to discover that 314 species of North American birds are threatened. The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and mapping is enabling researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades.

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least 10 volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, which change little from year to year, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.

To sign up for the count, please call or email Brigitte Hisey, 740-636-0279, or email brigitte.hisey@fayette-co-oh.com by Dec. 11.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. One hundred and seventeen years of counting birds is a long time, but the program somehow brings out the best in people, and they stay involved for the long run. So the tradition continues.

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