Join The National Audubon Society's 114th Christmas Bird Count
Each year brave and intrepid birders go out into the cold and snow to count birds for the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) with the National Audubon Society. Starting December 14th and going through December 1st people choose to join local birders from their region to help on one day during this rage. Participation is free and you can search for local clubs doing the count on this web page: http://netapp.audubon.org/CBC/public/default.aspx.
Do I Have to Be An Expert Bird Watcher?
No, you only have to have the desire to help, and you must coordinate with a regional coordinator. Many birders love having an extra set of eyes out in the field, even if you're a new birder, and you'll always be paired with at least one expert. If your home is within the boundaries of a search area you can even stay at home and report your sightings!
What is Involved in a Christmas Bird Count?
Here's a printable program overview: http://birds.audubon.org/sites/default/files/documents/cbc_one_pager_2012-10-5-12.pdf
Each count area includes a 15 mile wide circle or zone in which to search. Zone leaders will break up groups to take smaller pieces of these areas. You might be assigned to help with shoreline surveys, forest surveys, field surveys, or along road sides and fields. Bird feeders are also a birder's best friend too!
Depending on your time availability these surveys can run from 4 am-midnight, but you certainly don't have to stay the entire time, it's up to you. Many die-hard birders like to get up early to find the owls or work in 1/2 day chunks with other teams. Usually there is a meet-up, soup-circle, or tally-rally at the end where everyone reports in with their data sheets and they share their sightings and often a warm meal. Even if you're not an expert birder you could help provide a warm dinner for those working to do the survey!
How Does This Data Help Scientists?
Data collected through these surveys allows researchers to find long term population trends for birds of North America, by crowd sourcing a large collection of data using citizen scientists. Information from these counts has been used when creating climate change reports and reports for fish and wildlife management organizations. It has also helped create a "Watch List" of birds that are threatened, declining, or endangered. If you'd like to learn more about how the data is used, and how to access the data visit the Audubon website http://birds.audubon.org/how-christmas-bird-count-helps-birds.
If you're a birder and you'd be interested in helping compile your own bird count here is a link you can check out to learn more about becoming a Data Compiler for your region: http://birds.audubon.org/compilers-everything-you-need-know-run-your-cbc-count.