Volunteers needed for Christmas Bird Count in Eagle County
As we approach the time of year when traditions abound, there is another tradition that might not yet be on your annual list: the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science survey in the world.
This year marks the 123rd edition of the annual count. Locally, Walking Mountains Science Center is hosting a Christmas Bird Count event on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8:15 a.m. Volunteers will meet at Brush Creek Elementary School in Eagle.
What began as a way to limit the birds being killed in “side hunts” during the holiday season has become one of the greatest citizen science efforts with a truly impressive and powerful data set. In 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed a new version to the annual Christmas “side hunts.” Instead of killing as many birds as possible in one day, the tradition at the time, Chapman suggested identifying and counting as many birds as possible. The Christmas Bird Count was hatched.
Since its first year with fewer than 30 birders, the Christmas Bird Count has expanded greatly and now takes place in North, Central, and South America. It attracts experienced bird watchers and helps novice birders experience the joy of bird watching for the first time.
Counts are held at various locations around the world and each count is assigned a circle that has a diameter of 15 miles. During the survey, volunteers note every different bird species observed and count the number of individuals. With over a century of data, the Christmas Bird Count can track changes in early winter populations across North America, which is invaluable to researchers interested in long-term studies. At the local event, Walking Mountains Science Center will pair less experienced people with those who’ve spent a lot of time behind binoculars.
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During the 2020 Christmas Bird Count in Colorado, a total of 199 bird species were seen during 49 counts across the state. The Eagle Valley Circle saw 35 ring-necked ducks, the first time that species had been observed during the count. Rare and unusual species spotted throughout Colorado included pacific loons, American woodcocks and eastern bluebirds. Who knows what this year’s count has in store for those who participate?
The Eagle Valley Christmas Bird Count will cover two geographic circles around Eagle and Dotsero and will take place on Saturday, Dec. 17. Volunteers will meet at 8:15 a.m. at Brush Creek Elementary School in Eagle where maps and checklists will be distributed along with warm beverages and treats. Surveying will be done both by car and on foot. All ages are welcome.