December brings excitement to bird watchers everywhere. It marks the three week time period that Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) will occur. This year's 112th counts are scheduled from December 14, 2011 through January 5, 2012.
Christmas bird counts began as a protest against a practice in the late 1800's in which "gunners" would compete with one another to shoot the most birds on Christmas day. This kill did not differentiate what type of bird was killed, any specie was okay.
Ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed the first "Christmas Bird Census" in 1900. Instead of killing birds, the purpose of this count was to record as many birds as could be seen or heard during a 24-hour period. Twenty seven volunteers participated. That is a far cry from the tens of thousands who participate in Christmas counts today.
The counting area consists of a geographic circle 15 miles in diameter. A compiler is in charge of each count circle. On the day chosen by the compiler, volunteers gather within their assigned area of the circle to identify and record birds seen and heard.
At the conclusion of the day, participants meet together and complete a report of their sightings. This report is turned in to CBC sponsor, National Audubon Society. Information gathered from Christmas bird counts makes an enormous contribution to conservation. The data is used by many organizations to assess the status of bird populations.
This year the count known as the Bolivar Christmas Count will be experiencing a 50th birthday. Bill Graber created this count and has been compiler since its inception. Congratulations Bill!