To get outside and forget about the stress of the holidays, why not become a citizen scientist and take part in the Audubon’s 114th Christmas Bird Count?
Whether you live in snow or sun, you can make a difference and help the Audubon and other organizations in their conservation efforts. They use data collected in this wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action.
This annual event began on Christmas Day 1900, when an early officer in the Audubon Society proposed a new holiday tradition, a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds in the holidays instead of hunting them, as was the tradition at the time.
The count starts on December 14, 2013, and goes through January 5, 2014, and there are specific counting days across North America depending on the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circle that you live in. To participate in the count you need to make sure you are in a circle and that you register to be part of the count.
You need to be officially part of the CBC, because this is an official census. There are designated compilers in each CBC circle and counters follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle counting every bird they hear or see all day. You can search for a circle near you on the Get Involved page.
CBC participants are organized into groups by the organizer or compiler of each count. Each field party covers a specific area of the 15-mile diameter circle on a specific route. Anyone is welcome to participate, since compilers arrange field parties so that inexperienced observers are always out with seasoned CBC counters.
Data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and others to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys it provides a picture of how the continentís bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.
If you donít want to take part in the Christmas Bird Count or donít have a CBC circle near you, you can still attract birds to your garden, even in winter. As I have written about before, you can attract more birds by making sure your garden or yard is bird-friendly year-round.
As the National Birdfeeding Society points out, a bird feeder will encourage birds, but landscaping with plants to attract the birds will provide an additional food and shelter source. Even if you donít have a big yard and have a small space, just one tree, some flowers, a birdbath and bird feeder will entice birds to your yard or patio.