Tags:FROM THE N.C. AUDUBON (full release)
Armed with binoculars, volunteer birders will soon search for birdlife all over North Carolina as they participate in Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which runs from December 14, 2011 to January 5, 2012. Now in its 112th year, this early-winter bird census is the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world. During the count period, an estimated 60,000 people in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands will identify and count all the birds they see during a 24-hour period.
Fifty-one counts are scheduled throughout North Carolina during the 2011-2012 season. The counts cover the entire state, from the Highlands Plateau in western North Carolina to Bodie-Pea Island on the Outer Banks. The Buncombe County Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 17.
“The Christmas Bird Count is a great way to take a snapshot of how birds are faring in North Carolina and place that in the context of the whole life cycle of birds,” says Curtis Smalling, Important Bird Area Coordinator for Audubon North Carolina. “Last year’s results showed a continued increase in some species that are expanding into North Carolina like Eurasian Collared-Doves and White-winged Doves. And the results also found birds that typically migrate to other places: the Raleigh and Wilmington counts reported Summer Tanagers and a Northern Waterthrush was seen on the Lake Mattamuskeet count. Both of these species are more likely to be encountered on counts that Audubon North Carolina helped establish in Nicaragua, where they usually winter.”
Visit the Carolina Bird Club website to see a Google map of all the count circles in North and South Carolina. Visit Audubon’s website for more information about NC counts, including contact information for count compilers. (See a complete list of North Carolina counts at the end of this release.) Many of the count circles include public lands such as state parks, national wildlife refuges, and national seashores, as well as sites on the NC Birding Trail and within Audubon Important Bird Areas.
During the 2010-2011 CBC, North Carolina participants tallied 223 species and 1,374,000 individual birds. Southport maintained its status as the state leader with 170 species counted. Three other counts exceeded 150 species last year, including Morehead City, Bodie-Pea Island, and Wilmington. Inland leaders included Falls Lake at 105 species for the Piedmont and 84 species on the Henderson County count, which is a good total for the mountain region. Continuing a recent trend, birders saw more hummingbirds last year, reporting over 80 wintering Ruby-throated, 7 Rufous, and a single Calliope Hummingbird (on the New Bern count).
Hundreds of birders volunteer their time and often endure extreme weather during the North Carolina CBC. Three counts last year attracted more than fifty participants, with Jordan Lake taking the prize with 56 participants and the Raleigh and Winston-Salem counts close behind.
Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle or can arrange in advance to count birds at home feeders inside the circle and submit the results to a designated compiler. Accuracy is assured by having new participants join an established group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.
“Audubon was a social network before the world ever heard the term,” notes David Yarnold, Audubon President & CEO. “Each December the buzz from our social network goes up a few decibels, as people with the knowledge and the passion for birds provide what no organization alone can.”
“It’s a globally recognized example of crowd-science,” says Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. Scientists rely on the remarkable trend data of Audubon’s CBC to better understand how birds are faring in North America and beyond our borders. “Data from Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count are at the heart of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies,” adds Dr. Langham; “CBC data have informed the U. S. State of the Birds Report, issued by the Department of the Interior, and modeled after Audubon’s annual reports begun in 2004. For example, in 2009, CBC analyses revealed the dramatic impact climate change is already having on birds across the continent.”
Audubon CBC data not only helps identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action; it reveals success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of the previously endangered Bald Eagle, and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.
The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore (which evolved into Audubon magazine) suggested an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people “hunt” birds only to count them.
Audubon North Carolina is the state office of the National Audubon Society representing 14,000 grassroots members and ten local chapters across the state. With a century of conservation history in North Carolina, Audubon strives to conserve and restore the habitats we share with all wildlife, focusing on the needs of birds. Audubon North Carolina achieves its mission through a blend of science-based research and conservation, education and outreach, and advocacy. Read the full article