This year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count will mobilize over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,500 locations across the Western Hemisphere. On December 15, birders and nature enthusiasts in the Winona area will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate. Counters will meet at Mugby Junction (451 Huff Street, Winona) beginning at 7 a.m. to pick up route maps and count forms. New counters will receive instruction and be paired with experienced counters.
Scientists combine Christmas Bird Count data with other bird studies to assess species’ populations, declines, conservation and habitat needs, year-round ranges, land-use strategies, and climate change impacts. The data even helps to create new statistical methods for analyzing citizen science — according to Audubon, and Smithsonian.com.
The Winona Christmas Bird count turned up golden eagles at a time when authorities considered it impossible, and helped document the bald eagle’s recovery during the ‘90s, said Winona Bird Club President Richie Swanson. Swanson stated, “The holiday count creates and sustains friendships. You meet new birders, do something you love together, and continue year after year. We discover and confirm many surprises on the Mississippi Flyway together. We share knowledge and enthusiasm and hold memories of days well spent with nature.”
Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least 10 volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, it is possible to watch feeders instead of following routes.
The Audubon Christmas Bird Count has a curious back-story. It began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the traditional holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. One-hundred nineteen years of counting birds is a long time, but the program somehow brings out the best in people, and they stay involved for the long run. And so the tradition continues.
About Winona Bird Club
The Winona Bird Club has been meeting regularly since 1961. Monthly programs from September through May offer current scientific information and engaging personal experiences related to conservation of birds, mammals, aquatic life, and other aspects of the natural environment. Programs are free and open to the public. Nominal annual membership fees enable the club to offer high quality monthly programs, field trips, the Christmas Bird Count, and a youth environmental camp scholarship. Check out the Winona Bird Club group on Facebook, and/or email treasurer Kathy Glowczewski for membership information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and follow @audubonsociety. For further information, call Lorraine at 452-5727.