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Gift of Christmas birding

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

You, your family, and friends are encouraged to participate in a day with the birds. The purpose of the Christmas Bird Count held between 14 December and 5 January is for people and for birds. Frank Chapman began the annual count in 1900 as an alternative to an annual event where people killed as many birds as possible on Christmas Day to see who could shoot the most.

This year marks the 118th year for the count. It is the longest and largest existing citizen science survey. Over 40,000 people survey specified count circles each year for comradery with others interested in the gift of seeing birds and to gather population data that assists scientists. Discovering winter bird population abundance, distribution, and changes over time helps us understand bird ecology. 

Some bird species are increasing while others are declining. One aspect frequently reported in the news is the change in where birds are found in winter. Several species are occupying more northerly locations as climate changes. The Christmas Bird Count supplements the Breeding Bird Surveys to provide a more complete understanding for species. Our local count is the Saturday after Christmas.

Mark December 30 to search for birds with the Grand Rapids Audubon Club (GRAC). Meet at 7:30 a.m. at Wittenbach/Wege Agriscience and Environmental Education Center (WWC), 11715 Vergennes Rd. in Lowell, Michigan 49331. Field teams depart by 8:00 AM. Return around noon for lunch. Joan Heuvelhorst will prepare a lunch. Lunch costs $5.00 or you can BYO. Choose to participate part or all day. 

The GRAC count circle surveyed has its center at Honey Creek and 2 Mile Rds. A radius of 7.5 miles is consistent among all count circles in North, Central, and South Americas. Our group of 40 to 60 people assembles between 7:30 and 8 a.m. to divide into small survey teams. Each team surveys birds in selected portions of the count circle. Experienced observers assist with identification and help participants learn about species’ nature niches. Most birding is done close to the car as teams drive specified areas. Some birders participate during the morning and others continue all day. 

I compile the data and submit it to the National Audubon Society where statistical analysis is addressed over a period of months and years to discover trends and changes in bird population numbers and movements in the Americas. Participation is free but donations are welcome to support the National Audubon Program.

Wear layers of clothing so you can add or remove items to remain comfortable. Binoculars and field guides are helpful but Audubon members will share if you do not have them.  

Plan on having a great time enjoying birds and bird watchers. Make new friends.

Direct inquiries to count coordinators:

Tom Leggett: (616) 249-3382, email tomleggett@hotmail.com or Ranger Steve (Mueller) 616-696-1753, email odybrook@chartermi.net.

Visit the Grand Rapids Audubon Club website (graud.org).

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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