This weekend: Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Count

We depart from our traditional format this week, in part because outdoor activities are sparse the weekend before Christmas, in part because it’s time for the Christmas Bird Count, one of the biggest — and the longest running — citizen science efforts around.

Look! Up in the sky! (photo courtesy Audubon.org)
Look! Up in the sky! (photo courtesy Audubon.org)

Back in the late 1800s, a popular Christmas activity was the “Side Hunt,” in which hunters would choose sides, then head out and see which side could shoot the most birds. Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-fledgling Audubon Society, liked the idea of going out and looking for birds on Christmas, he just wasn’t keen on shooting them. In 1900, he suggested to his friends that they go out and count the birds instead. Thus was born the Christmas Bird Census, which has since morphed into the Christmas Bird Count.

Today, tens of thousands of volunteers fan out across North America over a three-week period (Dec. 14 through Jan. 5) to count birds. According to Audubon, “The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.”

The count is the single most important effort in keeping tabs on the health of our bird population. And it’s all done by volunteers, some with extensive birding experience, others who don’t know and canary from a cockatoo. At least, at the beginning of the day.

One of the great things about the count for the birding curious is that it’s a good opportunity to get out in the field with experienced birders and learn, by sight and sound, the local bird population. This year, according to the Carolina Bird Club, there are 60 Christmas Bird Counts in North and South Carolina.

For each count, birders typically gather at sunup and are assigned to different spots within a circle 15 miles in diameter. The goal is to spend the entire day tallying birds, by species, by total number. And again, if you don’t know a budgie from a buzzard, worry not. “If you are a beginning birder,” assures Audubon, “you will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.”

Of the 60 CBCs in the Carolinas, nine have already occurred, and 19 are today through Sunday. Counts in North Carolina, with who to contact for details, are:

Today

Rocky Mount

Saturday

  • Gastonia: Steve Tracy, 704.853.0654
  • Greensboro: Elizabeth Link, 336.273.4672
  • Kitty Hawk: Jeff Lewis, 252.216.6336
  • Raleigh: John Connors, 919.733.7450, x602
  • Winston-Salem: Ron Morris, 336.725.1254

Sunday

  • Catawba Valley, Dwayne Martin, Lori Owenby, 828.234.6041, 828.312.4834
  • Durham, Jacob Socolar, Jeff Pippen, 919.636.0326
  • Holly Shelter & Lea-Hutaff, Carson Wood, 910.859.9425
  • Morehead City, John Fussell, jfuss@clis.com
  • Southern Lake Norman, Taylor Piephoff, 704.621.0336
  • Southern Pines, Susan Campbell, 910.695.0651

For more information on these counts and on the remaining counts, visit the CBC Christmas Bird Count web page, here.

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Those are our thoughts on weekend fun. Find more options at the sources listed below.

Coast

CapeFearCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.

NCCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).

Mountains

Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors
Searchable calendar lets you extend your reach to events throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast (or you can just limit it to North Carolina). Also lets you search a boatload of categories, ranging from Hiking, Mountain Biking and Climbing to Trail Running, Triathlon and Road Walking.

The Mountain Times
From the main page, click on “Calendars,” then Main Events.

Todd’s Calendar

Piedmont

Charlotte

Charlotte Observer events calendar
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including Nature, Recreation, Recreation & Wellness, Running

Charlotte Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Triad

GoTriad.com
Comprehensive calendar includes a Sports & Recreation category.

Piedmont Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Triangle

Triangle.com
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including: Birding, Boating, Cycling, Nature, Rec & Wellness, Recreation, Running, Swimming, Tennis, Yoga.

Carolina Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Statewide

Great Outdoor Provision Co.
Calendar includes three weekly events for each of its seven markets: Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Search by market.

Office of Environmental Education
One calendar for the numerous Environmental Education Centers statewide.

North Carolina State Parks
Lets you search for programs at the state’s parks, recreation areas and natural areas by location, by month, by topic. To reach the calendar from the home page, click on “Education,” then “Fun & Free Programs at Parks.”

National Forests in North Carolina
From the home page, click on Carolina Connections for news updates on the state’s four national forests as well as hints on recreational opportunities and a detailed rundown of recreation areas and the amenities at each.

U.S. National Wildlife Refuges
Rundown, by month, of regular activities at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuges in North Carolina.

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