Tag Archives: Christmas Bird Count

Getout! Your Friday Nudge for Weekend Adventure

We live less than a half mile from Occoneechee State Natural Area in Hillsborough, and I either hike or run there a couple times a week. Though I generally like to mix things up on trail I do regularly — hiking clockwise one time, counterclockwise the next — I have the same routine at Occoneechee: I enter from the neighborhood entrance off Eno Mountain Road, then take the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, Overlook Trail and Chestnut Trail back to the Loop Trail, which brings me around the west side of the mountain to the Eno River for the hike’s highlight: a 75-yard stretch beneath a north-facing cliff that is perpetually green. Green with holly and ferns, which are common in these parts, but also with mountain laurel, with rhododendron, and even a narrow carpet of galax. For this brief stretch the trail leaves the Piedmont for the Southern Appalachians. read more

This weekend: Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Count

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

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.

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.

* * *

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 read more

This weekend: Walk into history, ID your birds, a winter summit

pic1

This is a weekend for just about anyone. At the coast, take a mellow walk into the past in downtown Wilmington. In the Piedmont, brush up on your bird awareness for the upcoming census. In the mountains, strap on your crampons for a high country winter hike.

Coast

Often when we think of getting a little exercise on foot we think of putting on the hiking boots and fleece and hitting the trail, or digging out the windsuit for an early morning stroll around the mall. In short, we think workout, we think sweat.

But there are more subtle forms of walking exercise, one of which is Saturday’s Walking Tour of Historic Wilmington in … historic Wilmington. It’s a 1.5-hour walk that will cover roughly 12 blocks of downtown Wilmington, visiting homes, churches, and other structures of historical and archaeological significance. You’ll be so caught up learning about these structures and the roles they played in Wilmington’s development that you won’t feel like you’ve walked a mile and a half.

Logistics: Saturday, Feb. 7, 10 a.m., meets at the Latimer House Museum (pictured), 126 S. Third St., Wilmington. $10. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 59.

Piedmont

Citizen science is a great thing. Those of without formal training in an area are nonetheless deputized to help with some basic data collection. In the case of The Great Backyard Bird Count, for instance, for four days in February we’re all brought on board to help count birds, right in our own backyards. It’s a somewhat less formal way of tracking bird populations than the annual Christmas Bird Count, which also enlists amateurs but is overseen by experienced birders.

But even while no expertise is required for The Great Backyard Bird Count, many of us feel ill-equipped to make key bird identifications: Is that a robin or a condor, a woodpecker or a penguin? A little direction, please?

A little direction is what the folks at Raven Rock State Park will be providing Saturday in a Backyard Birds clinic. Bring your binos and learn how to make these important distinctions, by sight and by sound.

Logistics: Saturday, Feb. 1, 1 p.m., Raven Rock State Park, Lillington. For more information and to register: 910.893.4888

Saturday forecast: High of 59, sunny.

Mountains

Here’s something you don’t always get to do on a winter’s day: take a guided hike in the Roan Mountain area, including a hike out to Grassy Ridge at 6,400 feet.

Not surprisingly, this hike is offered by the High Peaks Trail Association, a group of old hands at high-country hiking. Although the weather forecast is promising (see promising Saturday forecast below), it will be cold and windy. But it’s also supposed to be clear, offering the great views you hope for when you hike the three balds — Jane, Round and Grassy — from Carvers Gap. Bundle up for this 5-mile round-trip hike and make sure your memory card is clear.

Logistics: Saturday, Feb. 7, 8:30 a.m. meeting time in Burnsville for the drive up. For more information, contact Hike Leader Robert Branch at 828.682.3102 or rbranch18@aol.com. Read a write-up on the hike in the Asheville Citizen-Times, here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 41, winds from 30- to 35 miles per hour.

* * *

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

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 costal 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 read more

This weekend is for the birds

Northern pintails in flight. Photo courtesy N.C. State Parks

With the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count in full swing we’ve got birds on the mind this weekend. For birders, amateurs and experienced alike, it’s an especially good time to do the count: Migrants from northern climes are descending upon the state, particularly the coastal part, to wait out the winter months, adding even more variety to the state’s mix. And, as it turns out, it’s an especially good time for birding programs.

Coast

We mentioned the winter migrants flocking to the coast. It’s all very exciting, but who are these snowbirds? Where do they come from? What is it they like our coast? Those questions and more will be answered at Saturday’s “Winter Birding Basics” at Dismal Swamp State Park in the northeast corner of the state.

Logistics: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2 p.m. Dismal Swamp State Park, South Mills. Free. More info: 252.771.6593

Saturday forecast: High of 58 with sunny skies.

Piedmont

The program Friday morning at Umstead State Park in Raleigh is called “Birding for the Young,” but we’re guessing mom and dad, grandma and grandad, will be able to learn a thing or two about the birds common to the Piedmont in winter. Minimum age is 5; there is no maximum.

Logistics: Friday, Dec. 27, 10:30 a.m. Umstead State Park, Raleigh. Free, but preregistration required, by calling 919.571.4170.

Saturday forecast: High of 51, mix of clouds and sunshine.

Mountains

Since we mentioned that the Christmas Bird Count is currently on, we would be remiss not to include at least one count for this weekend, and to let you know where you can find out about others. The one count this weekend in the mountains is Sunday in Henderson County. The way the count works is this: citizen scientists such as yourselves fan out over an area 15 miles in diameter and conduct an inventory of the birds they see. Aren’t that great at identifying birds? Not a problem, since each count will have plenty of experienced birders on hand who can help those of you earning your feathers.

Logistics: Sunday, Dec. 29. Contact organizer Wayne Forsythe for details and to be assigned a coverage area: 828.697.6628 or wforsythe@morrisbb.net . To find out about other local Christmas Bird Counts, visit the Carolina Bird Club website.

Sunday forecast: High of 46, occasional rain.

* * *

Those are our thoughts on the weekend. 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 costal 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 read more

Make Christmas count, for the birds’ sake

Aficionados and amateurs alike are welcome at the Christmas Bird Count.

At the turn of the 20th century, it was a big deal to go out on Christmas Day and look for birds. At the time, though, the “looking”  involved bringing a shotgun.
Frank Chapman was a fan of the custom, though not necessarily the gun part. So on Christmas Day 1899 he got the idea to go out and identify and count the birds, not shoot them. The idea caught on and 114 years later tens of thousands of folks throughout the Western Hemisphere take to the outdoors to look for birds as part of the annual Christmas Bird Count. The exercise helps scientists keeps tabs on the bird population and identify potentially harmful developments in the bird world.
Here’s how it works: Each count is assigned an area 15 miles in diameter. Volunteers spend the day canvassing the area counting as many different birds as they can find. The results are then shipped to the National Audubon for analysis. You needn’t be an accomplished birder to participate; In fact, one of the great things about the count is that it often gives amateurs an opportunity to hang with and learn from accomplished birders. Not to mention the chance to lurk about the woods all day in search of nature.
The count occurs over a three-week period, this year ending Jan. 5. From the Carolina Bird Club website we’ve culled the counts remaining in North Carolina.  For the full list of counts in North Carolina (and South), visit their site.
For more about the count, visit the Audubon CBC site here.

Friday

  • Camp Lejeune, John DeLuca , john.j.deluca@usmc.mil
  • Grandfather Mountain, Jesse Pope, highcountrybirder@yahoo.com, 828.733.3224
  • Rocky Mount, Brian Bockhahn, birdranger248@gmail.com, 919.676.1027
  • read more