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.
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.
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.
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.
Back when William McKinley was president, a first-class postage stamp was $.02 and the champions of college football were the Yale Bulldogs, Frank Chapman thought it might be nice to go out on Christmas Day and look for birds. This was a common occurrence of the day, though the “looking” also involved shooting. Chapman’s idea was to take the gun out of the equation.