This holiday season marks the 116th annual Christmas Bird Count, a favorite tradition among Vermont’s birding community. Birders in the state are encouraged to participate in the count, which begins on Dec. 14 and runs through Jan. 5.
Even novice birdwatchers can participate as every event is led by an experienced birder. Organizers and participants include birders and biologists from Audubon Vermont, the North Branch Nature Center, the Northwoods Stewardship Center and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.
“The Christmas Bird Count is a great way to join with friends and family to be part of an historic national bird monitoring project that helps provide a snapshot of where birds are wintering from year to year,” said John Buck, wildlife biologist for Vermont Fish and Wildlife, in a press release. “Participating in the count can be especially rewarding during years when there are irruptions, or mass migrations of an unusual species to Vermont, such as redpolls or snowy owls.”
In Vermont, more than a dozen count areas and dates are available where birders gather together to conduct the Christmas Bird Count. The dates and contract information for each event are listed on the Vermont eBird website at www.tinyurl.com/XmasBirdVt15.
“The Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running citizen science projects in the country and possibly in the world,” said Mark LaBarr, conservation program manager for Audubon Vermont, in a press release. “Not only does it provide important data for scientists, but it’s also a great time for folks who participate.”
The Christmas Bird Count originated in 1900 with ornithologist Frank Chapman, an officer in the Audubon Society, who updated what had been a traditional Christmas morning bird hunt to include a census of the wintering locations of various bird species. The count started with just 27 observers and has grown into one of the largest birding events in the world, with tens of thousands of people participating every year.
“This is an enjoyable way to spend a winter day and it’s also a great opportunity to see different birds and learn more about them,” Buck said in a press release. “I’d encourage all Vermonters who are looking for a fun way to see wildlife and participate in citizen science this holiday season to grab their binoculars and join in on this year’s annual Christmas Bird Count.”