Thursday, October 29, 2009

110th Christmas Bird Count

The 110th Christmas Bird Count (picture & article by Nancy Lloyd)

Since December 25,1900, the Christmas Bird Count has been a tradition that has gone from sparing birds from wanton slaughter to helping birds by tracking population trends. The Christmas Day “side hunt” was a tradition of going out with friends and shooting as many birds as you could. The fledgling Audubon Society and well-known ornithologist Frank Chapman managed to transform this tradition into counting, rather than shooting, the birds. The data compiled on modern Christmas Bird Counts aid scientists by recording the winter bird population trends, which can indicate shifts in climate, effects of pollution, decline in critical habitats, etc.

Nowadays, the CBC is held on a day chosen between December 14th and January 5th. The count area is determined by selecting a predetermined 15-mile diameter circle and assigning a Compiler to that circle. Anyone can participate. You can go out with a team or stay at home and watch your feeders, as long as your home is within the circle. If you are a beginning birder, you’ll be in a group with more experienced birders that can help identify the birds you see. Spotting the birds is often the hardest part. You never know what you’re going to get yourself into. Last year’s count was a perfect example. The previous night, it had been raining, but by 4:30 am, the temperature had dropped to barely above zero. The day turned out to be sunny, but windy and bitter cold. Birds don’t like those conditions any more than we do, so the birding was tough. We still got out to a lot of the sheltered areas and found pockets of birds. We even had trouble finding some of the common species. It’s a pathetic birding day when you rejoice because you finally flushed a small flock of pigeons in a Jewel parking lot. But, hey, it added another species to the tally. Other years, we’ve had to deal with deep snow or pouring rain. Or the weather could be perfect: sunny, mild temperatures, light winds.

The count day for the Barrington area this year is December 14th. The compiler for the Barrington Area is Duane Heaton. He organizes the count teams, collects their results and sends the report to National Audubon. Depending on how many people volunteer, there may be a lot of area to cover. Deer Grove Forest Preserve, Paul Douglas Forest Preserve, Margreth Riemer Reservoir, Hamilton Park and Harper College are typically included in the count. The more teams there are, the more area can be covered. There is a $5 fee to cover the administrative costs. To participate or to report the counts at your feeders, contact Duane Heaton. You can also find out about other compilers in your area and when their counts take place by going to the Audubon website (

Duane Heaton: (847) 358-5856 or email:

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