Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlife
From December 14, 2009 through January 5, 2010, bird lovers in Massachusetts can participate in the nation’s longest running wildlife survey, the Christmas Bird Count. Each year families, friends, birders, and scientists – armed with binoculars and bird guides – go outdoors to count the number of species and the number of individual birds they see in a day. The data collected by bird observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.
While there are specific procedures to follow, the Christmas Bird Count is open to everyone. In Massachusetts, there are 33 geographic count circles where the bird counts occur. Each count circle is coordinated by an experienced count compiler. Beginning birders can join a group that includes at least one or two experienced birdwatchers in charge of covering a portion of the circle. If your home is within the boundaries of a count circle, you can report the birds visiting your feeder. If you have never been on a Christmas Bird Count before, locate and contact the local count compiler to find out how you can participate.
I've taken part in some Christmas Bird Counts in past years and as a member of the Forbush Bird Club, I'm hoping to be assigned to the Wachusett Reservoir with other birders for a portion of the Worcester circle in mid-December. There's an excellent chance we'll see an eagle and some of the diving ducks that are making their winter appearance in the area.
Visit the MassBird website for information about local count compilers and birding clubs in your area. Click here for a very useful list of Frequently Asked Questions with more details and national count results on National Audubon’s web page.
A black-capped chickadee is pictured above.