Tuesday, December 13, 2011


December 17 is the day for the Christmas Bird Count in our area of the country. This count, which takes place all over North America and into Central & South America, is over 100 years old yet many have not heard about it. Around the turn of the 20th C. scientists and bird watchers were becoming concerned about declining bird populations due to the winter tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt". People would choose sides and go afield with their guns. Whichever side brought in the biggest pile of birds won.

Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, of the Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition: A "Christmas Bird Census" that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. Most of the counts were in the eastern part of the US & Canada, though there was one each in California, Colorado & Missouri. Twenty seven people participated finding a total of 89 species.

We have come along way in 111 years!  Today, there are tens of thousands volunteering for the count and over 57 million birds sited in the US alone ( 646 species). For the past 9 years, I have taken my 4-H birding club to scour the island for water birds, small brown birds hiding in the thickets, raptors high above us, and everything in between. Our goal is to find at least 60 species, which usually puts us in the top 10 count for the State of Washington. In February, we will follow up this count with the "Backyard Bird Count" and in May with the "Migration Count". Bird watching, at least in the NW, is now the # one family "sport".

Snowcap -- one of the world's
rarest hummingbirds
Having just returned from Costa Rica, a country with some of the most beautiful birds in the Western Hemisphere, I am grateful that our children learn at an early age an appreciation for God's feathered creatures. In CR  while the people appreciate all who flock to see their birds, they themselves are not that involved in bird watching and in Peru (which I visited 2 years ago- and has the highest # of bird species in the world) even less so.

My friend, the Toucan
Anyone can participate in this annual activity. If you are new to birding, join others more able to identify the local species. All of us can make a difference, and at this time of year when we have so much to be thankful for, we can thank Mr. Chapman for alerting us to more positive ways of protecting our "feathered friends".

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful that hunting has now become watching instead!