Edmonds Christmas Bird Count – call for bird lovers on Dec. 19

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Surf Scoter on the Edmonds waterfront.
Surf Scoter on the Edmonds waterfront.

The Pilchuck Audubon Society is looking for bird lovers to participate in this year’s annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The Edmonds Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, Dec. 19. Experienced, intermediate and beginning birders living in Edmonds and in South Snohomish County and north King County are invited to participate.

This year, Pilchuck Audubon is sending out a special invitation to young people with a love for birds and wildlife, to participate in the count. Less experienced birders will be placed on teams with experienced birders, where possible.

This year marks the 116th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), the longest-running “citizen science” survey in the world. The Christmas Bird Count gathers critical bird population data that is used to assess the health of bird populations, and to guide conservation actions. According to the National Audubon Society, the CBC is increasingly important in documenting how land-use changes affect birds and the environment, and the effects of climate change on birds. The data collected by CBC observers over the past century is used by researchers, conservation biologists and others to study the long-term health and status of birds across North America.

The data also shows trends in the loss or gain in bird habitat, and helps identify environmental issues that could affect people as well. Declining bird populations in an area can signal an immediate environmental threat, such as contamination of water or aquatic life from pesticides, PCBs and other organochlorinated compounds.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee on a feeder pole.
Chestnut-backed Chickadee on a feeder pole.

How to participate

There are two ways to participate in the Edmonds CBC. You can join a group of birders on a Field Team, covering a specific area within the 15-mile-diameter Edmonds count circle, or independently count birds at your own feeders and in your yard.

To participate on a Field Team, contact Rick Taylor at taylorrl@outlook.com or 425-418-8211, or Bob Schmidt at bobs@world-wide.com or 425-273-1579.

To count in your yard, first confirm that you live within the Edmonds count circle, using this map. Click on the link and when the map is displayed, enter Edmonds in the search box in the upper-right-hand corner of the page. Then click the “—“ button twice to zoom out. Verify that your home is located within the displayed circle.

You will also need to follow specific counting directions that, along with additional general information about the Edmonds CBC, can be found on Pilchuck Audubon’s website at: Detailed Instructions for Home Counters

Please contact Rick or Bob if you have any questions about counting in your yard.

The Christmas Bird Count is a great opportunity to collect bird population data that guides conservation actions, and is also a lot of fun. Part of that fun will be an enjoyable evening at a post-count potluck to share results and stories.

Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk on a feeder in Edmonds.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count history

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is an example of an early American wildlife conservation initiative. The late 1800s were a grim time to be a bird. Walking down the streets of any American city, one might see women wearing hats decorated with a sparrow’s wing, a large plume of great egret feathers or the head of a saw-whet owl. Such “bird-hats” were all the rage in Victorian fashion.

Outrage at the killing of birds for these bird hats led directly to the founding of the Audubon Society. Women who saw the carnage of birds being killed for hats started Audubon chapters in protest. Mrs. Harriet Hemenway, a Boston socialite, organized the first Audubon Society in 1896 in Boston, after reading about the slaughter by “plume hunters” of entire rookeries of egrets for their feathers.

The Christmas season was an especially bad time of the year to be a bird during this era, as a partridge was at real risk of being shot out of the pear tree. Hunters went on Christmas day “side” hunts, where participants formed up sides and went into the woods to see which team could kill the most birds.

In a 1900 issue of “Bird Lore” magazine, which later became Audubon Magazine, Dr. Frank Chapman, an ornithologist and early officer in the Audubon Society, proposed an annual Christmas bird-count as an alternative and a protest to the “side hunts.” This year marks the 116th occurrence of Dr. Chapman’s Christmas Bird Count.

That first CBC was held on Christmas Day in 1900, and included counts in 25 locations. Today, over 50,000 volunteers count birds in more than 2300 locations across North America. Pilchuck Audubon coordinates two counts—the Edmonds count and a count in the Everett/Marysville area.

The Edmonds area CBC was started by Jan van Neil and his wife Sally in 1984. They were the driving force for this CBC for over 20 years until Duane Karna took over in 2011. Starting this year, Rick Taylor and Bob Schmidt are coordinating the Edmonds count.

Please consider taking part in the Edmonds Christmas Bird Count on December 19th. It will be a fun day and a great opportunity to help with a valuable bird conservation tradition.

By Michael McAuliffe

 

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