Christmas Bird Count

Peace River Audubon’s 2021 Christmas Bird Count – Saturday, December 18,  2021

Peace River Audubon’s 2021 Christmas Bird Count will be on Saturday, December 18th and encompasses a fifteen mile diameter circle, the center point being approximately downtown Punta Gorda. The circle is divided into about 12 areas, the furthest south areas being Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC) and Cecil B Webb preserve. There are three water areas: the southern part of Charlotte Harbor including the area around Alligator Creek; the northern part of the Harbor; and the Peace River from the US 41 bridge. Each area is headed up by an individual who determines where their group goes in their particular area, where and when they meet. In some cases they break up into smaller groups covering particular areas, such as a golf course. Most groups start about 7 AM and go until about noon. Some go out again later in the afternoon to count birds coming in for the evening. The more people we have out counting the more accurate our survey of the birds in our area will be.

We need volunteers, it does not matter what level of birder you are, you will be with a group of about four other birders. If you can only do it part of the day that is fine too. If you want you can do a feeder watch in your own yard. If you have friends who might be interested, we would be able to use them as well. In 2020 our over 50 participants saw 125 species and over 22,000 birds, and with your help we will be able to surpass those numbers.

To sign up for the bird count contact: Tony Licata 1500 San Marino Ct Punta Gorda 33950, 941-505-9775, email aflicata02@gmail.com.

History of the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (from National Audubon Society’s web site)

Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition – a “Christmas Bird Census”- that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank M. Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined.

How Christmas Bird Count Helps Protect Species and Their Habitat

The data collected by 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. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

The long term perspective made possible by the Christmas Bird Count is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat – and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, local trends in bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from improper use of pesticides.

In the 1980’s CBC data documented the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck, after which conservation measures were put into effect to reduce hunting pressure on this species. More recently, in 2009, the data were instrumental in Audubon’s Birds & Climate Change analysis, which documented range shifts of bird species over time. Also in 2009 CBC data were instrumental in the collaborative report by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – State of the Birds 2009.

 

Peace River Audubon Society results are presented to all members at a social/meeting about one week after the count, as well as on this website and our social media.  To see results from the National Audubon Society click here.

The 2020 Christmas Bird Count Slideshow is now available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArieiWbi_-E. Many thanks to Eleanor and Bill Marr, Larry Behrens, and Tony Licata for all of their hard work and for making this presentation.

Christmas Bird Count News & Results

 

History

By Malcolm Simons

 The venerable Christmas Bird Count is older than I am! Anything that falls within that category is bound to be pretty old—actually quite a bit older in this case, as it passed its 100th birthday in the year 2000. It started as something of a lark, when a small group of birders in Brooklyn and Central Park, New York, thought that it would be fun to see how many birds they could count on Christmas Day…instead of the then-popular pastime of seeing how many birds they could shoot in one day! Incidentally, the term “birder” originally applied to someone who hunted birds, rather than to one who merely observed or counted them.

The idea quickly spread to other groups of people interested in birds in Boston and other New England locations, and eventually to many parts of the country. Today it extends to all 50 states, all of the provinces of Canada, many Caribbean and Central American countries, as well as a few countries on the northern fringe of South America.

It was originally regarded by true Ornithologists as a harmless pastime, with little real scientific value, due to a lack of standardized protocols, uncertain reporting methods, and a wide variation of expertise among those taking part. These problems continue to plague it, but are being improved upon every year. Improved binoculars, scopes, tapes and field guides have greatly improved the ac-curacy of identification. But careful monitoring by leaders and compilers is still necessary in order to avoid wishful thinking in the reports. But the scientists have gradually come to realize that its greatest strength lies in the fact that it is the longest running continuous census of any form of life on the face of the earth! Over the long scope of more than a century, the little glitches inherent in such a widespread volunteer effort tend to even out, and we are left with a very valuable base of data. This value was greatly enhanced after the middle of the past century when computerized storage and analysis of data became available. Today all of the Christmas Bird Count data is available to scientists from all over the world who may be interested in pursuing long-term studies of bird populations and distribution.

For more on the history, please visit the the National Audubon Society CBC website.