It was a cool, misty morning and I was up a bit earlier than usual taking my morning walk with my dog. A “click, click, whir” caught my attention from far up above. I knew it to be the sound of Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna).
I looked for them and discovered they were dancing in and out of a Eucalyptus tree very high up. What were they so interested in, I wondered. Sure enough, it was flowers; the tree was in bloom with lovely soft, red flowers. I watched as an Anna’s Hummingbird landed on the power line and rested above my head.
Photo used with permission Las Pilitas Nursery
Just then, a man with a clipboard approached. It was one of my neighbors. I pointed out the hummingbirds. He too was looking for birds. As it turned out, my neighbor was on the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) counting birds in our part of Topanga Canyon, California. December 18th was his day to do the area, he told me.
Apparently, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is done every year all across the nation on days varying from Dec. 14th to January 5th. It has been done for 112 years. My region is Malibu, California. So the numbers my neighbor comes up with on just that one day in our part of Topanga Canyon will be added to the numbers for other participants and a summary compiled for the Malibu region.
The purpose of the CBC is to see which birds populate an area and how the population differs from one year to the next. There have been many changes to winter bird populations since the CBC began. Decades of data are helping Audubon scientists come up with new strategies for protecting birds and bird habitats. Of important note, analysis of the past 40 years of data compiled by citizen bird counters, has shown a widespread movement of many birds northward and inland (58% of bird species that winter on the continent since 1966). This reflects changes caused by global climate change.
Christmas Bird Count Citizen Participation: It is possible for bird lovers across the nation to take part in the Audubon CBC. If you want to participate, you can find your CBC region here. If you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group “count circle” that has at least one experienced birdwatcher.
So I asked my neighbor what he had found of interest so far on his morning walk. We have 160 species to count in the winter depending where in Malibu you are. Malibu region is compromised of many ecosystems: including nearshore waters, coastal strand, coastal estuary, coastal sage scrub, dry chaparral, riparian, freshwater lake, oak woodland, oak savanna, grassland, and urban-suburban settlement.
On my hillside he said he was surprised to spot a pair of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) enjoying the red winter berries of Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), also known as California holly or Christmas Berry. A wonderful treat!
The final tally of all the findings for the Malibu, California Region should come out soon, though the tally for the whole country doesn’t come out until Fall. I look forward to seeing it and participating in 2012’s CBC. It is thrilling to know that the birds I see right here every day can stand up and be counted and get their moment of fame!
Hoping the New Year will bring you many new friends of the feathered variety.
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