Stand Up and Be Counted

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count – Stand Up and Be Counted

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.

Immature Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna), Photo © Las Pilitas Nursery

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.

Ref: http://www.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2009/birds-movements-reveal-global-warming-threat-action

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.

Cedar Waxwing, (Bombycilla cedrorum) Photo credit: photo by Dave Menke, USFWS

Listen to Cedar Waxwing: Sound credit to Lang Elliot, Nature Sound Studios.

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!

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) Topanga Canyon, CA Photo by Kathy Vilim

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.

© 2011 – 2013, Kathy Vilim. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    ours was back on Dec 17th and I didn’t participate. I know a lot of our Native Plant Soc. members did tho. Quite a few also belong to the local Audubon. I should put it on my calendar as a reminder for next year…it’s such an important thing to do to keep track of our feathered friends. Thanks for the reminder of how important citizen scientist duties are!
    Loret T. Setters recently posted..Happy Holidays

  2. says

    Beautiful bird portraits Kathy! I have a good friend who does this count and a neighbor who works closely at the top in organizing the CBC. I confess to being a bit shy from the cold to venture out counting here as early as most counters do. I am missing our Cedar Waxwings . . . I have not seen any flocks in the Crabapple orchard yet this winter. Happiest of New Years to you! Carol

  3. says

    We do the CBC up here in Canada too. It’s exciting, going out in the bitter cold and seeing what you can find, feeding on a fruit tree or roosting on the ice in a sheltered cove off a lake. No need to be an expert, just be alert and listen….

  4. says

    How exciting. Thank you for the info on the bird counting. I used to belong to the Audubon Society. Will have to join again. Did I tell you I saw a red shouldered hawk the other day. They are making a come back in this area. The Nature Reserve here said it was an excellent sighting.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 87. Stand Up and Be Counted: 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… ~Kathy Villim […]

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