Contributed by Len McKenzie, YAAS —
The arrival of December heralds a number of holiday traditions and festive celebrations. Among the traditions for birding enthusiasts is the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, when thousands of intrepid observers throughout the western hemisphere take to the field for one day to make a record of all the birds they see and hear.
Organized by ornithologist Frank Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History in 1900 as an alternative to Christmas Day side hunts, an English shooting tradition, the first Christmas Bird Count was held in 25 U. S. locations and attracted 27 participants.
Held every year since then, the Audubon-sponsored CBC is now an international event, with more than 2,000 individual counts, scattered across the Americas, drawing thousands of volunteers.
This year will mark the 118th CBC, the longest-running citizen-science project in the world.
The CBC protocols are rigorous and precise. Each count must be held during a one-day, 24-hour period between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, within a prescribed 15-mile diameter circle. A compiler organizes and coordinates each count, tallies numbers, provides guidance as needed and assures all protocols are met to protect the integrity of the long-term database.
Birding experience is not necessary to participate in these counts. All eyes and ears are welcome.
Five Christmas Bird Counts are again scheduled in the central Sierra foothill area this year. The Mariposa CBC will occur Saturday, Dec. 16. Participants will meet at the Happy Burger diner in Mariposa at 7 a.m. for instructions and assignments to specific zones within the count circle. Call (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547 for more information about this count.
The Yosemite CBC, started in 1932, is slated for the following day, Sunday, Dec. 17. Prospective counters should contact Sarah Stock, firstname.lastname@example.org to register and receive zone assignments for the Yosemite count.
Also scheduled for Dec. 17 is the Lost Lake count in Fresno County. Contact Kevin Enns-Rempel at (559) 313-4546 for details.
The Oakhurst CBC will be held Saturday, Dec. 30. Participants should meet at the Burger King in Oakhurst at 7 a.m. for instructions and zone assignments. Call (559) 683-6994 for more information.
The Merced National Wildlife Refuge CBC will take place Wednesday, Jan. 3. Interested individuals should contact Larry Parmeter at (559) 276-8753 for details.
Count coordinators emphasize that birding experience is not required to participate in a Christmas Bird Count. All levels of experience are encouraged to join.