Christmas Bird Counting

This past weekend, (Sunday December 15th, to be exact) I participated in the 114th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in the Boulder area.  In general, the Christmas Bird Count began in the year 1900 and has continued to be the longest-running citizen-science survey in the world!  The tradition began as an alternative celebration to the hunting tradition of shooting birds on Christmas.  During the first year, 27 people participated in the 25 locations and over the years the CBC has grown so large that during 2012 there were 71,531 participants in 2,360 countries spanning the entire Western Hemisphere.

If you are unfamiliar with what the Christmas Bird Count is, I attached two links where you can go to learn more information.

Birding in the 1900's

Birding in the 1900’s– 11 Reasons the Christmas Bird Count Rocks:

http://mag.audubon.org/articles/conservation/11-reasons-christmas-bird-count-rocks

http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count

Citizen-science participation is so important because it gives a wide range of data for  us to have a bigger-picture on birds populations.  Due to this information over the years, scientists can use the data taken through surveys such as the CBC to learn more about which species have been seen, an estimate on how many, and where they are located.

CBC Route through East Boulder on Bobolink Trail

CBC Route through East Boulder on Bobolink Trail/        South Boulder Creek Trai

My supervisor and EFTA director, Sue Bonfield, led our small group on the ~4mi walk through the Bobolink Trail, Baseline area, and back to the start of our route.  While the weather was surprisingly warm (a high of 50 degrees) our bird sightings were very slow.  There were some parts of our walk that we didn’t see a bird for about 10-15 minutes.  We hypothesize that since the weather was so warm for a typically cold time of the year, the birds were not as hurried to collect food because the weather was a not a threat to their ability to find food throughout the day.  Also, towards the end of our walk, the wind picked up a lot so the birds were probably staying put.

The Bobolink Trail and South Boulder Creek Trail are both beautiful and they wind around beautiful creeks and trees.  We then explored parts of a nearby neighborhood and stumbled upon on of the more fun houses in the area that has a fence-line of random birdhouses and other unique items in their yard (such as a giant, fake Great White shark in the center of their well and a mini-train.)

While on our walk we counted:

Blue Jay – 1
House Finch – 26
Black-capped Chickadee: 12
Red-tailed Hawk: 4
Downy Woodpecker: 5
Black-billed Magpie: 7
European Starling: 4
American Robin: 2
Red-winged Blackbird: 3
Northern Flicker: 5
Collared Dove: 3
Canada Goose: 96
American Crow: 8
Rock Pigeon: 2
White-breasted Nuthatch: 3
American Kestrel: 1

The Red-tailed Hawks were really exciting because they were being pretty active flying high in the sky, slowly circling for prey or either perched on a branch.  At one point, we saw a Red-tailed Hawk chase after another bird and we ran around the house to try to see if he had captured the bird.  We aren’t sure if he did, but we did find him in a backyard perched on a tree eating his prey on the branch with his sharp talons–that was my favorite sighting of the day!

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Overall, even though we didn’t see the greatest amount of birds while on our walk, we did see a pretty wide variety of different birds that I had never really seen up close or observed before and it was fun seeing my boss in birding action!  I look forward to participating in more CBCs in the future and hope to be able to identify birds on a walk one day.

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