Join in The 116th Christmas Bird Count!

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger


I have become a counting bird nerd.

Most mornings I pay attention to the ebb and flow of birds in my backyard and our neighborhood.  

Because it's my call to action in beginning to understand how climate change is impacting birds species and the planet. 

In my garden, and feeding stations, there's always a crowd of Sparrows eating everything, sometimes joined by a Cardinal, with or without his mate, thanks to the Safflower seeds in the platform feeder, as well as the rose hips on the back-of-the-yard trellis.

Most days the diversity builds to include Starlings, Mourning Doves, a Blue Jay, and our eagle eyes have seen a flighty pair of Black Capped Chickadees, who do NOT hang out long to chit, or chat.

But its bird song is distinctive and cheery.

We also count on seeing/hearing migratory birds (we surmise) that perch on our telephone wires, being ebullient in the morning sun.

Seeing and hearing this cacophony of chatter is my joy of gardening for birds, and feeding them intentionally augments a wildlife habitat where pollinators cluster and roam.

I also like to go into nature to go nose to beak, so to speak:  On Saturday, December 19, I am planning to grab my binoculars and join other bird enthusiasts (all volunteers) for the National Audubon Society's 116th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) around here.

There are lots of locations in Illinois and nationwide. CBC is a long-standing FUN & FREE program that is looking for volunteers to participate in its early-winter bird census, December 14 through January 5.

I checked here for the hows and whys, and navigated this virtual map view of the forming volunteer counting circles locations to find an event somewhat near me.  But do follow their links to give the contact the heads up you are coming.

There are lots of dates and locations from which to choose.

So that is why I am considering grabbing my binoculars and taking a road trip to McHenry County on Saturday, December 19, where from 8 am to 5 pm anyone can join in this leg of the Audubon's event.

The go-to bird guy, who they are calling a "compiler", is Rob Gough of the McHenry County Audubon Society.

The aim is for the bird counters to drive, walk or sit and watch feeders in a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see that day.

Also, the good news is that, if you are a beginning birder, like me, you can join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.

So, overall I do plan to keep count of the ebb and flow of my backyard birds in perpetuity, and as a citizen scientist, check out the details of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) over President's Day weekend in February.

Again, the idea is for us to count the birds each day in our backyard/community and then enter the results online.  For more, link to Audubon GBBC

Very soon, in the light of the historic 2015 Christmas full moon, I know I can count on seeing those three wise sparrows who have been pecking through the safflower seeds meant for the others.

No worries, though.  They always leave me a few parting gifts on the porch railings... and it's NOT frankincense, gold or myrrh.



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