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November 12 05:40 PM
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Local Audubon Chapter Announces Dates for 2018/19 Christmas Bird Counts


11/08/2018 - This winter marks the 119th year of National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts. The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, with over 100 years of citizen science involvement. It is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of volunteers across the US, Canada and many countries in the Western Hemisphere, go out over a 24 hour period on one calendar day to count birds.

According to archived documentation, Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society has participated in these counts since it's inception in 1968. Within our chapter's first year, the founders of DOAS, recognizing the value of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, decided our chapter ought to contribute to this nation-wide winter bird census. In those first years, the organization's census takers traveled to the Ithaca area to count in an established region.

In the 1800s, the "Christmas Side Hunt" was popular; parties would compete to shoot the most birds. In 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, member of the newly established National Audubon Society, suggested that rather than killing birds, folks should simply count them. Thus began the first Christmas Bird Counts. The 118th CBC last year included over 2450 count locations, with over 72,000 participants (62,000 in field, 10,000 feeder-watchers) tallying almost 70 million birds.

CBCs are organized in 15-mile diameter "count circles". Only birds found inside the circle can be included in the count. DOAS organizes three regions for the Christmas Bird Count - the Oneonta Region in Otsego County (designated NYOT, organized by DOAS Member, Sandy Bright), the Fort Plain Region in Montgomery County (NYFP, organized by DOAS Director, Bob Donnelly) and a Delaware County Region established in 2017 (organized by DOAS Director, Pam Peters). Other nearby areas include: Sherburne (NYSH), and Rensselaerville (NYHP). All CBCs must occur between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, and each circle's count should occur at about the same date each year, on a day chosen by the circle's organizer.

The dates for this year's Christmas Bird Counts are as follows:

Otsego County: Saturday, Dec. 15 - Contact Sandy Bright to participate: sbright@hartwick.edu or 607-287-4465.

Delaware County: Saturday, Jan. 5 - Contact Pam Peters to participate: ovenb1rdp@gmail.com or 607-829-6545.

It is free to participate in Christmas Bird Counts and all are welcome to join in these fun 'citizen science' bird census days. It is important to register early as space is limited to available carpools and coordinators will want to coordinate groups of participants so that there are experienced birders with each group..

Birds observed a few days before or after the count day can be reported, but are not part of the official data.

Our local NYOT circle was designed 49 years ago by Dr. John New and Johanna Koenig, two of the original DOAS members, with a center in Milford (coordinates 42.55N, 74.95W). It extends 7.5 miles north to Rt. 11C in Cooperstown, south to Rt. 23 in Davenport, west to just past Rt. 205 in Laurens, and east to just past Schenevus. (It includes just a small portion of Oneonta.) The NYOT circle is sub-divided into nine regions. Each region has a team of birders who record every bird encountered. The efforts of the field teams are complemented by "feeder-watchers": folks who stay home and observe and report on birds seen at their feeders.

You might wonder why can't just anybody do a CBC anywhere? Of course, anyone can go out and enjoy counting birds at Christmastime, but over the years the Audubon CBC has evolved from simply an enjoyable winter outing for avian aficionados to a highly respected source of scientific data. It is widely regarded as the best data pool available for early winter bird populations in North America. To retain their scientific value, data collection methods must be consistent from year to year, so Audubon has chosen to follow specific procedures.

If you'd like to join the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society's CBC, contact any of our coordinators above. They are glad to add birders to the various teams; new counters will be placed with more experienced team members. Become a member of the largest and longest-running citizen science project in history!

In addition to the annual Christmas Bird Count, DOAS participates in: Raptor Migration Census at Hawkwatch (at the DOAS Sanctuary just south of Oneonta since 1977); an annual Waterfowl Count through the New York State Ornithological Association; Project Feederwatch, a program of the Cornell Lab or Ornithology; and the May Big Day Bird Count, a program of the American Birding Association. The organization is also involved Golden Eagle research projects, with an emphasis on our local wintering populations.

Information about all of these programs can be found at the DOAS website at http://doas.us.

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