On Saturday, December 15, at Hagerman NWR, volunteers will take part in a 113 year-old tradition established by the Audubon Society that has become known as the Christmas Bird Count. Now hundreds of such counts, each one based in a 15-mile diameter circle, take place between December 14 and January 5 each year.
The task of the counters is to find and identify all the birds they can within the designated circle. The data collected in all these censuses have become one of the world’s most complete and long-term data sets on bird populations. Most Christmas counts cover the daylight hours and include a few hours of owl searching at night.
People of all interest levels have an opportunity to contribute to this grand project. Being a birding expert is not necessary to aiding in the effort, according to Dr. Wayne Meyer, organizer for the Hagerman NWR Count, who says “The Hagerman NWR Christmas count circle is divided into six areas and each area has a designated leader who is skilled in identification. What each team leader needs most is extra eyes to find the birds. You don’t even have to commit to an all day search. Several of our areas are small enough to be covered in half a day.”
According to Audubon’s annual CBC report, American Birds, the 112th count was a record setter, with a total of 2248 CBC’s held in the US and Canada. Texas was third in number of CBC’s, behind California and Ontario; there were 109 Texas counts, with Matagorda Island - Mad Island Marsh turning in the highest bird count number of species, 244. HNWR reported 119 species. Last year, Austin, Texas set the record for the number of CBC participants, 116!
Two of the Austin counters were participants who counted birds at their home feeders, another way people can contribute. Any bird feeders within the count circle can be included in the day’s tally. If you live in the Hagerman Circle but don’t wish to spend part of your day in the field you can be a feeder watcher. The Hagerman NWR Circle includes the communities of Pottsboro, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Mills, Mill Creek, Locust, Fink, Tanglewood, Georgetown, Preston and Gordonville.
For those unable to make it to Hagerman on December 15, or who do not live in the Hagerman NWR Circle, Audubon offers links to Counts across the country.
All who want to participate at Hagerman NWR are to meet at the Friends of Hagerman building (formerly known as AV Center) at 7:00 AM to divide into teams. Anyone interested in searching for owls is welcome to meet Dr. Meyer at the Friends building at 4:45 AM. The Friends of Hagerman NWR will be hosting a compilation social at 5:00 PM, complete with supper! All participants are encouraged to attend as the day’s results are added up. Dr. Meyer says, “If you want to participate you can just show up on count day, but it would help my planning if you let me know you’ll be coming ahead of time. You can send a message via comments or CONTACT on the Friends website."
Hagerman NWR is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas, 75092, on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma.