Thursday, November 27, 2014

This Count Is for the Birds

Who wants to join in the 2014 Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman NWR

Dr. Wayne Meyer is taking names of those interested, and you can sign up online  or by calling the Refuge, 903 786 2826.  Dr. Meyer says you don't have to be an experienced birder to participate, because spotters are needed for each team, as well as those who can ID the birds seen.

The count at Hagerman, set for Saturday, December 20, is just one of hundreds of counts planned across the Northern Hemisphere that will make up the 115th Audubon Christmas Bird Count.   Last year some 70,000 volunteers participated in the count, which has an interesting history.

During the nineteenth century  sportsmen of the eastern U.S. would  compete on Christmas day to see who could shoot the most birds, so just over one hundred years ago Frank Chapman and members of the early Audubon Society decided that there should be a new tradition that did not take such a toll on birds, and that new tradition became  the Christmas Bird Count.   The data collected in all these censuses have become one of the world’s most complete and long-term data sets on bird populations.

According to Audubon, "The long term perspective made possible by the Christmas Bird Count is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat - and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, local trends in bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from improper use of pesticides."

Each count is based on a circle with a fifteen-mile diameter.  The task of the counters is to find and identify all the birds they can within that circle.  They can take a maximum of 24 hours to do this, all within one calendar day, between December 14, 2014, and January 5, 2015; however, most Christmas counts don’t last that long -  the National Audubon Society encourages Christmas counts to cover the daylight hours and most counts include a few hours of owl searching at night.

The Hagerman NWR Christmas count circle is divided into six areas and each area has a designated leader who is skilled in identification.  Volunteers can participate in an all day search or register for a half day, as several  areas are small enough to be covered in half a day.  The owl count will begin at 4 am and the main count will begin at 7 am, and will conclude at 5  pm on  December 20.

There is another way people can contribute.  Any bird feeders within the count circle can be included in the day’s tally.  If you prefer,  you can register to be a feeder watcher if you live in one of these communities within the Hagerman NWR circle: Pottsboro, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Mills, Mill Creek, Locust, Fink, Tanglewood, Georgetown, Preston and Gordonville.

All persons registered for the Hagerman count will be notified by email of count details before the event.

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